If you want a 5-year-old Lexus with low miles, consider the 2010 Toyota Avalon. Or, at least, that's how we felt about the car when we saw its DVD-based navigation system.
But its driving character was not quite Lexus-like. It features a veneer of luxury, and the seats feel plush, even offering heating and cooling in the Limited trim version. But its ride quality was not quite up to that of the, its equivalent in the Lexus lineup, nor was its stereo.
The front-end styling did, however, appeal to us. Its big grille aspires to luxury car stateliness, and headlight casings show a unique, angular design. Lower air intake and fog lights make up a shape that echoes that of the headlights and grille. Down the sides the Avalon looks more pedestrian, merely borrowing worn cues from the auto designer's handbook such as wheel arches and a pronounced beltline. A wide C pillar makes for an interesting rear perspective.
Like the ES 350, the Toyota Avalon is in no way sporty, or intended to be such. Its big and roomy cabin is designed to fit a lot of people comfortably. The wheel turns easily and the car glides forward easily. Play in the wheel suggests an unconcerned driving style.
But where the ES 350 offers a comfortable ride, the Avalon's comes across a little hard. Bumps in the road are felt in the cabin as jolts. Rough pavement makes the car vibrate more than we would like. A front-wheel-drive platform, the Avalon wallows if taken too fast into a turn, so we got used to cruising and enjoying the scenery.
The Avalon gets a comfortable amount of power from its 3.5-liter V-6: 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, suitable for passing on two-lane highways. This variable valve timed engine is pretty basic in Toyota's lineup, seeing widespread use.
It comes mated to a six-speed automatic, a transmission that generally operates quietly. Standing on the gas pedal leads pretty quickly to a step down in the gears, and the car lets its revs hover around 5,000. The transmission also has a manual mode, really only good for engine braking on long descents. After moving the shifter for an up or down shift, expect to wait a while for anything to happen.
Thanks in large part to the transmission's six gears, the Avalon gets a very nice 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway in EPA testing. During our driving, which mostly mixed city and freeway miles, we averaged 22.2 mpg, a very reasonable number for a V-6.
The Avalon's infotainment system mimicked the look of that in the Lexus ES 350, with readable 2D maps that also showed traffic information. Lacking among the destination options was Lexus' new Enform telematics system, no surprise there. Toyota does not have a similarly functioning counterpart to the Lexus system.
Being DVD-based, we expected sluggish performance from the navigation system, but it actually calculated routes and found address entries quickly enough. However, we had it set to search for addresses in California, requiring it to index fewer street and city names as we entered letters in its virtual keyboard. Go to a different state and you have to reset the state in the navigation system.