The Avalon is the best Buick that Toyota ever made. In certain respects — ergonomic common sense, total ease of use — it is a better Buick than any Buick.
There is another important Buick-esque comparison. But first, an aside:
We all get older, which means we all eventually need a car that treats the elderly well. That means ease of ingress and egress, which refer to more than the size or weight of the human body.
Age is accompanied by ancillary stuff such as back braces and various other ambulatory aides, all of which consume space and encumber movement even as they help it.
A car has to make those devices easy and comfortable to use. Car seats have to accept the back braces, meaning they have to make them feel an integral part of the seats that support them. Other ambulatory aides — canes, crutches, walkers — must be able to move into the car easily . . . and be removed from the automobile the same way.
I discovered all this by happenstance. The 2016 Toyota Avalon XLE Premium sedan appeared in my driveway during a week in which I, quite painfully, learned what it means to be getting older. I had what appeared to be a bad reaction to a hypertensive drug — joint pain, corresponding walking problems, other aches.
I needed a car that coddled me and accepted my stuff. I was hoping for a big, soft Buick sedan, long favored by America’s aging population. Toyota’s Avalon XLE Premium showed up instead.
It certainly was big enough. It readily accepted my walking devices, all of which were nicely stored for easy retrieval.
I was impressed by the usable space and the material quality of the Avalon’s cabin, and the common sense of it all. We live in an age of portable, chargeable devices — smartphones, tablets and the like. Most cars nowadays thus are equipped with wire-reliant charging portals, which are a bit of an annoyance. The Avalon XLE Premium does away with all this with wireless charging, thus eliminating the need to keep up with wires and hunt for their proper automotive portals.
There also is the matter of instrument panels. The Avalon has one of the cleanest, most uncluttered panels I’ve ever seen, which also means it is one of the easiest to understand and use. That seemingly little thing eases the stress of driving, which is no small thing when you already are dealing with high blood pressure.
And what about driving? The Avalon XLE Premium bespeaks solid confidence. When everything else seems to be going wrong with your body, the last thing you need is a car that seems to be uncertain of its mission. The 3.5-liter, 24-valve gasoline V-6 in the Avalon XLE Premium delivers (268 horsepower, 248 pound-feet of torque). It is adult performance—gets done what needs to be done, gets you where you need to go without showing off and attracting the kind of police attention that would make an already bad day worse.
There are days when you realize youth isn’t a forever thing, when you appreciate cars such as the Buick La Crosse, Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon XLE Premium.
I’ve had mine.
I’m just glad I was on Toyota’s test-drive list when it happened.
Bottom line: The Avalon proves that a full-size sedan does not have to be tarted up to be likable. It just has to serve a purpose. Safe, comfortable, easy and enjoyable elderly transportation are good causes.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The Avalon gets good marks in all three. This car is perfect for long highway runs.
Head-turning quotient: It will remind you of parents and grandparents, which is an okay thing.
Body style/layout: The Avalon is a full-size, front-engine, front-wheel-drive sedan. There are six trim levels — XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring, Limited and Hybrid.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity is 16 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 17 gallons (regular gasoline works fine).
Mileage: I averaged 30 miles per gallon in highway runs.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; traction and stability control; tire-pressure monitors; turn-signal mirrors; knee-bolster; and front and rear air bags.
Recommendation: This column recommends the purchase of all advanced electronic safety equipment, such as lane-departure warning and blind-side monitoring.
Pricing: The XLE, the base Avalon, starts at $32,650, with a dealer’s invoice price of $29,385. The XLE Premium starts at $35,850, with an estimated invoice price of $32,850. Price as tested is $36,685, including an $835 factory-to-dealer shipment charge.