No matter how old you are, you know that first impressions are important. You probably heard that from your parents and teachers growing up. After that, you learned it through experience. If you make a bad first impression on someone, they more than likely won’t give you the chance to make a second.
That’s how things work in the automotive world. When you test-drive a car, the manufacturer has one chance to please you. If their vehicle doesn’t put a smile on your face, you won’t put your signature on the dotted line.
I first drove the all-new, fifth-generation 2019 Toyota Avalon at the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Auto Roundup in the spring of 2018. If I remember correctly, none of the dozens of other journalists around me had driven it before, so I only had a few minutes to take the sporty Touring model around the challenging Eagle’s Canyon Raceway in Decatur, Texas. After all of the work Toyota had put into the Avalon’s new platform, exterior and interior designs, and powertrain, it only had a few minutes to stand out from the other cars at the track.
The Avalon used its time wisely. It seemed to glide through the 2.5-mile course. Thanks to its wider front and rear tracks, and lower center of gravity, it stuck to the tarmac as I shot through all 11 turns. I was only in the Avalon a few minutes, but I walked away from it pleasantly surprised and eager for more. It made a fantastic first impression. The 2019 Touring model I got the chance to drive for a week late last year validated my initial perception and gave me even more reasons to like the all-new Avalon.
2019 Toyota Avalon Touring Exterior
One of the things Toyota wanted the 2019 Avalon to do is get an emotional response from people when they look at it. I can sum mine up with one word: Wow. The Avalon was an absolute eye magnet, no matter which angle I looked at it from. Its aggressive mesh grille made it clear that the Avalon was hungry for the road. A set of 19-inch wheels wrapped in 235/40 tires filled in the wheel wells at both ends of the contoured body. Although the Avalon is a front-wheel-drive car, a pronounced line runs along both sides of its body and points to the rear wheels, further echoing the front end’s message that the Avalon is ready to go. My favorite view of the Avalon was from behind. Its sculpted LED taillights had a pronounced ridge (aka “aero fin”) that connected to the full-width light bar that told admiring onlookers just which car had gotten their attention.
XSE and Touring trim levels get their own set of signature design cues, including blacked-out LED headlight bezels, grille, mirror caps, spoiler, and diffuser; and quad exhaust finishers. Those touches made my already attractive Ruby Flare Pearl press loaner look edgy and cool.
2019 Toyota Avalon Touring Interior
The Avalon Touring’s cabin had its own sporty touches. The standard color 10-inch Head-Up Display showed me things such as my speed and selected drive mode (more on that in the Performance section below) so I could concentrate on the road ahead. If I felt like shifting the new eight-speed automatic myself, all I had to do was pull on one of the responsive paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Sport pedals and perforated Softex/ultrasuede seats with contrast stitching completed the look.
My test vehicle featured plenty of useful and convenient technology, too. The nine-inch touchscreen had the right amount of hard and virtual buttons to make entering a destination into the navigation system or pairing my iPhone with the Apple CarPlay system quick and easy. I was especially glad to see traditional volume and tuning knobs for the audio system. They made cranking up my favorite song or trying to find my current guilty pleasure on the radio as simple as it should be. Whatever I decided to listen to, it sounded great – the bass notes, in particular – on the 14-speaker, 1,200-watt JBL audio system with 7.1-channel surround sound.
The 2019 Avalon’s Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform gives it two more inches of wheelbase than its predecessor. Those paid off when my girlfriend Eli and I picked up our friends Rachel and Austin for a night out. I wasn’t concerned about Rachel fitting in the back seat because she’s 5’2”. It was Austin who worried me. At 6’2”, he’s a big guy. Fortunately, he had no problem sitting comfortably behind me.
2019 Toyota Avalon Touring Performance
All non-hybrid 2019 Avalons have a new naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 under the hood. Engineers equipped it with updated variable valve timing and a combination of port and direct fuel injection (D-4S). Those tweaks give the big six 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, and EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 22 city, 31 highway, and 25 combined mpg.** A new eight-speed automatic helps apply that substantial output to the road.
The Avalon Touring model has five drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport just like its more sedate siblings, plus a Custom setting and a Sport+ mode. It also comes standard with an Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that can quickly adjust the dampers to provide a smooth ride on regular roads and sharp responses when the going gets twisty.
Toyota didn’t forget that sound is also a major part of a satisfying driving experience. An Intake Sound Generator (ISG), Engine Sound Enhancement (ESE), and special exhaust baffle tuning gives the Touring model that important sonic element.
I got the key to the Avalon Touring roughly two weeks before Christmas. I decided to go for a drive with my girlfriend and my mother from Austin to Johnson City to see the millions of lights that covered the small town’s courthouse, stores, and trees. The drive took about an hour – plenty of time to see what the Avalon Touring had to offer on public roads.
Even in Normal mode, the Avalon had a surprising urgency to it. Whenever I put my right foot down and demanded results, the gearbox almost instantly downshifted to give them to me. For my drive out to Johnson City, I engaged the Sport+ setting. Doing that ratcheted the AVS’s stiffness up to its maximum level, boosted the volume of the ESE system, quickened the throttle response, and added a feeling of weight to the electronic power steering.
Out on those country roads, the Avalon was alert and lively and communicative. Its steering and suspension told me it was hooked to the road. The raspy, throaty sounds produced by the ESE system and exhaust convinced me to go even faster. I had a total of roughly two hours to fully enjoy the Avalon’s performance with the two most important ladies in my life. It might as well have been Christmas already.
2019 Toyota Avalon Touring Safety
With such precious passengers onboard, it was good to know the Avalon had a long list off safety features. Those ranged from the standard blind spot monitor to the Star Safety System (highlights include anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and brake assist) to the Toyota Safety Sense P bundle, which contains features such as a pedestrian-detecting pre-collision system, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams.
My test car’s optional Advanced Safety Package added a 360-degree bird’s-eye view camera setup that showed me a perimeter scan of the car, a sonar system that could sense if a pedestrian or vehicle was nearby, and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking.
2019 Toyota Avalon Touring Overall
The 2019 Toyota Avalon was remarkable the first time I drove it. It was even better the second time around. If you’re in the market for a boldly styled and spacious sedan that’s built and tuned for more than just A-B commuting, go to an AutoNation Toyota dealership and test-drive the 2019 Toyota Avalon Touring. Prices start at $42,200*; my test model had a final price of $44,665.
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.