There’s so much grille that the headlights squint to fit in. It’s so much more grille than what the new 2019 Toyota Avalon needs for cooling that most of it is actually blocked off. That giant maw is, however, a distraction. Because what matters about this conservative, old-dude sedan is what’s in back: a trunk. The Avalon has 16 cubic feet of easily accessed storage under a steel cover that locks down with a secure thud. The stink of things thrown into it will not intrude into the passenger compartment, and prying eyes cannot see inside it. This trunk thing may have a future. And a trunk isn’t an option on any past, current, or future crossover. Radical.
The Avalon sedan remains the Camry’s bigger, better-equipped brother. Built on the same line as the Camry at Toyota’s assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, it’s engineered around the same TNGA component set that’s destined to underpin everything from Corollas to Priuses to Highlanders. The Avalon is still a front-driver, and the standard powerplant is still a 3.5-liter V-6. That engine is Toyota’s increasingly ubiquitous 2GR-FKS rated at 301 horsepower here, up 33 from the 2018 model’s similar 2GR-FE. It’s backed by a new eight-speed automatic transmission with six tightly spaced lower gears and overdrives in seventh and eighth. The transmission can be manually shifted, but come on . . . in this car? With the automatic left in drive, shifts can barely be detected. The Avalon Touring we tested weighed in at 3731 pounds, within a single pound of the front-drive Buick LaCrosse, which it trails to 60 mph by 0.2 second (6.1 versus 5.9 seconds). The EPA rates the V-6 Avalon Touring at 25 mpg combined.
Don’t like the V-6? A 215-hp powertrain combining a four-cylinder with two motor/generators will replace it in most trims for $1000 more. Live in Snowland? Tough nuts. All-wheel drive isn’t an option with either powertrain.
Behind that grille, the fifth-gen Avalon stretches over a wheelbase that’s two inches longer than the fourth-generation car’s (and 1.8 inches up on the current Camry’s) with a roof that’s an inch lower. It’s a sleek, elegant sliver in a world that loves chunky boxes. With struts up front and a multilink suspension in back, the Avalon rides comfortably enough and doesn’t inspire any driving aggression. It drives like, well, a crossover.
The Avalon’s interiors are more tightly tailored than the Camry’s and use subtler materials. XSE and Touring models have aluminum pedal covers and aluminum trim on the doors and instrument panels. The Limited goes traditional by adding wood trim. Almost every expected tech gizmo—including, finally, Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto—is available. Most functions are controlled by a 9.0-inch touchscreen atop the center stack.
The Avalon lineup starts with the XLE at $36,420; this Touring model, as tested, sits at $44,270. That’s mainstream-crossover money for almost all the virtues of a mainstream crossover, plus a trunk. The Toyota Avalon. What a rebel.
With gas at $2.85 per gallon, the $1000 bump that turns the 26-mpg V-6 Avalon XLE into a 44-mpg four-cylinder Avalon Hybrid XLE is paid back in fuel-cost savings after only 22,300 miles. Giving up 86 horsepower never felt so good.