2011 Toyota Avalon Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 2, 2011

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2011 Toyota Avalon Buying Advice

The 2011 Toyota Avalon is the best car for you if you recognize an uncommon value in luxury and refinement.

The 2011 Toyota Avalon is substantially revised to kick off the fourth design generation of this spacious front-wheel-drive five-passenger sedan. Styling is updated and there are additional standard luxury features, but the basic chassis and powertrain carry over from the 2005-2010 Avalon. The 2011 Avalon is also the first Toyota car to come from the factory with a redesigned gas pedal and an electronic brake-override system designed to thwart unintended acceleration.

Should you buy a 2011 Toyota Avalon or wait for the 2012 Toyota Avalon? Buy a 2011 Toyota Avalon. The 2012 Avalon won’t enjoy any substantive changes, and the 2011 model is being built with all of Toyota’s unintended acceleration-mitigation features. The 2011 Avalon also will benefit from factory discounts and incentives Toyota’s offering as it fights to recover sales lost during its safety-recall controversy.

2011 Toyota Avalon Changes back to top

Styling: About the only way anybody’s going to associate 2011 Toyota Avalon styling with “hip” is if they’re thinking “hip replacement.” That’s a cheap shot, OK, but even with a pleasantly swept-back new front end, this car’s look is proudly upright and steadfastly conservative. That’s perfectly in keeping with its mission as a full-size sedan shaped to provide maximum cabin space and remain easy on the eyes of its mature audience. To their credit, stylists at Toyota’s California design center responsible for the 2011 Avalon have made it look more substantial than its predecessor. The grille and hood are broader. The headlamps are bolder and the taillamps larger, and both are supplemented by trendy “light pipe” illumination. Exterior mirror housings gain turn-signal repeaters, and wheel designs are cleaner. But the body’s slab sides, weighty rear roofline, and bustled trunk treatment are little changed; they seem inspired more by taste formed along the Volga River rather than the Ventura Highway. The 2011 Avalon doesn’t change size even a fraction of an inch compared with the 2005-2010 model, though it does gain about 70 pounds worth of additional standard equipment. Overall length is about even with that of key competitors in what today is considered the full-size-sedan class. But Avalon’s wheelbase – distance between the front and rear axles and a key determinate of a car’s passenger-cabin volume – remains 111 inches. That’s a shorter wheelbase than any direct rival, but careful packaging and large, comfy seats insure this Toyota matches anything in the category for passenger room. For 2011, the number of models in the Avalon line is reduced to two from three. The entry-level XL version is shelved and what had been the middle-of-the-lineup XLS model essentially becomes the base 2011 Avalon. The Limited model continues as the top-of-the-line 2011 Avalon.

Mechanical: The Avalon has always been an carefully elongated Camry, and the 2011 version is no different. It employs that midsize sedan’s basic engineering, including its 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. Both also have front-wheel drive, which places the weight of the engine over the tires that also propel the car. This enhances grip on wet or snowy surfaces, though results in a nose-heavy car. Rear-wheel-drive designs better distribute a car’s weight front-to-rear for sharper handling balance at the sacrifice of some traction on slippery pavement. Avalon’s suspension is tuned to deliver a soft, isolating ride. Standard equipment on every 2011 Avalon includes Toyota’s Star Safety System. This consists of Toyota’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) antiskid system to mitigate sideways slides, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) for added control in emergency stops, and traction control to reduce wheel spin on take-offs. A dashboard button disengages VSC and traction control if the driver needs to free a stuck car from mud or snow. Assembly of the 2011 Avalon at Toyota’s plant in Kentucky coincided with the company’s phasing into production an electronic brake-override system. This is designed to prevent unintended acceleration by cutting engine power if the brake and accelerator pedals are activated simultaneously. Toyota says all 2011 Avalons also include a redesigned accelerator pedal engineered to avoid sticking or slow return. Both 2011 Avalon models come with 17-inch alloy wheels; that’s a step up from model-year 2010, when the base version had 16-inch alloys standard. Also standard is a full-size spare tire and alloy wheel. Each wheel has its own pressure sensor to warn if tire pressure drops.

Features: The 2011 Avalon, like the three generations of Avalons before it, does a fine job delivering Lexus-like refinement. And it boasts cabin materials that are generally a cut above in this mid-$30,000s price range. But that doesn’t mean it actually challenges Toyota’s luxury brand -- or any true premium car -- for cutting-edge features. Indeed, the 2011 Avalon lacks many amenities that are becoming staples of the luxury class, such as lane-departure warning, automatic parallel parking, surround-view camera monitors, even genuine wood interior trim. Still, the 2011 Avalon’s equipment list makes a fine account of itself, highlighted by a standard rear seatback that manually reclines a few degrees. Toyota says the 2011 Avalon is the only car in its class to come with such a comfort-enhancer.  Furthermore, Toyota’s decision to equip the 2011 Avalon base model similarly to the 2010 mid-line XLS model means even the least-expensive Avalon now comes with a power tilt/slide moonroof and leather upholstery instead of cloth. Other new standard equipment includes Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming to the audio system, XM satellite radio (subscription required), and both USB and auxiliary connections for iPods and other digital audio devices. Three audio systems are available. Each controls iPods using steering-wheel switches and displays track information stored in the device. The base Avalon comes with a nine-speaker stereo. The Limited has a 12-speaker, 660-watt JBL Premium Synthesis audio system with a sub-woofer and a 12-channel digital amplifier. Both models include a rear-view monitor that displays on a portion of the inside mirror when the transmission is shifted into reverse. The image includes on-screen back-up guides to help drivers maneuver. Optional on both models is a DVD navigation system that accepts voice commands or touch-screen inputs and displays the rearview camera on its dashboard screen. Both models also come with a HomeLink electric garage and gate opener, plus an automatic-dimming electrochromic rearview mirror with compass.

2011 Toyota Avalon Prices back to top

The 2011 Toyota Avalon base model is priced at $33,205 and the 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited is priced at $36,445. Prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Toyota’s fee for the 2011 Avalon is $760.

Base price of the 2011 Avalon base model is $200 higher than the 2010 Avalon XLS model. Among its standard features, in addition to the aforementioned, are dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, power windows, locks, and mirrors, cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, and a trunk cargo net.

The 2011 Avalon Limited is priced $400 above its 2010 Limited counterpart, and it too has a broader array of standard features. To the base Avalon’s standard equipment the 2011 Avalon Limited adds upgraded perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger’s seat with lumbar support, and a power driver’s-seat cushion extension. It also has rain-sensing wipers and Toyota’s Smart Key that incorporates remote entry and pushbutton ignition that allows starting without removing the keyfob from pocket, purse, or briefcase. Fancier alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, and a power rear sunshade that automatically retracts with the transmission in reverse are among additional 2011 Avalon Limited standard features.

Among key 2011 Avalon options, the navigation system adds $2,350 to the Base model and $1,450 to the Limited; the nav option upgrades the Base model’s audio system to the Limited’s 660-watt JBL Premium unit. Memory for the power front seats and mirrors is a $1,020 Base-model option and heated seats are a $440 Base-model add-on.

2011 Toyota Avalon Fuel Economy back to top

Toyota is justifiably proud of the 2011 Avalon’s fuel economy and projects it as the best among all similarly sized-and-priced V-6-powered rivals.

EPA mileage estimates for the 2011 Toyota Avalon are 20/29 mpg city/highway. The 2011 Avalon again uses regular-octane gas.

2011 Toyota Avalon Release Date back to top

The 2011 Toyota Avalon went on sale in mid March 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Toyota Avalon back to top

For overall design and engineering, the model-year 2011 revamp sets up this fourth-generation Avalon for the duration of its life cycle. That cycle puts generation-five on schedule for a model-year 2014 debut.

An important footnote to Avalon’s history is that it was the first Japanese-brand car to feature six-passenger seating, a distinction it won when it replaced the Toyota Cressida for model-year 1995. In exterior dimensions, Avalon never was a true rival to such six-passenger American sedans as the Ford Crown Victoria or Chevrolet Caprice. But it remained available with three-passenger front and rear bench seats through model-year 2004, the end of its second-generation design. Since then, Avalons have come only with two front buckets, rendering this strictly a five-passenger automobile.

The next-generation Avalon isn’t apt to offer a four-cylinder; that would dilute its marketing distinction versus the Camry and forfeit some of the quiet mechanical refinement Avalon buyers expect. However, Toyota has pledged to field a gas-electric hybrid version of all of its cars by the early 2020s, so a hybrid Avalon is theoretically on the drawing boards. Whether it would arrive during the car’s fourth-generation run remains to be seen.

2011 Toyota Avalon Competition back to top

Buick LaCrosse: All-new for 2010 and beautifully styled inside and out, this is Avalon’s closest domestic-brand rival in wheelbase and overall length. By virtue of its more adventurous body and cabin design, LaCrosse may in fact appeal to a slightly younger -- maybe even sportier -- buyer than Avalon. The Toyota has a bit more passenger room and arguably better interior materials. But LaCrosse beats it for powertrain variety and price spread. The Buick offers a 182-horsepower four-cylinder (estimated at 20/30 mpg) and V-6s of 255 and 280 horsepower, both rated at 17/27 mpg. LaCrosse also offers the 255-horse engine with all-wheel drive (16/26 mpg) as an alternative to standard front-wheel drive. Base price range is roughly $24,000-$34,000.

Buick Lucerne: This warhorse is on its last legs and 2011 may be its final model year. But for truly conservative drivers, Lucerne’s got it goin’ on. It’s bigger on the outside than Avalon, but no roomier inside. Indeed, this front-wheel-drive six-passenger sedan harkens to a bygone day of floaty suspensions and finger-tip steering. Plus, it offers good-old V-8 power, a 292-horse model called the Super that’s rated at 15/22 mpg and priced from around $40,000. Lucerne also comes with a 227-horsepower V-6 rated 17/26 and priced from around $30,000.

Hyundai Genesis Sedan: Avalon buyers ought to be tempted by the value proposition presented by this understated sedan from the fast-growing South Korean automaker. Genesis is distinguished by solid build quality, class-topping cabin-materials, an encompassing list of standard features, and the handling balance that comes with rear-wheel drive. Hyundai positions Genesis as a challenger to Lexus models, and with a starting price over $40,000, the 375-horsepower V-8 model (17/25 mpg) very well may be. But the highly capable V-6 version has 290 horsepower, rates 18/27 mpg, and starts at an appealing $34,000 or so. If you’re not wedded to the poor-weather traction advantages of front-wheel drive, the Genesis is the most engaging car in this bunch.