It is a great cruiser with appointments to challenge many entry level luxury cars, but somehow always fals by the wayside when it comes to the sales charts. Not willing to give up, Toyota had given the redesigned fifth generation Avalon striking looks and further enhanced its interior. For 2021, they added all-wheel drive to deliver what buyers are seemingly asking for. We borrowed a 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited AWD to see whether this is the one that can challenge the status quo.
The Avalon features a look that is to be taken seriously as soon as it appears on the horizon. The massive front grille sets a first impression unlike anything in its segment, and its cutting-edge styling extends all the way towards the rear end with a gorgeous design. We appreciate the chrome accent on the Avalon Limited’s styling adding some elegance to the sporty design, and the Ruby Flare Pearl is well worth the additional $255.
By adding all-wheel drive to the top trim Avalon Limited, Toyota has unfortunately replaced the silky smooth 3.5-litre V6 with a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder engine. It is a curious move for Toyota’s flagship sedan and one that we wish they did not make. The 2.5-litre engine feels underpowered with its 205-horsepower output and lacks the refinement that we had come to expect with the Avalon nameplate.
We applaud the addition of all-wheel-drive to keep up with the broad market trend and we just wish Toyota could have packaged it with the larger engine. This is the same powertrain in the new Camry AWD as well as the Avalon’s upscale cousin, the Lexus ES. Buyers that want a sportier driving experience or the silky smoothness of Toyota’s V6 engine can opt for the Avalon XSE with its sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, and sport exhaust.
Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform and sharing many major components with the Toyota RAV4 and the Camry AWD, the Avalon Limited AWD handles fairly well for its size. The steering is light but feels accurate and body control is well maintained unless you really push the Avalon to its limits. The lighter weight engine in the Avalon Limited helped to minimize understeer and the AWD system has the ability to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels when needed.
The Avalon Limited AWD has a rated fuel economy at 9.5L/100km in the city and 7.0L/100km on the highway for a combined figure of 8.4L/100km. It is an improvement over the XSE’s 9.5L/100km combined fuel economy and our observed fuel economy figure was close to the rated figures. The Avalon Limited AWD accepts regular grade gasoline into its 55-litre fuel tank. A slightly larger tank would help considerably with cruising range, however it’s adequate for what the Avalon is meant to do.
Interior appointments are where the Avalon Limited excels over most mainstream rivals. One’s attention immediately goes to the floating centre console where it houses a nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It looks elegant and futuristic, and there are enough physical keys for most necessary functions for quick access. The two-tone interior is appropriate in creating a luxurious looking cabin and the craftsmanship and materials used are top-notch.
The Avalon has a spacious interior that rivals most full-size sedans. Rear legroom is particularly impressive but taller rear occupants might have a bit of trouble getting in and out due to its sloping roofline design. The cabin feels airy thanks to the oversized windows and overall is a great space to spend time even for long trips. The Limited trim gets ventilated front seats and heated rear seats in addition to the standard heated power adjustable front seats. Trunk space is generous with a 456-litre volume and a wide opening to accommodate larger cargo.
The standard touchscreen infotainment system is the same unit found in most Toyota vehicles. It is intuitive to use but we find the resolution quality to be desired especially with the dated looking maps. Thankfully Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is supported and the upgraded 14-speaker JBL Clari-Fi audio system pumps out good quality music. Toyota has included Qi-compatible wireless charging tray and 4 additional USB charging ports to keep devices going.
Toyota has placed emphasis on the safety of its vehicles and the people around them with the inclusion of its Toyota Safety Sense P system as standard equipment in all 2021 Avalon models. Features include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Land Departure Alert, and Auto High Beams systems. The Limited AWD model receives Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross Traffic Braking and Birds Eye View (360-degree) camera over the standard XSE model.
The 2021 Toyota Avalon XSE starts at $42,690 and our Avalon Limited AWD starts at $48,450. Toyota comes with all-inclusive pricing with no optional features available so the as-tested price came to $48,705 after the $255 paint job. There are not many competitions in this segment of higher end mainstream sedans with the main rivals being the Volkswagen Arteon and the dated Nissan Maxima. The Avalon is our choice of the trio given its lower starting price than the Arteon and the fact that it’s far more comfortable and modern than the Maxima.
The full-size sedan segment has a good recipe on hand with the 2021 Toyota Avalon. It is a comfortable sedan that is has all the bells and whistles to challenge many of the entry-level luxury sedans. However, it fell short of achieving that with the Limited’s four-cylinder engine, and we believe the addition of a V6 with all-wheel drive would allow the Avalon to upend the status quo.