Full-size sedans are supposed to be an American specialty. So you can imagine how surprised many folks were when in 1995 Toyota introduced its big car contender, the Avalon. And while some found the Avalon less than generous in all dimensions, it did strike a positive chord with many former domestic sedan buyers. But never to rest too long on their laurels, for 2000 Toyota is launching a bigger, and they claim, better Avalon. One with its roots even more firmly planted in American soil.
That’s because the all-new 2000 Toyota Avalon has been designed, engineered, as well as built in the good old US of A! In fact, Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky continues as the only source of Avalons. No global car this one.
So not surprisingly, like its Detroit competition, the Avalon is a pretty big car outside, although not quite full-size. Its modified Camry chassis is 191.9-inches in length, riding on an unchanged 107.1-inch wheelbase. But, both overall height and width gain an extra inch this year.
A bigger change is styling. Less Camry derived, it is modern, substantial, fairly handsome, yet still quite conservative. The area around the grille and artful headlamps is the most distinctive. But the interior is very distinctive and the most admirable change for Avalon. With 106.6 cubic feet of interior space, you would split hairs not to call it full-size. That Toyota found so much room without stretching the wheelbase is truly impressive. As is a dash that would do Lexus proud blending broad ultra-clean lines, an efficient layout, and plenty of handsome wood trim.
Large, clear analog gauges meet the driver squarely, while to the right is a prominent, eye-friendly, multi-data screen that looks straight off an auto show concept car.
To underscore that the Avalon is aimed at very mature buyers, all is viewed from wide, supportive bench or bucket seats. Which in our XLS tester included optional leather upholstery and power adjustments. Side airbags are standard. It’s just a short reach to the fine-sounding, optional JBL cassette-CD stereo and standard dual climate controls.
In line with current family car requirements, there’s also plenty of storage space and cupholders, available power points front and rear, plus child seat tether anchors behind the rear seat. Which incidentally is big enough for the tallest adults, or a lot of kids. But surprisingly, lacks a split folding seatback many competitors include. There is a small pass-through for long objects behind the center armrest. Still, the trunk itself offers a family-size 15.9 cubic-feet of space.
To motivate the 2000 Avalon, Toyota went with a proven powerplant. The 3.0-liter dual-overhead-cam, 24-valve V6 is shared with the Camry. But makes more horsepower, 210, and more torque, 220 pound-feet, thanks to the addition of variable valve timing. The only transmission available is a smooth, firm-shifting 4-speed automatic.
With its front-drive combo, the Avalon hits 60 in a respectable 8.5-seconds. And runs the full 1/4-mile in 16.3-seconds, at 88 miles-per-hour. The feel is highly refined, with impressive mid-range power for such a smallish V-6.
Stopping is by way of ABS equipped 4-wheel disc brakes. Stops from 60, however, were longer than we’d like, averaging 141 feet. Brake Assist, a system that keeps brake pressure on in a panic stop even if you chicken out, is included with optional electronic stability skid control on the Avalon XLS. Both unexpected features for this class of sedan.
Traction control is included too, all working with the Avalon’s already capable MacPherson strut front and dual link strut rear suspension for a solid, sure footed, confident feel. It’s no sport-sedan, and there is plenty of front drive push, yet Avalon feels very safe for such a big, comfy car. But, push it too far, too fast, and it will snap from understeer to oversteer very quickly.
Though that’s not a situation likely to be encountered by Avalon’s mostly older drivers. They will instead favor a moderate pace at all times, reveling in the car’s luxurious ride and well isolated quiet. A feeling of calm, reinforced by the knowledge that they got plenty of car for their money.
Avalon prices start at $26,470 for an XL model with a front bench seat. $25,650 gets you the bucket seats. Move up to the XLS, and you’ll pay $30,110 for one with the bench seat, $30,210 for buckets.
While more than most competitors such as the Buick LeSabre and Chrysler Concorde, it still represents a much better value than the first Avalon, and one that makes you wonder why anyone would pay more for a Lexus ES300. Which means that the Avalon’s already respectable sales will certainly go up. Automobile Magazine agrees saying: “Toyota wants to sell 80,000 Avalons this year, and we have no doubt it will.”
So expect to see a lot more of this high-value, homegrown, big-family sedan in the near future. As we said before, full-size sedans are an American specialty. And the 2000 Toyota Avalon is as American as any big car on the road today.
Engine: 3.0-Liter Dohc 24-valve V6
Torque: 220 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.3 Seconds @ 88 MPH
60-0 MPH: 141 Feet