When you pack 5 people into a car to travel 6 hours or more, you can feel like sardines tucked away into a can, with little to no room to maneuver, much less sit comfortably, but that’s not the experience you’ll have if that car is the Toyota Avalon, as I recently discovered on a road trip ‘over the river and through the woods’ to two different grandma’s homes during the holidays.
The 2020 Toyota Avalon Limited was sent to me to review and I wasn’t sure it would provide enough room for all 5 of us on the trip, but one of the 5 was going to be getting out on our first leg of the journey, so I figured we could endure the tight quarters for that small amount of time if it was really THAT uncomfortable. It turns out that was a wasted worry.
We left Atlanta after work on Friday, headed for Jacksonville, to the first of two Grandma’s houses we were visiting. Being it was the holiday and we were leaving on one of the busiest travel days of the year, we knew it would be a long journey. We were right. But it wasn’t an uncomfortable one. I gave up my seat up front to the grandma riding along and took a seat in the back with my daughter and her bestie, both 14 year old girls. That turned out to be fun, actually, and I admit, no one felt cramped. I was happily surprised at all the leg room. That just doesn’t exist in most cars anymore when it comes to the back seat.
The girls were thrilled by all the USB charging ports in the back. No more pleading with the person up front to run a cable that wouldn’t reach the back seat anyway. They were able to plug in their phones, both of them, and watch, or make, all the videos they wanted the entire drive (tik tok, anyone?). Turns out that’s really all a teen girl wants to do on roadtrips anyway.
The folks up front (my boyfriend, AKA our driver, and the grandma) were blown away by all the safety features. Neither had seen the blind spot alert feature before. It’s a warning light in your side mirror that makes you aware there’s another car beside you, so don’t switch lanes. That’s just one feature of the Toyota Safety Sense P suite of features (TSS-P), which includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. Yeah, that’s a lot. And yes, they’re all extremely helpful. Heck. There’s even an alert in case you’re switching your lane without a blinker too often–a sign that maybe you should pull over and get some rest. We discovered that one not when we were tired, but when the aforementioned driver failed to use the blinker. Ahem.
Another big advantage (literally): the trunk space. The Avalon has 16 cubic feet, which was enough to fit grandma’s huge suitcase AND wheelchair, along with an instant pot she purchased while away, and the bags for the other 4 folks in the vehicle. If we needed it, we also could have folded the rear seats for a 60/40 split for longer items. Considering all the bodies in the car, we couldn’t take advantage of that on this trip, but it’s good to know it’s an option.
The ride was smooth and the Avalon is a dream to drive. And I mentioned roomy, right? I will say my one complaint came when I took over the wheel on the second leg of our journey, from Jacksonville to Vero Beach, to see the second grandma. I have to say it was almost too roomy there. I like to rest my elbows on the center console and the arm rest on the door, but this seat was so wide I had to stack my purse in beside me to use as an arm rest. It’s clear Toyota is adjusting for our wider bodies. In my case, that was too much, but I think someone who doesn’t like their elbows up will love all the space. The driver and passenger seats are also configurable to adjust to each body in the seat, with standard eight-way power-adjustable front seats including heat to keep your back side warm and a button to adjust for lumbar support.
The rearview camera and overhead (they call it bird’s eye) camera are going to knock your socks off. They take a bit to get used to (I couldn’t decide which camera I should be looking at when backing up, but the audible beeping will warn you if you’re even close to hitting another object).
The engine is a fuel-efficient 301-horsepower V6 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. It gets 22 mpg city/31 mpg on the highway. It’s quiet. It’s smooth. And has get up and go when you need it, too.
The 2020 Avalon comes outfitted with a 9-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth, four USB ports, an eight-speaker sound system, HD Radio, satellite radio, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Yes, you’re driving a Toyota, but the Avalon is made in Kentucky on the same assembly line as the Lexus ES. It shows. They share several components, including the engine and transmission. They feel very similar, other than some fancy extras on the Lexus that come with the higher price tag. The 2020 Avalon starts at $35,800. The Limited I drove, all decked out, has a sticker price of $44,180.00.
Compared to the Camry it’s a pricey step up, but also a very luxurious one. One I know I could get used to driving not just on long road trips, but each and every day.h