The Toyota Avalon is the Japanese automaker's full-size sedan that first made its way onto the road in 1995. For the first generation of the Avalon, the model was equipped with a 3.0L V6 engine capable of producing approximately 192 horsepower. There were two trim levels offered at the model's introduction: XL and XLS, with the latter being more luxury-oriented, displaying such amenities as a column shifter. In 1997, the Avalon's engine got a boost up to 200 horsepower and 214 pounds-per-foot of torque while ABS brakes became standard equipment. A year later, several changes were made to the exterior Avalon parts, with a revision to the front and rear fascias. Safety features were also improved, with front-seat side airbags being implemented as standard on both trims of the Avalon.
The second generation of the Avalon rolled off the line for the 2000 model year. Although it kept the same platform as before, the model was enlarged and displayed a roomier interior. The engine was improved and included variable-valve timing, which increased the horsepower to 210. The engine was mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Vehicle Skid Control (Toyota's name for stability control) became offered as an option along with brake assist. In 2003, Toyota made some changes to the Avalon, giving the car new parts, the front-end grille and new headlights and tail lights. For the luxury-themed XLS, a woodgrain steering wheel and revised interior were introduced. The second generation of the Toyota Avalon went over extremely well, as the model was named a Consumer Guide Recommended Buy numerous times (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004).
2005 welcomed in the third generation of the Toyota Avalon. The base engine was upgraded to a 3.5L V6 that produces up to 268 horsepower along with 248 pounds-per-foot of torque mated to a standard five-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels are the XL, Touring, XLS, and Limited. The Touring model shows off 17" wheels, a firmer suspension, and and an all-black interior. The XLS offers a six-CD stereo system and a moonroof. For the top-level Limited, leather upholstery is the main attraction for the interior. Traction control, Vehicle Skid Control, antilock brakes, brake assist, front-seat mounted airbags, and full-length side-curtain airbags are standard on all versions of the Toyota Avalon. In 2008, the Avalon received a new six-speed automatic transmission as well as updated headlights and a restyled front-end.
While it is hard to quantify any Toyota model as "underrated", it is fair to say that the Avalon hasn't gotten as much air-time as some of its teammates. And that's a shame. This full-size sedan is one infectious vehicle that provides performance as well as comfort, standing up to most in its class and never backing down. A generous amount of horsepower along with luxurious handling on the highway elevate what drivers love so much about this model. The distinct and shapely exterior design doesn't hurt, either. When dressed up with proper accessories and ready for action, the Avalon takes second-place to very few.
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