When Toyota built a Buick: Some of us will miss the old Toyota Avalon
The Toyota Avalon is no more. Long live the Avalon.
An ex-girlfriend of mine had an old Avalon. She was absolutely devastated when it was totaled after she was rear-ended at a stop light. It was an unlikely car for a 20-something recent college grad to love, but it was ideal for the long road trips she’d take, and it hauled all of her art supplies and teaching supplies in the trunk to schools all over the Southwest. The Saturn SUV she bought next wasn’t nearly as comfortable, and the lack of a locking trunk meant valuables were always left in the open.
So, when Toyota decided to kill the Avalon and replaced it with the new Crown, I’m sure she was sad and I was a bit bummed, too, at the loss of one of the great, roomy, practical, reliable, comfortable sedans of the modern era.
The Avalon was a (better) Japanese Buick
The Avalon was what happened when Toyota decided to compete with big, heavy, American front-wheel-drive cars like the Buick Century and Mercury Grand Marquis (remember those?). The company banked on conservative styling, a huge interior, and Toyota reliability to sell a truckload of cars. It sort of worked, too. Lest we get hate mail from Buick’s PR team, we should say that Buick no longer makes the big luxo-barge land yachts that it was known for in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s an all-SUV brand today.
You could even order an Avalon with a – gasp – front bench seat and column shifter. In 1999. It was front-wheel drive and came with a big 200-horsepower V6. Through some ingenious packaging, the car came with the largest interior of any Japanese car, but it was still shorter than many of its competitors.
There are five generations of Avalons
The Avalon went through five generations from 1994 to 2022. Each generation got more, well, stylized and powerful. None, though, had the bench seat of the first generation. Avalons were built on a stretched version of the Camry chassis. That means that the cars always drove just a little bit ponderously, like a Camry with a trailer or 500 pounds of junk in the trunk. But that was fine because they weren’t sports sedans, and their tires would give up and squeal their protest at anything approaching fast.
By the fifth generation, which came out in 2018, the Avalon looked more like a Lexus inside and out and claimed to be Toyota’s flagship sedan. But, even Toyota can’t compete with the Toyota Highlander when you’re looking for family-hauling space and comfort. Even with a hybrid option, and leather, and a stylish BMW-like tail, and all the options, Americans just gave up on Toyota’s biggest, roomiest, sedan as sales dropped for 104,000 sold in 2000 to just 12,000 in 2022.
Toyota did all it could to bring some youthful vigor to the Avalon. It launched a TRD version. Really. Toyota added a black-out package and bigger wheels to some models in 2020, but it went over about as well as The Rappin’ Granny. But, even by 2022 the best Consumer Reports could muster was to call it “a pleasant large car.”
The Toyota Crown replaces the Avalon for 2023
We’ve written a lot about the Toyota Crown. It’s a big, tall, sedan that tries to capture the best parts of a crossover and a sedan at the same time. Yes, it’s roomy, and it comes standard with all-wheel drive and hybrid power. But, it’s now essentially just another crossover, albeit one with nice leather and funky two-tone paint. But, It does come with one key feature that will make a certain school teacher happy: It has a locking trunk.