No superlatives needed: Toyota Avalon stays consistent

This week’s tester is a dying breed of cars – part of a segment that has very few non-luxury cars left in it. Plus, this week’s tester is a victim of being too solid, too good and too conservative. Being labeled with the B-word (BORING) has worked against the Toyota Avalon for years. And it doesn’t help that the large car segment is dying off.

But don’t hold any of that against the 2017 version as, once again, it’s an all-around solid car based on comfort and consistency.

For the 2017 model year, very little has changed other than the addition of some new standard features and the addition of some safety features. This follows Toyota’s playbook when it comes to the Avalon which appeals to a specific buyer who doesn’t always need the greatest fad.

On looks the Avalon is exceptionally ordinary. That’s not really a knock. It doesn’t have garish styling. It’s current, but not distinctive. With the launch of the new and sexy 2018 Toyota Camry, there’s a hint at what might come later for the Avalon. It does need an infusion of excitement, although there’s really nothing unattractive or dated about it.

The big dominating grille hints at the Avalon’s overall size. The side profile is dull, lacking much styling at all. The back side has wide, narrow taillights and dual exhausts. Again, it’s not unattractive and looks appealing, just lacks any head-turning features.

It’s not surprising, but the Avalon has a very conventional engine. A 3.5-liter V6 engine powers the Avalon and makes 268 horsepower. That’s just the right amount of power and performance. It gets off the line quick enough. It drives smooth. The six-speed automatic transmission is adequate, although feels like it needs an update.

Inside, the Avalon pushes its way toward a luxurious label. Some have said that some lower-end Lexuses are nothing more than a glorified Avalon. That’s not a knock on Lexus, but a tip of the hat to how nice the Avalon is.

The entire interior has soft touchpoints and focuses on comfort. From the vast amount of passenger room in the back seat to the leather-clad comfort of the front seats, the Avalon is high-quality. Road and engine noise are non-existent inside the whisper-quiet cabin.

Cargo room is improved for this model year with the 2017 Avalon boasting 16 cubic feet of trunk space, as compared 14.4 cubic feet in the previous model year. This is still average within the segment; for a car this size, I’d expect a little more room in the trunk, but not if it sacrificed back seat comfort. As such, three adults could sit comfortably back there.

The Avalon comes in five trim levels: XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring and Limited. My tester was the middle-of-the-road XLE Premium which comes with a long list of standard features but also adds blind spot monitoring and accident alert.

Blind spot monitoring is much needed, as due to the car’s shape and styling there’s a decent blind spot near the C-pillar. The Avalon is adequate on technology with an easy-to-use infotainment system. There’s very little new technology here, and there’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The XLE Premium has a starting price of $36,450.

The Avalon does achieve the magical plateau of 30 mpg on the highway. It has an EPA rating of 21 mpg/city and 30 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged a little over 24 mpg. For a car this size, that’s fuel economy I can live with.

The 2017 Toyota Avalon is a solid, consistent, comfortable car. Those may seem like vanilla adjectives, lacking more inspiring superlatives. But sometimes being just fine is more than enough and all the accolade needed.

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