New Models - Toyota Avalon
First drive: Avalon upgrade a techno treat
Mid-life refresh and model range reshuffle for Toyota's Avalon
14 October 2003
THE Avalon, the big car memorably described by Toyota Australia’s John Conomos as having a buying audience in "God’s waiting room", has been given a mid-life refresh and model range reshuffle.
ALTISE SPORT ADDED TO RANGETOYOTA has added another variant to the Camry range, the Altise Sport.
A V6-powered model priced at $32,588 (add another $1000 for the auto), the Altise Sport slots in between the base model Altise V6 and the next model up, the Ateva V6.
It is easily the cheapest V6 sporting model in the range, undercutting the Sportivo by about $6000. But the 2.4-litre four-cylinder Sportivo is cheaper.
Camry Altise Sport has the same locally-developed suspension calibration as Sportivo V6. The package includes 10-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels and the addition of a strut brace between the front suspension towers.
Added specification over Altise includes front foglights, rear deck spoiler, body coloured door handles, chrome exhaust diffuser, Altise Sport badge, sports front seats and a three-spoke leather-bound steering wheel.
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:IT would be easy to dismiss Avalon MkIII as a (slightly) more sharply dressed version of the same efficient but uninspiring Camry-based Commodore fighter that’s yet to strike a chord with Aussie big-six buyers.
But that would overlook a number of minor but effective changes under Avalon’s new skin that, collectively, represent new levels of quality and refinement for an Australian-made vehicle.
Sure, the slimmer, all-new headlights - with raised eyebrow over high beam, making them look a little like upside-down versions of the previous headlights – are said to provide an extra 29mm of lighting penetration over the MkII’s already impressive headlights.
And there’s no doubt the edgier new bonnet, raked-back six-slat grille and new, Lexus-style bootlid and jeweled rear lighting are a big aesthetic step up on the previous Avalon – even if the black fillers replacing the Grande’s foglights on lesser models look a little cheap.
But the big story is the gains Toyota Oz has made in terms of noise, vibration and harshness – and steering.
Whether it’s the new, locally-developed steering rack or the 600 per cent stiffer bushes it is mounted on, the result is slightly crisper initial turn-in with less rack rattle at the limit of adhesion.
Together, the changes make Avalon’s steering both more refined and a touch sportier, with just a little more feel around centre.
Similarly, the liquid-filled rear engine mount makes Avalon’s otherwise unchanged engine feel perhaps a little smoother, while the softer front suspension upper support bushings and lighter control arm bushes improve bump absorption for a slightly better ride.
Toyota says the fitment of Kluger and RX330’s 3.3-litre VVTi V6 was considered for Avalon, but required too many changes to the Toyota Modular Platform to be feasible.
As such, Avalon also continues with its familiar four-speed auto, which lacks a sequential manual shift mode like Falcon, but now comes with Camry’s new, more efficient torque converter.
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