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.
The cabin tech has kept up with rest of the world in other ways. For example, the navigation system dynamically changes its route if it finds traffic jams ahead. And the Bluetooth phone system downloads contact lists, making it possible to use voice command to dial by name.
The stereo also features Bluetooth streaming audio along with iPod integration and satellite radio. iPod cables plug into a console-mounted USB port, a convenient location. But as we found with previous Lexus and Toyota iPod integration, browsing music libraries is incredibly slow. Each time we scrolled down a page in an artist or album listing, the new page would appear blank for a little while until it managed to populate.
And another problem we've seen in other Toyota company cars is that music played from an iPhone, using the iPod cable plugged into the USB port, suffers from cracks and pops. The iPhone might be partly responsible for this poor performance, but we've only found this problem in Toyota and Lexus models.
The navigation system comes with a four-CD changer, with the slot hidden behind the LCD. This configuration is not elegant, requiring the whole LCD to motor down and out of the way.
The JBL audio system was good, but not great. It doesn't come close to the finely detailed sound from Lexus' Mark Levinson audio systems. But its 12 speakers manage to surround the cabin well and rise above the average. We heard some reasonable bass from the system, but highs and mids were slightly muddy.
Although our car did not come equipped with it, an adaptive cruise control system is available. Like the older DVD-based navigation, the cruise control uses a laser to determine the speed of cars ahead. This system was previously used on the Lexus RX, until it was swapped for a radar-based system.
The 2010 Toyota Avalon blurs the lines between the Toyota and Lexus brands. It is hard to justify this model, at close to $40,000, when you could get a Lexus ES for similar money. Performance-wise, the Avalon is clearly designed for simple transportation, somewhat like a max-Camry. We like how Toyota was able to wring good fuel economy out of the V-6. But the drive technology is pretty average, as Toyota has not even gone to an electric power-steering unit.
There are some good features in the cabin tech, such as the Bluetooth phone system and voice command. The navigation system is usable, but only offers 2D maps. And when searching for addresses you will have to specify the state. The iPod integration is frustratingly slow when browsing for music.
Although somewhat mundane, we like the exterior styling for the angular headlights and grille treatment. The cabin tech interface is also a good design, easy to use and aesthetically pleasing.
|Model||2010 Toyota Avalon|
|Power train||3.5-liter V-6, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||20 mpg city/29 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||22.2 mpg|
|Navigation||DVD-based, with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible four-CD changer|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming audio, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||JBL 12-speaker 360-watt system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, backup camera|
|Price as tested||$38,188|