The Avalon is the Toyota sedan for those who want to step up from a Camry, although Toyota is sending somewhat of a mixed message here, as Lexus is its step-up brand. The Avalon offers some of the features of the Lexus ES, with which it shares a platform, but does not come up to that level of luxury.

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We expected boring, generic styling, but the Avalon fooled us with some nice details around the headlights and the grille. The size of the grille is a nice touch, looking stately, and the headlight casings use some interesting angles.

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Toyota's 3.5-liter V-6 sees services in many models in the company's lineup. It is reasonably powerful and economical, especially in the Avalon, but does not make use of modern efficiency technologies such as direct injection.

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The wide C pillar is a nice styling touch at the rear of the car. As a largish sedan, it is very comfortable for four, with easy access.

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The suspension was not as comfortable as we would expect, delivering jolts to the cabin from bumps in the road. But it is not sporty, either, just a poor compromise between both extremes.

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The trunk is suitably spacious for a large sedan.

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Wood and leather trim show the Avalon's aspirations to Lexus-hood, but Toyota uses older equipment for some of the cabin tech.

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Toyota uses conventional power steering for the Avalon, as opposed to the electric power units that are becoming common.

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It is nice having a six-speed automatic in the Avalon, as its tall gears contribute to good freeway mileage. In manual shift mode, the gear changes take some time.

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Even though it is DVD-based, Toyota still manages to include traffic data in the navigation system. The car will dynamically route around bad traffic.

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One of the better features about the Toyota Avalon is its voice command system.

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The voice command system even lets you dial phone numbers by name, using your cell phone's contact list.

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Bluetooth audio streaming is one of the newer audio sources available to the Avalon's stereo.

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Toyota hides the slot for its four-CD changer behind the LCD, a configuration we do not care for.

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The JBL audio system is a little above average, delivering decent sound quality, but nothing breathtaking.

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