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Toyota's big-six Avalon replacement draws near

Ridgy-didge: Australian-designed Avalon successor will draw styling cues from the 2005 US Avalon Limited sedan.

Toyota’s all-new - and, this time, fair-dinkum - large car will appear in February

26 Oct 2005

TOYOTA Australia’s first fully-fledged big-six contender for Holden’s all-conquering Commodore is just over three months from making its first official public appearance.

Codenamed 323L and to be powered exclusively by a new 3.5-litre V6, the vital new Avalon replacement will be unveiled at the 2006 Melbourne International Motor Show on February 9, when its new name will also be announced.

Just a month earlier in January, the Detroit motor show will host the world premiere of Toyota’s next-generation Camry , which will be built in seven plants globally – including Altona in Victoria.

The all-new 042L-codenamed Camry will beat Holden’s redesigned VE Commodore sedan to market when it goes on sale in July, however, the Avalon successor will not be released until November 2006 – nine months after its Melbourne debut.

As revealed by GoAuto 12 months ago, Toyota Australia will offer the 2006 Camry with four-cylinder power only, while Avalon’s successor will employ V6 urge exclusively.

As such, ours will be the only market in the world not to offer a Camry V6, while a low-spec, fleet-oriented version of the Avalon successor will be unique to Australia and is expected to attract up to 70 per cent of Avalon replacement sales. Fifty per cent of new Camry sales are forecast to go to fleets.

Conceived five years ago, Toyota’s next-generation Camry/Avalon strategy aims to position the Avalon successor directly against large sedan rivals like the VE Commodore, BF Falcon and 380 sedan, and away from Toyota’s own mid-sized Camry.

According to Toyota Australia executive chairman John Conomos, "nenkei" – a Toyota Motor Corporation term for setting production numbers – for Camry/Avalon has been set at 114,000 vehicles, rising to 130,000 and then 150,000.

That represents a substantial increase on previous Camry/Avalon production levels, and will again account for a significant number of exports to Middle East markets, which currently comprise the lion’s share of Toyota’s annual export total of more than 65,000 cars, around 10 per cent of which is Camry V6.

However, Mr Conomos indicated the declining large-car market may have implications for Toyota’s Avalon successor, annual production of which should rise to around 30,000 from Avalon’s original June 2000 launch forecast of 24,000 annual sales – despite the fact it failed to achieve half that sales volume.

"Oil prices have thrown us a curve ball – (but) only the (V6 versus four-cylinder) mix has changed and Camry will make inroads into its rear-drive, low-tech rivals," said Mr Conomos.

"The current Avalon wasn’t differentiated enough to attract Commodore and Falcon buyers.

"You cannot convince buyers to buy what they do not want.

"It (the Avalon replacement) won’t be perfect but there will be sufficient upper body and internal changes to increase its appeal to six-cylinder buyers.

"The question is how many V6 buyers will be around then," he said.

8 center image"The fuel shock will push fleets away from six-cylinder exclusively, but keep in mind we have a large country and a desire to pull boats and the Commodore-type car is still the best value anywhere in the world." The current 380N Camry-based Avalon ceased production on June 28 and will be replaced by a rebodied, "Australianised" version of the global Camry, designed by young Toyota Australia designer Nick Hogios.

Bigger, better equipped and offering more technology than its forthcoming Camry stablemate, Australia’s 2007 Avalon replacement will also be differentiated from its US-market Avalon sibling, which appeared at this year’s Detroit show before going on sale in February.

Now in final production mode, the Avalon’s successor will take design cues (and employ hard points) from the US Avalon, with which it shares its platform.

Measuring 25mm wider than the previous Avalon and riding on a 100mm-longer wheelbase, America’s new Avalon is powered by a new Lexus-derived 24-valve DOHC 3.5-litre V6 mated to a five-speed semi-auto.

Claimed to be the most powerful V6 ever offered by Toyota in the US, the new engine employs VVT-i variable valve timing and a dual-stage intake manifold to produce 200kW/338Nm – making it 33 per cent more powerful than the 145kW 3.0-litre V6 that powers the outgoing Camry/Avalon.

The 2005 US Avalon also features an all-new interior with seven-way adjustable steering column, sliding armrest and a flat rear floor, and is available in four grades: XL, XLS, Touring and Limited.

America’s most basic Avalon offers ABS, EBD, BA, twin front, side and knee airbags, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats, a nine-speaker CD sound system, 16-inch alloys and Optitron instruments.

Upstream variants also offer stability control, side curtain airbags, leather trim, HID headlights, LED puddle lights and reclining rear seats.

Meantime, next year's new Camry (based on the same platform as its Avalon-replacing sibling), will be available in just three variants from launch, which will assume different nameplates to the current Altise, Ateva, Azura, Grande and Sportivo range.

What's coming from Toyota:

Yaris hatch - November 2005
RAV4 redesign - January 2006
Yaris sedan - February 2006
Tarago redesign - March 2006
Camry sedan redesign - July 2006
Avalon sedan redesign - November 2006
LandCruiser redesign - 2007
Corolla (incl. diesel) - 2007
Prius III hatch redesign - 2007

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