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Test Drive Of All New 2006 Avalon


SW03ES
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Well guys I took the all new 2006 Avalon for a spin yesterday, wrote a little article like I did for the GS.

2006 Toyota Avalon

Truly a Lexus Replacement?

Yesterday I had the chance to sit in and test drive a new 2006 Toyota Avalon. There's been a lot of buzz and even anger around the Lexus community about this car and accusations of Toyota putting too much into their flagship sedan and devaluing the Lexus brand. I just had to see if everyone's fears were justified or not.

The car I drove was a dark blue/tan interior Limited model, fully loaded with leather, "wood", navigation, the JBL Audio, XM Radio (installed and activated), VSC/Trac, automatic wipers, HID headlights, signal mirrors, drivers side autodimming. The works, priced out at $38,500, $1,170 less than my ES300 and about the same as a fully loaded 2005 ES330.

EXTERIOR

The styling of the car in person is handsome. It bears absolutely no resemblance to the Lexus GS, it is very long with very long rear doors and a long wheelbase with a short front overhang and a longer rear one. Some of the inherante quirky design elements I didnt like about the previous Avalon are still around, like the weird angle in the rear. Dual exhausts are a nice touch, even if they're not functionally neccisary. The new 17 inch wheels are well crafted from dark polished and machined alliminum. The front and rear slightly remind me of the outgoing Infiniti M45 with the flat front and upwardly angled rear end. Its attractive but would take some getting used to. The car is significantly longer than my ES300, probably 4 or 5 inches. It may even be longer than the LS430. Given the inherant comparison of this vehicle to a Lexus I examined the exterior and the wheel wells and door jambs to the Lexus to see about quality of fitment and detail. Not bad, the Toyota lacks some of the trim characteristics of the Lexus, one seal in the doors (Lexus doors are triple sealed) and doesn't have the carpeting around the rear wheel well to reduce noise Lexus uses nowadays.

INTERIOR

Like I've said before the smart key system is a great invention...needs to be on everything and I think it eventually will.

My first opinion of the interior of the Avalon was positive. Comfortable seats, good isntrumentation, nav screen nice and high, LOTS of room. My enthusiasm was somewhat tempered when I started fully poking around in the car and discovered some of the reasons why they were able to deliver the car with all of its features at its price but we'll get there.

Overall the quality and fitment of the materials was good, as is expected in a Toyota. The car has a beautiful birds eye maple wood steering wheel and shift knob that are very nice, the rest of the cabin is done in similar looking plastic imitation wood, which is a reasonable facsimilie. The steering wheel adjusts up and down and is telescoping. Unfortunately these controls are manual and for some reason the two functions are controlled with two different levers. To telescope the wheel you have to release a clamp on the left of the column and to tilt it you have to actuate a lever underneath the wheel. A power wheel would have been welcome. Instrumentation was good, optitron like Lexus with nice chrome trimming around the gauges. The Nav screen sits directly to the left of the gauges but unfortunately it is no longer touch screen controlled. The implementation of the touch screen isn't bad but it would take some getting used to no doubt. The controls for the nav are neatly beneath a door under the radio. I do like having a seperate radio that is not put through the nav screen. The center console has a good set of no nonsense cupholders and a nice storage space. Seat controls are simple and its easy to get comfortable.

Tons of room in the rear! Dare I say, maybe more room than the LS430. The reclining seats are nice but nothing special as they're simply manual, not power like those found on other sedans. Comfort is also very good.

The JBL stereo sounded great, hard to compare it to the ML though because the JBL has always been a more "rock and roll" system.

Nice, big trunk.

INTERIOR QUALITY

This is where the Avalon lost me. The features may be there, but the quality of the interior materials was not compared to the Lexus. Cheap thin plastic on many sections of the dash, nice leather but the vinyl used on the sides and backs of the seats was much lower quality than the vinyl used by Lexus. The fake wood was another negative. Carpeting is significantly less plush and less pile. Some plastics have rough edges, like the handles in the back to recline the seats and overall the switchgear and doors for glove box, radio, etc don't operate with the same solid, fluid feel as the Lexus. Not fantastic.

RIDE AND DRIVE

First of all let me say that 280hp V6 needs have been put in the GS. Nice power and smooth powerband and very little torque steer which is a testament to Toyota engineering. It scuttles the big Avalon around with not much problem. Transmission shifts were good and smooth.

Now comes another big difference between the Avalon and Lexus sedans. Lexus sedans ride smooth, not soft. Its a different kind of ride than say a Buick or a Lincoln, the ride is controlled just smooth. A Buick or a Lincoln feels like its absorbing the bumps in the road while a Lexus feels like its smoothing out the road as it drives, if that makes any sense. That can be hard for people moving from American luxury sedans to Lexus cars to get used to. The Avalon has a very different ride than the Lexus sedans, more American and more Buick. That is it feels boatier, like its riding over the bumps and cushioning you as it goes. Which type of ride you like is a matter of preference, but the Avalon felt more like a Buick to me than it did like my Lexus.

After the experience I thanked the salesman for his time, got back into my car and left. Immediately I felt the differences in the ride and quality of the interior, there's just no question which car is the higher quality, upscale model.

What we have to remember is that Lexus from the get go has been about quality, not gizmos. Think about the original LS, very few do-dads compared to its competitors of the day. It still is pretty feature light. Lexus feels that gimmicks get in the way of your long term enjoyment of what keeps you coming back, the supreme quality of the car in everything it does. I did not feel that on the Avalon, it felt like a Toyota, a nice Toyota, but a Toyota. Very nice car, but I would never consider trading my ES for it and would DEFINATELY never compare it to an LS like some have done. Its just no comparison.

Any thoughts?

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Matt- Not here, but they are on CL. But then again some people on CL are kinda...you know...hung up on themselves and their cars. It almost seems to me like they've taken the creation of this car as an insult...

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Many thanks for an excellent analysis.Notwithstanding its size, which might be too large for my laneway parking spot, I was going to look at the Avalon as a possible replacement for my 2000ES sometime next year.

Both my brother and sister live in the States and drive recent model Avalons. The new one might be somewhat different from their model, but it looks as if not enough. The few times I was in their cars, I did get a sense of more American than Japanese or European. So I'll have to consider more than size, especially since the price is about the same.

It's interesting that Toyota doesn't market the Avalon at all in Toronto. Perhaps that'll change with the new model which got a positive review in Toronto Star.

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Matt- Not here, but they are on CL. But then again some people on CL are kinda...you know...hung up on themselves and their cars. It almost seems to me like they've taken the creation of this car as an insult...

Yet another great review. When I saw the new Avalon appear, I too thought it may cause a competition with some Lexus models (my feelings were not as bad as what you mentioned above). I'm sure people are still going to make comparisons between Lexus and the Avalon, but at least I know there should be no competition. I always thought of the Avalon as "americanized" because of it's tendency to be more Buick like in space and ride. The Avalon is a very appealing car, but I'm going to stick with Lexus. A good write up. You should do these car reviews more often. :cheers:

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Great review! You should work for Car and Driver, Motor Trend or Consumer reports. :)

I think that the interior quality of the "flagship" Toyota has declined since the demise of the Cressida in 1992. When the Avalon replaced it in 1995- the interior quality reviews were terrible and very "un-Toyota" like. Numerous squeaks, rattles and lots of hard plastic- which was something that the 1977-1992 Cressida did not have. My old 1981 Toyota Cressida (the "Avalon" of the late 70s thru 1992) had a very high quality interior- very minimal hard plastic. Most surfaces even on the dash panel were padded- much like the Lexus LS400. Last time I drove it in early 2001, when the headgasket went- it had 172K and was still 100% squeak and rattle free- impressive for a 20 year old car (at the time) with nearly 200K.

Seems like that the Toyota interior materials quality has declined since the restyles of each model thru the mid to late 1990s. The early 90s Toyotas did not have this issue. Even my 1993 Camry LE had mostly all padded interior panels- and was rattle free, even at 216K when I sold it.

I wish I had of kept that car: (93 Camry LE V6)

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Great review!  You should work for Car and Driver, Motor Trend or Consumer reports.  :)

I was gonna say the same thing 90LS lol B) Good write up sw! ;) I hope to take a 'Touring' model out for a spin sometime soon (in Canada, we only have a choice of 2 models - the Touring or the XLS) & see if the suspension makes any significant difference. Funny thing is however, I don't disagree with you about the quality of the materials you talked about, but I all in all I thought the Avalon was a much more substantial car than the new GS that was on display at the auto show. Not sure why I felt that way (others seemed to do the same as there was no line up to sit in the new GS but a long one for the Av).

You mentioned some ES owners might be mad as things stand right now, which might be true. I see this as a good thing simply because it just means when the next generation ES is redesigned, Lexus will just have to 'up the ante' that much more to make customers who are or were considering the new Avalon to completely forget about it......I expect nothing less than the same engine however (3.5 L V6) that's in the Avalon's engine bay for starters.

One other disappointment with regards to the Avalon........in Canada at least, you can't get the 'Touring' model with traction control or VSC even in an option package!! It's not even offered! :chairshot: :( That is unacceptable for a car that is suppose to be a 'Flagship' vehicle. If I get the XLS, I have to give up the sports suspension & the HID headlights.

According to those I have spoken with, that concern will be addressed for the 2006 model year however. B) ;)

:cheers:

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Excellent Review and after reading it, I headed out to Toyota to take their beast for a drive and compare it against my 05 ES330. The Avalon is loaded with a lot of features but after all, it's a Toyota and not a Lexus. I"m not gonna write a long review but to summarize a 30 min test drive:

Avalon is no comparison to the ES or any other Lexus model for that matter. the car is a 'boat'..just a big Camry with more features. Handling was no better than a Camry, and doesn even compare to the ES. A lot noiser than the ES too. The interior is nice but is missing some of the lexus 'touch' like the chrome trim and the better plastic and vinyl. The wood trim is also horrible! Anyway, don't take me wrong, I love Toyota and it is a great car, but I just want everyone to know that don't compare it to the ES, the ES wins hands down! There is only 1 thing that I really loved about the Avalon, and that is the 280hp engine..that car can move! I wish my ES had that! :D But that is it..nothing else, i still wouldnt trade my ES for that boat..no way!

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Excellent Review and after reading it, I headed out to Toyota to take their beast for a drive and compare it against my 05 ES330. The Avalon is loaded with a lot of features but after all, it's a Toyota and not a Lexus.  I"m not gonna write a long review but to summarize a 30 min test drive:

Avalon is no comparison to the ES or any other Lexus model for that matter.  the car is a 'boat'..just a big Camry with more features.  Handling was no better than a Camry, and doesn even compare to the ES. A lot noiser than the ES too. The interior is nice but is missing some of the lexus 'touch' like the chrome trim and the better plastic and vinyl.  The wood trim is also horrible! Anyway, don't take me wrong, I love Toyota and it is a great car, but I just want everyone to know that don't compare it to the ES, the ES wins hands down! There is only 1 thing that I really loved about the Avalon, and that is the 280hp engine..that car can move! I wish my ES had that! :D But that is it..nothing else, i still wouldnt trade my ES for that boat..no way!

Which model Avalon did you drive bichoo? I'd compare the Touring model to the ES personally. ;)

:cheers:

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Plus you also have the lower warranty range and the horrible Toyota customer service (I have a Lexus and a Toyota, the differences in dealer quality and customer service are staggering, hard to imagine they're the same company). You also miss out on Lexus resale and prestige.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Another reason car salesman will be extinct. How many of you are going to Toyota and other places just to test drive a car you have no intention of buying? You just wasted an hour of the salesman's time. Next time, rent the car or drive a friends car.

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Plus you also have the lower warranty range and the horrible Toyota customer service (I have a Lexus and a Toyota, the differences in dealer quality and customer service are staggering, hard to imagine they're the same company). You also miss out on Lexus resale and prestige.

Let me ask, did you pay full price for the Lexus or the Toyota?

If you paid full price at Toyota, they would treat you like a God.

If you offered $500 over invoice, they got you out of there as fast as they could.

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Another reason car salesman will be extinct.  How many of you are going to Toyota and other places just to test drive a car you have no intention of buying?  You just wasted an hour of the salesman's time.  Next time, rent the car or drive a friends car.

Let me ask, did you pay full price for the Lexus or the Toyota?

If you paid full price at Toyota, they would treat you like a God.

If you offered $500 over invoice, they got you out of there as fast as they could.

My My...aren't you being harsh. Had no idea taking a test drive was such a crime :chairshot: . Another thing, even if you paid full price for a fully loaded Toyota Avalon, they're not going to treat you like a "god". Come on now.

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Another reason car salesman will be extinct.  How many of you are going to Toyota and other places just to test drive a car you have no intention of buying?  You just wasted an hour of the salesman's time.  Next time, rent the car or drive a friends car.

For your information I never waste salesmen's time. Usually if you tell them that you just want to test the car out and aren't interested in buying they'll let you take it alone. Plus I have relationships with many car dealers of different brands of cars so people basically just let me drive whatever I want. Nothing wrong with test driving a car as long as you're upfront to the guy that you're not interested in buying. That contact is valuable to a salesman too because its an avenue for future sales and referrals. Good salesmen are always thinking about the long term. I've never had a salesman refuse me a test drive after I've said "I'm not interested in buying but I'll take a few of your cards and sign your contact book" they're greatful for the opportunity to use me to get more business, sometimes they ride with me sometimes they don't.

Let me ask, did you pay full price for the Lexus or the Toyota?

If you paid full price at Toyota, they would treat you like a God.

If you offered $500 over invoice, they got you out of there as fast as they could

Again, thank you for your sage wisdom on the car industry but you're wrong. Service departments have no idea nor do they care where you purchased the car or what you paid. Car dealerships don't make money selling cars, car sales are a loss leader, they make money SERVICING cars. So you see, it doesnt make any sense for them to treat you badly because of what you paid once for a car because they'll be turning away your service and future sales and referral business which is more valuable to them than one car sale. Plus service advisors get paid a commission also, so why would they treat you badly because you didnt put money in some guy's pocket they don't even know? I know this because I consult with car dealers to help them turn sales business into service and lifetime business. Look at Toyota's customer dealer satisfaction ratings, they're near the bottom.

For what its worth I paid MSRP for the Prius (obviously) and I paid $700 over invoice for the Lexus ($4000 off MSRP) and if Lexus would service the Prius, I'd pay them to. Toyota's service is not even in the same league. I also have a Ford, Ford service is better bar none and its pretty bad too. I don't service either car at the purchasing dealer because they're too far away.

What you paid for the car has no bearing on what kind of service you get.

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Another reason car salesman will be extinct.  How many of you are going to Toyota and other places just to test drive a car you have no intention of buying?  You just wasted an hour of the salesman's time.  Next time, rent the car or drive a friends car.

For your information I never waste salesmen's time. Usually if you tell them that you just want to test the car out and aren't interested in buying they'll let you take it alone. Plus I have relationships with many car dealers of different brands of cars so people basically just let me drive whatever I want. Nothing wrong with test driving a car as long as you're upfront to the guy that you're not interested in buying. That contact is valuable to a salesman too because its an avenue for future sales and referrals. Good salesmen are always thinking about the long term. I've never had a salesman refuse me a test drive after I've said "I'm not interested in buying but I'll take a few of your cards and sign your contact book" they're greatful for the opportunity to use me to get more business, sometimes they ride with me sometimes they don't.

Let me ask, did you pay full price for the Lexus or the Toyota?

If you paid full price at Toyota, they would treat you like a God.

If you offered $500 over invoice, they got you out of there as fast as they could

Again, thank you for your sage wisdom on the car industry but you're wrong. Service departments have no idea nor do they care where you purchased the car or what you paid. Car dealerships don't make money selling cars, car sales are a loss leader, they make money SERVICING cars. So you see, it doesnt make any sense for them to treat you badly because of what you paid once for a car because they'll be turning away your service and future sales and referral business which is more valuable to them than one car sale. Plus service advisors get paid a commission also, so why would they treat you badly because you didnt put money in some guy's pocket they don't even know? I know this because I consult with car dealers to help them turn sales business into service and lifetime business. Look at Toyota's customer dealer satisfaction ratings, they're near the bottom.

For what its worth I paid MSRP for the Prius (obviously) and I paid $700 over invoice for the Lexus ($4000 off MSRP) and if Lexus would service the Prius, I'd pay them to. Toyota's service is not even in the same league. I also have a Ford, Ford service is better bar none and its pretty bad too. I don't service either car at the purchasing dealer because they're too far away.

What you paid for the car has no bearing on what kind of service you get.

I was commenting on how the sales staff would treat you very well if you did pay MSRP at Toyota. The service dept obviously would be clueless about what you paid for the vehicle.

Of course we treat all our customers very well no matter they pay. Again, thats the sales staff. Then again, maybe thats why we sell 10,000 per year. We do have great customer service all around.

It is against our policy to let anyone take a test drive on their own. If youre a friend of the GM, then it wouldnt be a test drive, he would just let you borrow a rental for the day. Either way, someone is taking time out to help you out.

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Another reason car salesman will be extinct.  How many of you are going to Toyota and other places just to test drive a car you have no intention of buying?  You just wasted an hour of the salesman's time.  Next time, rent the car or drive a friends car.

Let me ask, did you pay full price for the Lexus or the Toyota?

If you paid full price at Toyota, they would treat you like a God.

If you offered $500 over invoice, they got you out of there as fast as they could.

My My...aren't you being harsh. Had no idea taking a test drive was such a crime :chairshot: . Another thing, even if you paid full price for a fully loaded Toyota Avalon, they're not going to treat you like a "god". Come on now.

I was bracing for this kind of response but I couldn't help myself.

It wasnt a personal attack, just an observation of real life events.

I'm so conscious of this when I'm just walking around the mall or something.

Never walk into a jewelry store because I know I would be wasting the sales staff's time. I'm sure nobody walks into a restaurant just to look at the food or look at the menu. I go to buy. Do my research elsewhere as much as possible.

Again, Im probably making general statements but its amazing how many people actually go to a car dealer with absolutely no intention of a purchase. They just want to try the car out. It does take a full hour to do a really nice demo and presentation.

Salespeople cant tell in one minute how serious the customer is. By the time they realize its a waste of time, the hour is gone and your buddy next to you is making a real sale. Sorry, we dont get paid by the hour. There are too many buying customers driving in all day long so we have to manage our time as best we know how while not completely blowing off nonbuyers.

Granted there is no other way for some to make a good comparison on a car, but a 10 minute test ride really isnt helping too much either. The test ride is mostly to make sure everything is working right, a general feel for the car and such. Most have already made up their mind on the car, they just want to make sure its what they want. Only a small % actually spend a month test driving every car and trying to find the perfect vehicle. Thats a personality trait, not a buying habit.

I would say most people figure out they want a certain model car before they even think about spending a day at the car dealerships.

No offense to you guys, car enthusiasts are great and fuel the industry.

I would think most people on these forums pretty much knew what they wanted before the first test drive.

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Steve, what a great write up. Thank you for being dilligent enough to effectively communicate the difference between the Avalon and the Lexus...obviously the Lexus is in a class by itself. I know I won't be test driving the Avalon, simply based on your write up, I won't have to.

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Voji- Thats your policy about not letting anyone test drive alone, but I personally dont agree with that policy. I personally would never buy a car from your dealership as I always drive a car for at least a day before I buy.

That seems more common in CA for some reason, strange. Here 90% of dealers let customers who they know will buy do extended drives on their own.

I'm a realtor so I know plenty about people who look but aren't interested in buying. I haven't been doing this long (I did and still do consult with car dealers) but you see it all the time, people turn realtors into cab drivers and have them drive them around for weeks figuring they get paid to do that.

Is that the consumers fault? No. Consumers are stupid, they don't understand how business works.

Its the salespersons fault for allowing it to happen. You need to qualify people and be sure that they're looking to buy before you spend time on them. I've seen people who do that well, and people who don't.

Theres no reason to avoid going into jewlery stores, if the owner of the store heard you say that he'd have a heart attack. He wants you to come in and look so that you like the store, when you want to buy you'll go back. I always tell the salespeople "I'm not interested in buying I'm just looking" and if they choose to spend time on me, thats their mistake. Some are smart and leave me alone, some aren't. For some reason the ones that aren't smart never last very long.

Salespeople cant tell in one minute how serious the customer is.

Not true, they teach entire seminars on how to do just this. I know, I've taken them. To me its pretty easy to tell. Oftentimes its as easy as saying "If I found the best (whatever) for you right now, what would you do?" and look them right in the eye, you'll know if they're ready or not by what they say and how they say it.

Do that and you won't be bothered by looky-loos again. I find thats true whatever you're selling.

"If I set up an advertising program for you right now that you love, what would you do?"

"If I find a car right now that fits all your needs, what would you do?"

"If I can show you the best lens for your camera, what would you do?"

Then look them square in the face and shut up, you'll know. I find thats one thing salespeople do poorly on the whole, they talk too much and never listen. Thats why they have trouble telling who'se serious and who'se not.

If they're not serious, point them in the right directions and have them call you if they have questions.

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