The lineup for the 2012 Toyota Avalon is simple. All Avalons come with a 268-horsepower, 3.5L V6 engine that's very smooth and plenty strong for this big sedan. It's mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, which shifts so smooth, they're nearly imperceptible. With a dual VVT-i variable valve control system, the Avalon is reasonably responsive yet achieves an EPA estimated 20 mpg city, 29 highway.
Ride quality is smooth and cushy in the Avalon. The suspension follows a quite conventional MacPherson-strut suspension setup, and is tuned to be somewhat soft yet firm enough to avoid bounciness. The rack-and-pinion steering system is precise but light.
To go with the slightly reshaped but conservative look, plush, comfortable interior appointments and distinctive materials remain the Avalon's calling card. Accommodations have been redesigned and reconfigured, including a reshaped backseat and larger headrests. The back seat in the Avalon has enough legroom for taller adults, with the seats themselves more comfortable than those in most utility vehicles. When the middle position in back isn't being used, a center armrest, which includes storage and cupholders, pulls down. Upholstery includes leather with visible stitching and ventilated seatbacks are included in the Limited. There's an abundance of wood grain trim inside.
As before, the Avalon comes with all the common safety features that include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, front side airbags and side curtain bags. Toyota is phasing in a new brake-override system that cuts off the throttle when brakes are applied.
Only two trims of the Avalon are offered--base and Limited--and it's the Limited model that gets some of the coolest and most exclusive features. All Avalons get dual-zone climate control, a moonroof and a back-up camera, but the Limited gets a power passenger seat, Smart Key system, rain-sensing wipers and driver's lower cushion extension (which taller drivers will find useful).
The Avalon serves as the luxury flagship of Toyota's car lineup, so this big sedan is loaded with many features and options that are usually the domain of luxury brands. Buyers should expect power everything as well as some of the more luxurious features include a power rear sunshade, Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming, a USB/iPod interface and a 660-watt JBL surround-sound system with 12 speakers. A newly upgraded navigation system includes more points of interest and an improved interface.