As soon as my eight year old son opens the rear door of the 2011 Toyota Avalon he says "this looks like a car for someone who lives in an mansion." Is that a good thing? He sure thought so - granted, comfortable cars like the Avalon often get labeled as cars for old people but guess what, old people have nice stuff so I don't think of it as a slam.
For 2011 the Toyota Avalon gets a few cosmetic updates - the look is a little less generic and it has more presence on the road. A larger grill and restyled wheels are the only real reasons for this. Plus, some of the lines are now sharper which adds a slightly more masculine tone. The tailights have been resculpted too. Under the hood is the same 3.5 liter V6 from before - it makes 268 hp and is good for 20 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.
The interior gets a bit of a refresh too. The gauges are now separated into two distinct clusters with metallic looking trim surrounding each. It looks good but the materials feel kinda cheap, ditto for the faux wood trim on the dash and doors. I know it's not a Lexus but this is the top of the line Toyota, some real wood would be nice.
All Toyotas, including the 2011 Avalon now get the company's Star Safety System. It incudes stability control, ABS, brake assist and traction control.
Even a quick 10 min drive proves my son is right - this is a car for people who live in mansions. It just has this serene quality that oozes luxury and quality. It's not that the cabin is so deluxe, it's not really. But driving the car reveals such a purity and isolation you can't help but love it. Sure, people who still read car magazines will agree with the arrogant editors that the Avalon is basically a Japanese Buick. Again, I don't see the harm in that but clearly that crowd does. But remember these are the same people that think spending $50,000 on a compact sedan with little rear seat room and too firm suspension is worth it because, well it's got that blue and white logo and is rear wheel drive. Instead, for less than $40,000 I'll take the Avalon and it's business class rear seat spaciousness and plenty of up to date tech features like XM nav/traffic, rear parking camera, Bluetooth and iPod connection.
The 2011 Avalon isn't lazy or floaty, it's just smooth. Smooth acceleration, smooth ride, smooth steering. You're not going to conquer the slalom in this car - then again, who lives near a slalom? Exactly, no one. Besides, a palpable smoothness speaks to precision and quality - who could be against that?
If you have enough drama at work each day and want to feel like you live the pampered life of a mansion owner (at least for the duration of your commute), spend a little time in the 2011 Toyota Avalon's accomdating, heated and cooled seats. It's a car that looks and feels like a real luxury without the luxurious price tag.