As more Americans flock to SUVs, the number of automakers still competing in traditional sedan segments has shrunk. But Toyota still sees a market of buyers for full-size sedans and thus is rolling out a fifth-generation Avalon.
Because it rides on the same TNGA platform as the 2018 Camry, the redesigned 2019 Avalon also benefits from many of the Camry’s advances in powertrain and platform engineering.
But perhaps what will make the most buzz in the post-CES climate is Toyota’s decision to offer Apple CarPlay. Toyota had been in a legal snarl with Apple and Google about their refusal to fully disclose the workings and security protocols of their back-end programming, so Toyota had been using its own proprietary Entune software—with mixed results.
Toyota executives had customer privacy concerns, such as third-party apps tracing vehicle location—and what Apple, Google, and third parties were going to do with that information.
“We were worried they would want vehicle information, access to the ECU. That was a hard line for us,” said Avalon chief engineer Randy Stephens.
By offering Avalon with CarPlay, it appears Toyota has smoothed things over with Apple. As for Google/Android devices, however, Toyota’s press release says the Avalon will integrate smart watches with Alexa-enabled voice connectivity—which works with either Apple or Android devices. But the automaker won’t offer Android Auto with the Avalon’s 9.0-inch infotainment screen—which can be pinched and flicked like a smartphone.
Toyota also refers to the Avalon’s infotainment system as “Entune 3.0,” so it might not be giving up on the proprietary-software game entirely. Entune will allow connected services for safety and vehicle service, and it features an available Wi-Fi hot spot powered by Verizon. Should you wish to crank the stereo, the standard audio system has 14 speakers, and the optional version boasts a 1,200-watt, 7.1-channel JBL system that uses Clari-Fi to fill in data lost by media compression software.
In addition to the central console’s infotainment system, the Avalon has a 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster to show vehicle information, navigation steps, and various vehicle and safety settings. In addition to the analog speedometer, the Avalon includes a digital speedometer in the central display menu.
The 2019 Avalon’s design features more creases and angularity—perhaps following the Nissan Maxima ever so slightly—and is longer, lower, and wider than before. Its new design features a slippery 0.27 Cd.
Inside the Avalon’s expected wood and leather appointments, the center console includes an “e-bin” with a 12-volt plug, three USB power ports (the Avalon has five in total), and a standard Qi wireless device charger. Toyota also designed one of the Avalon’s center-console cupholders to double as a device holder.
On the driving front, the 2019 Avalon will offer an upgraded version of Toyota’s 3.5-liter V-6 as well as the four-cylinder hybrid powertrain also offered in the Camry.
Although Toyota did not give exact power figures for the engines, both are similar dimensionally and have identical compression ratios to the Camry’s powerplants: 301 hp and 267 lb-ft for the 2GR-FKS V-6 and 208 total system horsepower for the four-banger hybrid.
The front-drive V-6 is mated to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission; Touring and XSE models get steering wheel–mounted paddle shifters with rev-matching downshifts. The hybrid uses a CVT, and its batteries are now mounted under the back seat instead of the trunk.
The Avalon has never been a sporty sedan—especially given its typically geriatric buyer demographic—but that isn’t stopping Toyota from trying to give the sedan a bit more snap. The 2019 model offers active variable suspension with adaptive damping, front and rear G sensors, and independent wheel control via shock-mounted solenoid control valves. Toyota says the system can choose from 650 damping steps in 20 milliseconds. The old rear suspension setup of a dual-link MacPherson strut has been replaced by a multilink setup, which has widened the track and lowered the Avalon’s center of gravity.
New Year, new attitude. First look at the all-new #Avalon coming soon from 2018 @NAIASDetroit. https://t.co/Ge5MCCZJ23 #NAIAS pic.twitter.com/Xv8hXlcXcG
— Toyota USA (@Toyota) January 4, 2018
To further crank up the fun, the Avalon has active noise control, an intake sound generator, and engine sound enhancement. All trims get Eco, Normal, and Sport modes, and Touring trims also get a Sport+ setting. We’ll have to drive the Avalon to tell you if any of these make any difference to the driving experience.
On the safety front, standard features include pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beams, 10 airbags, stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, and a standard backup camera.
In addition to Toyota upgrading the Avalon assembly line in Georgetown, Kentucky, shared with Camry, the new TNGA platform allows for more modular packaging on the line to further improve build quality, said Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.
The new platform’s engine and cooling system design allows Toyota to assemble both as a unit prior to being installed in the body structure, which also improves the ergonomics for factory workers. Toyota also reduced the space necessary for body welds by reducing number of welds in the rigidity process—relying more on laser welding and bonding, Elkington said.
The 2019 Avalon will go on sale in late spring. Pricing was not announced.