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Driven: 2014 Toyota Avalon not just for grandparents anymore

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When Toyota re-designed the Avalon for 2013, they really made an effort to lower the age bracket of their buyers and increase sales. This was achieved be giving their largest sedan all new styling that trends younger and bolder as well as new technological features inside and out.

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The Avalon is built on a stretched Camry platform but fortunately shares no sheet-metal or family resemblance at all. It’s much more premium and upscale looking, if not a little bit sporty. Our fully loaded Limited’s ten spoke 18” wheels fit well in the wheel arches giving a tightly planted stance.

The large lower grille gets a good dose of chrome as well as the upper dross bar which ties neatly into the quadra-beam HID headlamps. Fog lights and LED daytime running lights give the face a more aggressive style than Avalons of the past.

The aggressively raked roof line slinks low into the rear deck. The tail lamps seem to be a swipe of speed across the three quarter view which isn’t bad at all. The rear bumper gets sizable chrome rear exhaust trim to tie it all together.

The interior is where Avalon continues taking a departure from the Sun City club house. A wide sweeping dash design has a floating effect over the center console. Toyota introduced their latest round of stitched soft trims and high quality materials all around.

Higher tech gear is found in the instrument cluster and center stack including the latest generation Entune suite of infotainment applications. This includes the JBL premium audio and navigation system which is controlled by an easy to use touch screen.

The Limited comes with comfortable power adjusted, heated and cooled leather seats up front and even heated seats in the back. Console mounted buttons offer up Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes for a change of pace and a back-up camera lights the way in reverse.

The rear seat space is capacious, offering more than enough leg room for even the tallest. Head room inside is good but the door opening is low, a nod toward that raked roof line. Just watch your head getting in and out.

The interior overall is a nice spot to hang out. The capacitive touch switches on the center stack are slick but don’t work so well with gloves on. Having paddle shifters here however is a major bonus, and and unexpected one at that.

On the road, Avalon offers up a supple, quiet, yet firm ride. It’s a surprising combination of hushed isolation without the floating sensations large cruisers once gave you. The electric power steering is communicative enough and feels precise when you drive into curves.

Motivating the Avalon is a rather robust yet smooth 3.5 liter V6 which comes standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine has been around for some time with Toyota, and is likely one of the most refined found anywhere in this class.

The EPA rates the Avalon at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. We however easily achieved a commendable 26 mpg combined in our week of testing with the Avalon.This is notable efficiency when you consider than when you drop the hammer on this engine, it provides rather muscle-car like acceleration on the road.

With all its available comforts and features, the 2014 Toyota Avalon is likely to indeed snap up buyers who may not have looked at it before. It’s still the large premium relaxation machine from Toyota but can now rock and roll when asked.

Has Toyota successfully built an Avalon that will appeal to people younger than seventy? They may very well have pulled it off. The Avalon feels more hip, looks more hip and best of all it has smart phone connectivity. That may not be a touchstone for age, but its an indicator Toyota is serious about it.

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