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Just in: Toyota Avalon

Consumer Reports News: August 21, 2009 02:08 PM

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"That car we had last weekend--it was a really good car."

I was surprised to hear this come out of the blue from my wife. Our spouses get pretty jaded from riding in a never-ending rotation of cars, so a car has to be pretty special to make such an impact.

I racked my brain, trying to remember what I was driving. Our new Mercedes-Benz E350? The Infiniti G37? Maybe the Fusion Hybrid?

Nope. It was our Toyota Avalon. Really, I thought--the Avalon? Let’s just say that we’re not exactly the target demographic for this big luxury-in-everyway-but-the-nameplate sedan.

Even though Consumer Reports tested the Avalon when the current generation came out way back in 2005, we recently bought a new one to compare it against new large sedan competition. We also wanted to check out the effect of the six-speed automatic (it originally had a five-speed.) Our nicely equipped Avalon XLS, one of the few new cars left on the emptied-by- CARS dealer’s lot, listed for $34,974.

My wife and I took the Avalon on a day-long 300 mile round-trip to visit the Vintage Trailer Jam (, a gathering of old travel trailers, in Saratoga Springs, New York. This is what the car was made to do: wafting along the highway in near silence, sitting on big wide leather seats. Despite having only a few hundred miles on the clock, blasting the AC, and spending a lot of time in the passing lane, the Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 returned 30.5 mpg, according to the trip computer. That’s impressive for this big car. It’s far from sporty, but it sure is comfy, hence my wife’s appreciation of this cruiser.

We’ll see if the Avalon still has what it takes to stay near the top of the large sedan pile, especially with redesigned competition from Ford and Buick.

Tom Mutchler

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