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    First Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon and Avalon Hybrid



    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    November 26, 2012

    Toyota is in the midst of a sea change. The company who is currently known as the brand who builds bland, boring, and reliable vehicles has been issued an edict by CEO Akio Toyoda to design and build vehicles with passion. We’re beginning to see some of the fruits of this edict bear out with the Scion FR-S and Lexus GS.

    Now, Toyota has introduced the next vehicle to follow this in the form of the 2013 Avalon. You might be wondering, the Avalon?! Well yes, Toyota wants break the adage that Avalon is for old people by giving the new Avalon a very sleek look, new interior, and a sporty ride. Does the change from couch on wheels to sport-infused big sedan work?

    gallery_10485_492_123947.png

    The big thing Toyota hammered into our heads during the regional press preview in Ann Arbor, MI besides 'the new Avalon isn’t your grandfather’s car', was that the new Avalon was built with America in mind. Bill Fay, Group Vice President & General Manager, Toyota Division said during the Detroit launch, the new Avalon is “designed, engineered, manufactured, sold and serviced in America, the 2013 Avalon marks the beginning of a new era for Toyota… with the company developing more vehicles here specifically for the U.S. market.”

    Toyota's CALTY Design Research group was in charge of the new Avalon’s design and they did an excellent job. The overall look chucks the plain box look of past Avalons and goes for something that is very sleek and muscular. Up front, the most prominent design touch is a two-tiered grille layout. The bottom features a large chrome grille that makes a reference to new Aston Martin models. Above the chrome grille is a wide chrome strip with the Toyota emblem sitting in the middle. The side profile features a lot of deep contours, a coupe-like roofline, and a raked c-pillar. The back end gets two-tiered taillights and dual exhaust outlets.

    gallery_10485_492_452107.png

    gallery_10485_492_792457.png

    Inside the Avalon, Toyota put a lot of emphasis on making the Avalon look and feel very special. Materials range from soft-touch plastics, stitched door and dash panels, and leather seats. The only ding I’ll give the Avalon’s interior is the use of ‘plood’, it really doesn’t belong in this very handsome interior. The center stack features either a 6.1 or 7-inch touchscreen (depends on model), climate control, and what Toyota calls IntelliTouch controls, which are capacitive buttons. The capacitive buttons responded very quickly when pressed.

    gallery_10485_492_889642.png

    Also appearing inside the new Avalon is Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Entune uses your smartphone to provide applications like Bing, OpenTable, iHeartRadio, and Pandora in the vehicle. Entune also provides traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks info. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to play around with Entune during the event. Hopefully when I do get a vehicle equipped with Entune, I can go deeper into it.

    While the outgoing and new Avalon share the same wheelbase length, the new model is actually smaller in all exterior dimensions. Interior dimensions are largely unchanged from the outgoing model, meaning there is a load of head and legroom through out the new model.

    For safety, the new Avalon comes equipped a Rear Cross Traffic Warning system which warns the driver of vehicles in the way when reversing. There is also a Blind Spot Monitoring system, ten airbags, radar cruise-control, and optionally, a Pre-Collision System.

    Next: Shall We Drive?


    The new Avalon uses the same 3.5L V6 engine from the last-generation Avalon. The engine is rated at 268 HP and 248 lb-ft of torque going through a six speed automatic. The engine has got the oomph to move car at a very rapid pace, something that cannot be said of the previous Avalon. This is mostly due to weight loss of the new Avalon, dropping around 110 lbs from the outgoing model. The engine is also very smooth and quiet when you decide to drive it at a normal pace.

    gallery_10485_492_1224360.png

    The six-speed automatic provides is well-suited for this application providing some very smooth shifts. Toyota also fitted paddle shifters and ‘Dynamic Rev Management’, which blips the throttle on a downshift. On paper this sounds completely ridiculous for a big sedan like the Avalon, but when you actually try it, it works beautifully. I do wonder though if the age group that the new Avalon is targeted at (40 to 60 year olds) will actually use this feature.

    For those who are looking for some greenness in their big sedan will lean towards the new for this generation Avalon Hybrid. The Hybrid comes equipped with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive which in this uses a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle four cylinder producing 156 HP and 156 lb-ft of torque, a electric motor with 105 kW and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a nickel-metal hydride battery. Total system output is 200 HP going through a CVT.

    gallery_10485_492_402635.png

    Performance is adequate with the run to 60 MPH taking about 8.2 seconds, about 1.5 seconds slower than the V6. Otherwise, the powertrain is very quiet and smooth whenever you’re in electric or hybrid mode. The CVT is a does a good job of keeping you moving and doesn’t make its presence known unless you push the pedal further down and the engine noise is abundant.

    The handling characteristics of the new Avalon and Avalon Hybrid can be described as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When driven normally, the Avalon provides a very luxurious and gentle ride. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. It’s only when you take the Avalon onto a curvy road and show it some aggression that Mr. Hyde appears. Despite being a large sedan, the Avalon shows a surprising amount of agility when driven through a corner. The suspension keeps the Avalon planted while the steering has the right amount of weight and firm feel that you would want in a sporty vehicle. This is a one-eighty from the last-generation Avalon which had all the steering feel of a used-and-abused arcade racing game. Plus, the old Avalon felt like it going to tip over when driven enthusiastically due to its marshmallow-fluff suspension.

    So how was Toyota able to pull this coup off with the new Avalon? For one, Toyota added a number of welds to the new Avalon’s body giving it more rigidity. Toyota also fitted Dual link MacPherson struts in the back, stabilizer bars, and a new electric rack-and-pinion steering system. Finally, there is drive mode select which offers three different modes (four in the Avalon Hybrid) which modifies throttle response and steering effort. The modes are as followed,

    • EV Mode (Only on Avalon Hybrid): Allows a vehicle to travel on electric power for a short distance
    • Eco Mode: Increases the resistance to push down on the pedal, adjusts engine and climate control for better fuel economy.
    • Sport Mode: Adjusts throttle and steering response
    • Normal Mode: Balance between Eco and Sport

    The new Avalon goes on sale next month with a base price around $31,750 (includes the $760 destination charge) for the XLE V6. If you want the Avalon Hybrid, be prepared to shell out $36,315 for the XLE Premium. Toyota expects to sell around 70,000 Avalons within the first year, a huge increase from 23,078 Avalons sold through October this year. Toyota expects 80% of the new 2013 Avalon to be the V6 while the rest will be the hybrid.

    Toyota has taken their couch on wheels and has made the new Avalon into a big sedan that is able to balance comfort and sport pretty well. Will the Avalon's new balancing act bring in the younger generation of buyers that Toyota is aiming for?

    gallery_10485_492_887739.png

    Author's Note: Special thanks to Toyota and Toyota’s Midwest PR office for inviting Cheers & Gears to check out the new Avalon, and providing breakfast and lunch at the Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. -WM

    Year - 2013

    Make – Toyota

    Model – Avalon

    Engine – 3.5L DOHC 24-valve dual VVT-i V6

    Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic

    Horsepower @ RPM – 268 HP (@ 6,200 RPM)

    Torque @ RPM – 248 lb-ft (@ 4,700 RPM)

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/25 w/17-inch wheels, 21/31/24 w/18-inch wheels

    Curb Weight – 3,461 lbs

    Year - 2013

    Make – Toyota

    Model – Avalon Hybrid

    Engine – Hybrid Synergy Drive: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i Atkinson cycle 4-Cylinder, Electric Motor

    Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, CVT, Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Battery Pack

    Horsepower @ RPM – 2.5L: 156 HP (@ 5,700 RPM); Electric: 105 kW (@ 4,500); Combined: 200 HP

    Torque @ RPM – 2.5L: 156 lb-ft (@ 4,500 RPM); Electric: 199 lb-ft (@ 0-1,500 RPM)

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40

    Curb Weight – 3,585 lbs

    - 2013 Avalon Pricing:

    • XLE: $31,750
    • XLE Premium: $33,955
    • XLE Touring: $36,260
    • Limited: $40,410

    - 2013 Avalon Hybrid Pricing:

    • XLE Premium: $36,315
    • XLE Touring: $38,010
    • Limited: $42,160

    *Note: All prices include a $760 destination charge.

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    I like the design of this thing, in and out. The dash is not subscribing to the sameness of so many other cars that have a prominent center stack sweeping into the console, it is different. I also think plood adds warmth to an interior, and this one is no exception.

    The exterior is sporty, really surprising in a good way v. earlier iterations of this model. It does adhere to the long roof, six-window, fastback, short deck sedan school of design pioneered in the modern age by the Audi A7, and shared by the Fusion, '14 Impala and MKZ, among others (arguably, the Benz CLS may have started the trend, but that car had a droopy tail and a little different proportion, imo). It is sweeping and dramatic, but since so many cars share it now, hopefully it doesn't become cliche too soon.

    It appears that Toyota has kept a relatively low beltline here, something that is also a refreshing change from recent design convention. It contributes to a slimmer profile and, hopefully, better visibility, which has been the bane of high beltline cars from all over the map.

    Seeing this sporty new Avalon makes me nostalgic for Mercury, Oldsmobile and Pontiac. The mind wanders, thinking of the possibilities their respective design teams could have come up with on a Milan/Marquis, Cutlass/Aurora, or Grand Prix/Bonneville that adheres to this school of form. Now it is left up to a foreign brand, Toyota, to take up the slack by hiring American designers who don't have a problem helping Japan. Misty for past glories, I guess I am.

    Edited by ocnblu
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    Good post, ocnblu...Interesting observation re: Mercury, Olds and Pontiac. It is too bad that so much has slipped away from the domestic brands.

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    Good post, ocnblu...Interesting observation re: Mercury, Olds and Pontiac. It is too bad that so much has slipped away from the domestic brands.

    While the history of these past brands is great, one has to admit that there were way to many brands and non profitable lines.

    I look for GM ot strengthen their products now by taking from their rich history and putting it into a deeper bench of fewer product lines.

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    They could have dropped Saab, Saturn, Hummer, most of Opel/Holden (keep the R&D centers), not given $2billion to Fiat, and instead focus on just the core brands (including Oldsmobile) that got them to the place of largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

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    It's okay I guess. The new Impala IMO looks much better though. I doubt it will attract many younger buyers and the plood that is often griped about in today's cars in well placed here.

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      Nissan worked on making the 2017 Pathfinder look a bit more SUV-like. The front end gets a new hood and bumper to make it look somewhat wider. Around back, the tailgate and taillights have been reshaped. Here is the thing, you’ll have to look closely to spot the changes. If you were to park a 2016 and 2017 Pathfinder next to each other and ask someone to point out the differences, the only thing they would likely spot is the new grille. The Pathfinder’s interior hasn’t changed much and that isn’t a bad thing. Materials used in the Platinum are for the most part very good for the class. There is plenty of soft-touch materials on the door panels and console.  But Nissan loses some points for the materials used for the dashboard and the surround for center stack. It might look like something soft. But it is hard when pressed. This would be ok if it was the SL and lower trims, not in the top Platinum trim. The center stack is very easy to understand thanks to a simple layout and the use of buttons and knobs. Glad to see Nissan has added their latest version of NissanConnect to the Pathfinder. I really liked this system when I drove the Murano and Maxima last year with a modern interface and being very easy to use. Second-row seating is towards the top of the class with a large amount of head and legroom. Also, the second-row seat is very flexible. The seat can tip forward to allow for easy access to the third row. If you’re wondering, the third row is best reserved for small kids. The 3.5L V6 has been tweaked to produce 284 horsepower (up 24) and 259 pound-feet of torque (up 19). The improvements in power do make a big difference. Compared to the last Pathfinder I drove back in 2013, the updated V6 feels a bit more energetic to get up to speed. Although, the V6 does sound somewhat unrefined when you step on it. Nissan made some changes to the chassis to improve body control and ride. Such changes include revised spring rates, stiffer shocks, and improved steering system. The changes make the Pathfinder feel more stable on stable on the road, especially in corners. At the event, Nissan announced pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder. The base S two-wheel drive begins at $30,890 and climbs to $44,460 for the Platinum 4WD. (Prices include a $900 destination charge) Nissan has made some noticeable improvements for the Pathfinder. But even with these improvements, I can’t think of a reason of why I would pick the Pathfinder over the Kia Sorento, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9. The Pathfinder is good, but competitors at the moment do it better. 2017 Nissan Armada
      There isn’t really much difference between the new Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX80 aside from different front ends. Both are very polarizing in terms of their overall looks, but I would say the Armada is slightly more tasteful. The interior is a huge improvement over the old Armada. A new dashboard, noticeable improvements in terms of materials, and bits of style strewed about make for a pleasant experience. Yes, there are a fair amount of interior bits from the QX80 in the Armada’s interior, but it doesn’t feel out of place. Most Armadas will feature seating for eight people. The Platinum which was the model I drove features seating for seven (captain chairs in the second row). Sitting in the second row is quite comfortable with a large amount of head and legroom. The Platinum’s second row also features a removable center console that adds more storage. The third-row seat is best left for small kids. Adults will complain that they don’t have any legroom. The standard equipment list is quite generous with all models featuring push-button start, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and navigation.  Speaking about the navigation, I think Nissan made a massive oversight. Unlike the Pathfinder which boasts the latest generation of Nissan Connect, the Armada features a system from the late-oughts. The graphics look quite dated and it doesn’t feature any of Nissan’s latest technologies such as the NissanConnect telematic services. Power comes from a new 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V8 has more than enough grunt to leave a stop light in decent time and makes a passing a breeze. It doesn’t hurt the V8 has a nice growl during acceleration. The automatic seems quite smart with shift points and gear changes are very smooth. One item we’ll be looking at closely whenever we get in an Armada for testing is fuel economy. The Armada Platinum AWD is rated at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. The last Armada we drove in 2014 only got an average of 12 mpg. The ride is very pleasant with bumps being smothered. This is impressive when you consider the Platinum is riding on 20-inch wheels. Nissan also worked on the Armada very quiet. On the freeway, barely any wind noise came in. Some road noise made its way inside, but that is likely due to the large wheels. Somewhat surprising is how the Armada felt in the corners. There was little body roll which is impressive for a seven-seat SUV. Not so impressive is the steering; it feels quite light when turning and there isn’t any feel.  The Armada starts at $45,395 for the base SV 2WD and climbs to $60,985 for the Platinum AWD Think of the 2017 Nissan Armada as an Infiniti QX80 with a significant price cut. There are a lot of improvements for this SUV that might make it an interesting alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon and Ford Expedition. 2017 Nissan Titan
      Finally! Nissan has brought out the half-ton Titan. There isn’t any difference in terms of looks between the standard Titan and the Titan XD. The only real difference comes in size: Titan is about 14.7 inches shorter in terms of overall length and its wheelbase is about a foot shorter. Still looks like an older F-150 to me in the front. Everywhere else, the Titan does have some unique touches such black and silver wheels for the Pro-4X, and a large chrome bar on the tailgate of the top Platinum Reserve. The Titan will be offered in regular and king (Nissan-speak for extended) cabs. Sadly, Nissan didn’t have a regular cab Titan to look at in person. The interior might not be anything special in terms of looks, but build and material quality are excellent. Dash layout is a bit button-heavy, but most controls are arranged in a logical fashion. All Titans feature a touchscreen infotainment system, either 5 or 7-inches. The trucks available for us to drive came with a larger 7-inch screen. I’m not a fan of the NissanConnect system used in the Titan and Titan XD for a number of reasons: the interface is looking somewhat old despite being one of the newer systems on the market and having issues with devices plugged in via USB. One area that the Titan shares with the XD is comfort. The front bucket seats provide excellent levels of comfort and support. The backseat is quite spacious with plenty of head and legroom for most passengers.  A storage bin under the back seats provides a handy space for storing tool and other random bits. A clever trick that the bins offer is the ability for the lid to flip out and provide a flat surface for carrying large items in the back. Powering the Titan for the time-being is a 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A V6 is coming, but Nissan isn’t talking details about it at the moment. The V8 moves the Titan with authority, although it takes a moment for the throttle to realize that your foot is on the gas before anything happens. Provides a nice growl during acceleration and doesn’t show any signs of harshness. The seven-speed automatic provides smooth gear changes, although it does take its sweet time to downshift in certain maneuvers such as passing. During the short drive loop, the Titan provided a smooth and relaxing ride. One area that Nissan might want to do some more work is in noise isolation. I found a fair amount of road noise coming into the cabin. Handling is quite surprising for a truck. The Titan felt planted around corners and showed no sign of body roll. Steering is where the Titan really shined as it felt connected to the road and had the right amount of heft. This is due to Nissan using a rack-and-pinion setup, not a recirculating ball steering system in the XD. Pricing for the Titan starts at $35,975 for the base S 2WD Crew to $56,595 for the Platinum Reserve 4WD. Prices for the crew cabs are on the high side and that is making us wonder how much the regular and king cabs will start at. Nissan is making progress with the 2017 Titan in a number of key areas. But we have to wonder if the slow rollout that Nissan is doing with the Titan is actually hurting them. Consider that when other truck manufacturers launch a pickup, they have a number of cab and bed variants ready to go, along with a range of engines. The Titan only has one cab, bed, and engine at the moment. The regular cab goes on sale this fall, but the King Cab and V6 aren’t due till later. This could put Nissan and the Titan in a difficult spot. Author's Note: Cheers & Gears would like to thank Nissan for inviting us to this first drive event. 
    • By William Maley
      If you want the most off-road capable Toyota Tacoma, then you'll be happy to hear the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro will be arriving at dealers next months. But it will cost you a fair chunk of cash.
       
      The 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro will carry a base price of $41,700 (includes a $940 destination charge). This nets you an off-road package that includes FOX 2.5 internal bypass shocks, new front springs with a 1-inch lift, and a revised rear suspension with progressive leaf-springs. The exterior features a retro Toyota grille, new head and taillights, front skid plate, and a set of 16-inch wheels wrapped in Kevlar-reinforced off-road tires.
       
      Power comes from a 3.5L V6 with 278 horsepower. The V6 in the TRD Pro features a larger alternator, and coolers for the oil and power-steering. A six-speed manual comes standard, while a six-speed automatic is optional. No matter which transmission you choose, you'll get a part-time four-wheel drive system. Models with the manual transmission A-TRAC 4WD traction control system that modulates power to all four wheels without cutting the throttle. Opt for the automatic and you'll get Crawl Control that manages the throttle and brakes to maintain movement at one of five speed settings.
       
      Source: Toyota
       
      Press Release is on Page 2


       
      Toyota Releases Pricing for All-New 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro
       
      TORRANCE, Calif., August 2, 2016 - - It’s dirtier than ever and it’s coming soon! It’s the highly anticipated return of the all-new Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro! Whether tackling treacherous snow-covered terrain, driving off the beaten path, or surviving extreme conditions where roads fear to tread, the adrenaline-pumping Tacoma TRD Pro will be up for any challenge.
       
      Based on the ninth-generation Toyota Tacoma pickup that launched last fall, the Tacoma TRD Pro will start getting down and dirty when it reaches dealerships later this month.
       
      The Toyota Tacoma rejoins the 2017 model year TRD Pro family with all-new factory-installed off-road equipment designed by the experts at Toyota Racing Development (TRD) to make it EVEN MORE off-road capable than before.
       
      Aimed squarely at extreme off-roading enthusiasts who know the value of body-on-frame construction, and challenge themselves and their trucks and SUV’s in some of the harshest conditions, the new 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro will raise the bar on TRD Pro performance. Courtesy of TRD, the new Tacoma TRD Pro will add an array of new performance equipment and features, making this a truly next-generation TRD Pro product, and the new benchmark for challenging off-road terrain.
       

      Extreme Exterior for Extreme Performance
      The 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro is designed to not only look tough, but to perform in the toughest off-road environment. Based on the Tacoma TRD Off-Road 4x4 Double Cab Short Bed model in either 6-speed manual (with clutch start-cancel switch) or 6-speed automatic transmission, the new Tacoma TRD Pro will be available in three exterior colors: Cement, Barcelona Red Metallic, and Super White. The exterior of each Tacoma TRD Pro model will also include:
      16-inch TRD black alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler® All-Terrain Kevlar®-reinforced tires TRD Pro aluminum front skid plate Rigid Industries® LED fog lights New projector-beam headlights with black bezels, LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), and auto on/off feature New taillights with black bezels TRD Pro badge on front door with diamond-pattern knurled finish Black TRD Pro and 4x4 rear tailgate badging

      Each Tacoma TRD Pro will also come equipped with a heritage-inspired TOYOTA front grille with color-keyed surround, blacked out hood scoop and graphic, color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, color-keyed door handles, black overfenders, and a color-keyed rear bumper.
       
      Interior Sportiness Combined with Convenience Technology
      Driving a truck designed for harsh off-road conditions does not mean you also have to live without riding in comfort or the latest safety and convenience technologies. The new Tacoma TRD Pro combines performance and convenience with standard features that include:
      Black TRD Pro leather-trimmed heated front seats with TRD Pro logo located on the headrests Leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth® hands-free phone controls Entune™ Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite New for 17MY power sliding rear window with privacy glass TRD shift knob TRD Pro floor mats Rear parking assist sonar Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)

      The new Tacoma TRD Pro also includes an analog instrumentation that features a 4.2-inch color Multi-Information Display (MID) with an integrated inclinometer and tilt gauge. The MID also has outside temperature, odometer, tripmeters, and average fuel economy.
       
      As in all Tacoma models, a GoPro® mount is located on the windshield for serious off-roaders who like to document their exploits with GoPro® HERO cameras.
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