Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 Toyota Avalon LimitedGrandpa gets the last laugh.
VW Jettas, they're driven by chicks. BMW 8 series, they're driven by tools, and Toyota Avalons, they're driven by grandparents. That's your lesson in automotive stereotypes for today. Let's jump in the 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited and check the tech. I've gotta make sure I've got my AARP card. One power train in an Avalon, Toyota's go-to 3.5-liter V6, putting down 268 horsepower and 248 foot-pounds of torque through a single choice six-speed automatic. No paddle. Now, the inside of an Avalon doesn't look like many other Toyotas, I guess kinda like a Sienna which is not exactly an insult but not exactly a compliment, kind of this big spacious thing which is the keynote to the inside of one of these vehicles--big and roomy. That way, grandpa's not gonna be banging his elbows on anything as he gets around. Let's go to the head unit. This guy's fully optioned. We have both the JBL Synthesis which is an a la carte package of audio improvement, and on top of that, as you can see, we've laid on the navigation system. Compared to some other Toyotas and certainly compared to Lexus, the screen resolution is not quite as good. It's not bad but it's a little bit crunchy, a little more blurry, if you will. The dot resolution is not as fine on this panel but it is a touch screen, as you can see. We do have live traffic as well through XM. We also have XM Weather on here but no stocks and sports scores and things like that. No true telematics. It's not a bad system to use because of the touch screen and it's relatively responsive but note this, when you flip the door back, you do see two optical slots, one down there labeled Map. We don't see that all that often anymore. It is a DVD-powered GPS system, not a hard drive or a flash memory-based one. Your other selections are AM and FM, no HD radio on this guy. You've also got satellite radio. Of course, XM, as I mentioned, is our XM traffic source. The four-slot CD we mentioned. Bluetooth streaming audio. That's kinda nice for a car that doesn't have really high tech pretensions and the USB port and standard aux are down here in the console. My iPod connected up just fine using an iPod Touch and, of course, the USB thumb drive can pop in there and, again, we've seen this interface before, it's clear, it's simple, the buttons are large and the touch screen is relatively responsive, though I find all the Toyota touchers needs like a really hard touch to move around which I'm not crazy about. Now I mentioned we have JBL Synthesis, the better audio system that this car offers. If you go in the sound settings here, you'll see mid, treble, bass, the front rear, that's all pretty standard. You have some DSP options here for sort of a generic surround. This is not really a system that you're gonna look at as a tremendous home theater on wheels 'cause you can't play DVDs. The JBL rig puts the power out through 12 speakers around the cabin, 660 watts of power, oh, and by the way, one of those speakers is a subwoofer 'cause, you know, gramps likes to boom. The Avalon interface shows its age, and adds to yours as you slowly paw through iPod contents. Haven't seen this before--a date delete function to wipe out all your communication and navigation-related personal info in one press. Nice. This screen's also the home of a backup camera. Again, garden variety stuff. It doesn't give you a lot of information except look out the back with no trajectory or distance lines. Oh, by the way, the stick guide moves. To turn that on is this one choice only six speed automatic gearbox, silky and smooth in the Toyota tradition. In fact, there are number automatics out there. I was kinda pleased with this one even though this car has no performance pretensions. The Avalon's 0 to 60 time of 6.2 seconds is notably quicker than a Taurus SCL or Buick LaCrosse according to motor trend numbers and while this isn't the car with a sport suspension, not even optionally, it's not entirely willowy in hard cornering. The Avalon's a sleeper for a reason, it's Toyota's slowest seller by far. You're unlikely to see one on the road compared to a Camry, but as grandpa tools down the street in this demi Lexus focused on transportation rather than some imagined competition, he gets the last laugh. Now, with S classes and all manner of Audis and Lexus LS cars coming through here regularly, you might think smooth isn't all that surprising but this car was eery. I was going through part of San Francisco's worst pavement the other day and I swear I couldn't tell. That's the first time ever a car has been so isolated from the road but not wallowy. They've done some kind of magic on this thing in terms of everyday isolated driving without it being a boat. I kinda like it. As I look around this car, I see the Japanese Crown Vic and I don't say that with a whole lot of disdain because I drive a Crown Vic but this car has the similar kind of big square dimension. It doesn't have lots of swoopy curving shapes in here that are stylish but take up room. They've just kinda blown it out to the gutters, lots of space, get in there, pile the grandkids across the back and off you go to Jellystone or something and that's interesting. That little blue sticker on top of the head unit there, I've never seen that in a Toyota before with a little help website. I wonder if that's meant just for this car and its demographic. Maybe it will show up on other Toyotas. Otherwise, looks like they think the Avalon buyer needs a little extra help with Bluetooth. Okay. Let's price the 2011 Avalon Limited. That's the high-trim car. It's about $35,500 plus $750 destination charge. That includes the JBL Synthesis audio system with some pretty good input options on it. You're only big CNET tech option is gonna be the nav rig. Yeah, it's GPS-based but that, plus the rear camera only adds $1450, not a bad value, and in all, this car is not bad. And neither is this.