(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)
At Glastonbury Tor was Merlin’s magical sword born. Dislodged from between an anvil and stone a young Arthur proclaimed his throne. Lost once to a sorceress, with its magic diminished, suffered the Briton King mortal wounds. It was to this marsh encircled magical island of apples where the Regent of the Round Table for his eternal repose was remanded. With all of the Kingdom his second coming awaiting.
As if wielding the legendary magical sword Excalibur, Toyota has chiseled a regal Fifth Generation volume flagship sedan: the 2019 Toyota Avalon.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
WHAT: 2018 Toyota Avalon Mk.5 XX50 TNGA-K platform flagship large sedan.
Standard Power: transverse 3.5L DOHC 24V DI SFI gas V-6 = 301 hp/ 268 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transaxle, steering wheel shift paddles; 4 Drive Chassis Modes = Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and customizable mode
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Previous generation Mk.4 Avalon tapered wedge look evolved into crease craziness; Shorter, narrower upper grille exudes a pointy F-1 nostril, supported by a dark lattice grille joined to a wide octagonal dark lattice fascia w/ corner vents; Dramatically raked windshield + backlight = fastback profile; Rear quarters minimized by wrap-around boomerang tail lamps bridged by reflector bar; Rear trunklid + bumper cover are pinched and beveled for a chiseled effect; Black lower rear valance is followed by a diffuser; Gloss black mirror caps + trunklid spoiler + black paint wheel inserts = Energized;
WHY: They say age 55 is the new 40.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Summer 2018
WHERE: Toyota new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Georgetown, Kentucky, U.S.A.
HOW ROADWORTHY: “Too refined + too quiet + initial accelerator pedal dead spot + nary a rumble in the exhaust note” = marginal sporting aspirations from naturally aspirated 3.5L 24V DOHC V-6; Neither 2 extra gears in the 8-speed transaxle, nor steering wheel shift paddles nor Sport Plus mode can deliver engine braking or throttle blipping rapid multiple gear downshifts.
Adaptive damping set to Sport Plus mode throws in direction sharpening wheel control with acceptably increased ride firmness and reduced nose dive in hard slowing corners; Quicker steering winding retains benign heft and yearns for the remotest of road feel; Brake pedal effort and travel are hardly taxing, yet slowing is.
HOW FAR: 24 combined miles per gallon;
HOW BIG/ LITTLE:
√ Compared to Mk.4 Avalon: 113″ wheelbase = +2″, 195.3″ total length = unchanged, 40.3″ rear legroom = +1.1″;
√ Compared to Kia Cadenza: Wheelbase = +0.6″, total length = +0.3″, front legroom = -3.4″, rear legroom = +3.1″, trunk space = +0.1″
HOW USEFUL: √ 60/40% split folding rear seat backs; √ Trunk space = segment acceptable; √ Cargo tie-down net; √ Center-stack retracting lid electronics phone bin w/ optional Qi wireless charging = 2 devices; √ Wide front center armrest, shallow felt bottom bin; –1 Modest hard plastic door pockets; +1 Cupholders x 4, Bottle holders x 4 (each door) –1 Shallow trunk aperture; -1 Cramped hard plastic lined glove box; -1 No overhead sunglasses bin; -1 No trunk lid grab handle
HOW SAFE: √ 10 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus; √ Rear camera; √ STANDARD Toyota SafetySense P = √ Pedestrian detection braking; √ Forward collision avoidance braking; √ Blind spot warning; √ Rear cross traffic detection; √ Lane Departure Warning w/ steering assist (effective only on High Sensitivity); √ Full adaptive cruise control w/ auto hold; √ Automatic high beam headlamps;
ADVANCED SAFETY PKG: √ Sonar front & rear park assist; √ Rear cross traffic braking; √ 360° Bird’s Eye camera view, perimeter scan.
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Heated & cooled 8-way, 4-way lumbar power front seats, w/ 2-setting driver’s memory; √ Easy Access driver’s seat, steering wheel; √ Heated rear seats; √ 4 power windows w/ full up/ down express; √ Power Tilt / telescoping heated leather steering wheel; √ Puddle lamps x 4 doors; √ Power moon roof;
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Comfort approach entry and lighting; √ Floating center stack blends with tablet style 9″ LCD infotainment display;
Details Done Right: √ Aluminum dash, central console accents; √ Micro-suede door upper door panel, seat inserts; √ Orange contrast seat stitching; √ Metal accelerator, brake pedal covers; √ LED door panel, central console variable ambient lighting; √ Hard plastic pebbling;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Softex seat upholstery = simulated leather; Low cabin color contrast; Uneven dash stitching; Shiny simulated ash gray woodgrain; Dash panel overlap; Starkly bare hard grey floating stack.
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 9.0″ tri-pane touch LCD infotainment screen; √ Voice recognition command hands-free communications; +1 SMS Voice to Text Messaging; √ 3-D SD GPS navigation; √ 14 speaker, 1200 Watt Harman Kardon Q-Logic HD radio audio; √ Apple Car Play wireless device overlay; √ Siri Eyes; √ Entune Apps: Amazon Alexa, Pandora*, iHeart, Slacker, NPR One radios, Yelp, Fuel, Sports, Stocks, Doppler Weather, HD Traffic, √ USB x 4, 12V x 1; √ Qi wireless inductive charging pad.
By Subscription: √ Sirius XM radio; √ Wi-Fi; √ Toyota Connected Services w/ S.O.S.; √ Dynamic Navigation POI search & voice recognition
*App support ends November 13, 2018
HOW MUCH: $44,913 = as tested 2018 Toyota Avalon Touring
WHAT’S MISSING: Better front seat torso support; Better cabin finish & contrast; Less loopy keep assist; Rear door & window sunshades; Trunk lid liner grab handle.
ANY COMPETITION: Buick LaCrosse: +1 AWD option, Avenir; Chrysler 300: +1 AWD option, cabin size; Ford Taurus: +1 AWD option; Sync3; massive trunk; Kia Cadenza:+1 Cabin interior materials, rear seat space; Nissan Maxima: +1 sporty aspirations, hugging seats.
FINAL WORD: Excalibur rejuvenated executive large barge seems incidental to newly chiseled Toyota Camry.