On the way to conquering the universe, Toyota put a pill right down Buick’s stack. The languid Avalon, essentially a punched-out Camry with Lexus trappings, may not fascinate the street pilots who devour this magazine, but about 40,000 people are expected to lay down their greenbacks for one this year, and Toyota has a few minor changes to announce.
The fenders are new for 2011, raising the rear decklid for better aerodynamics and creating a more windswept face with a new grille at the center. A revised dash cages the instruments in separate, attractive binnacles, and a large shingle of loss-luster plastic resembling brushed pewter contains the navigation system with its revamped controls. On the Limited, chrome slivers on the door handles and lower doors add a blaze of old-fashioned brightwork.
There are just two versions: the base Avalon and the Avalon Limited, tested here and now coming with standard leather and a sunroof. Otherwise, Toyota’s Arthurian super-Camry remains unchanged down to its six-speed automatic and 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, which delivers 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. That’s 0.3 second slower than our previous Avalon test car, but punch the gas in traffic, and the Avalon moves out. That’s all most Avalon drivers care about.
Expressway travel is a quiet, efficient affair, though the brakes have an abrupt light-switch feel and the steering is slow and somewhat lifeless in the middle, so you’re just a bit more active correcting the Avalon’s path as it’s disturbed by crosswinds and pavement changes. Perhaps the owner clinics reveal that Avalon buyers like to be reminded of their first high-school cars.
The Avalon isn’t much larger than the Camry—there’s an extra 1.7 inches at the wheelbase, 8.4 inches overall, and just over an inch more in width—but it feels roomier, especially in the back, and remains a Lexus in everything but its grille badge. Here, then, is a car for those who fondly remember the Buicks of yore.