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For 2014, Toyota's Avalon sedan gets tweaked to perfection

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After last years redesign, Toyota’s 2014 Avalon, the carmakers top-shelf full-size sedan, received a few tweaks and upgrades to make it an even more compelling choice for folks upgrading from a Camry or competitive brands.

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The Avalon has always been noted for its comfort, interior space, quietness, smooth ride and of course its reliability. It’s a highway cruiser for sure, but the 2014 has a firmer suspension for improved handling that comes, however, with a bit firmer, but not uncomfortable, ride.

Offered in XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring, Limited and a Hybrid model, we tested the Limited that had but four extra cost options. That’s because the most desired amenities and features are standard. Essentials like rearview camera, fog lights, GPS nav, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, xenon headlights, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 7-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, rain sensing wipers and more, are all included in the base price.

Slip inside Avalon’s sumptuously appointed cabin and you’ll be treated to high-grade, soft perforated leather seats with just the right amount of lateral support. The back seats are more flat for limo-like spaciousness and comfort, and, with gobs of leg and headroom.

The vertical stack houses a 7-inch LCD screen and flush, soft-touch HVAC controls that are mounted on the dash’s shelf. The touchscreen offers a plethora of information such as local service stations with fuel prices, a weather app that provides a four day forecast as part of XM’s nav weather, sports, stocks, traffic incidents and fuel consumption apps. There’s also a smaller (3.5-inch) display between the speedometer and tach that shows if any doors or trunk lid is open, plus other operating information.

Trunk space is ample and rated at 16 cubic feet. More meaningful is that it can hold two large roll-a-longs, or two hoofer type golf bags. Unfortunately, the rear seat backs don’t fold, which could double trunk space.

For the powertrain, the 3.5-liter, V6 was retained from 2013 and produces 268-hp and 248 lb/ft of torque that gets sent to the front drive system via a 6-speed automatic transmission with Eco, Sport and Normal modes. The combination is EPA rated at 21 city, 31-highway mpg and has been 0-60 tested at 6.4 seconds making it feel like a small V8 under the hood. Needless to say, there’s no want for power despite the cars 3,555 pound gross weight.

In the handling department, Avalon feels taut not floaty or mushy. It holds the road with barely any steering wheel inputs on straight interstate stretches. It parks surprisingly easy for a full-size car and thanks for that goes to its electric (not hydraulic) power steering. And when backing, the rear seat headrests are of low profile for unhampered rear visibility that can be supplemented with the standard (on the Limited) rearview camera.

As for pricing, as said, most features are standard. On the test car the only extra cost items where for the Technology Package ($1,750) that included radar cruise control, automatic high beam and pre-collision warning system, carpeted floor mats ($225), rear bumper appliqué, wheel locks ($81) and delivery ($795). That brought the $39,650 base price to $42,570. Still a bargain for this much content in a posh luxury sedan.

Avalon received a five star rating in government crash tests, four for frontal-impact, five for side-impact and was bestowed with a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

For a personal test drive, stop by Bennett Toyota on Lehigh Street in Allentown or Krause Toyota in Fogelsville. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.

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