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1997 Toyota Avalon REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/5/2017

Con: Snoozeville, but still more enticing than, say, a Buick LeSabre

Pro: Toyota reliability, powerful V-6 engine, fit and finish

What’s New: More power, more torque and added standard features make the Avalon one of the most appealing full-size sedans

Review: With the Avalon, Toyota takes on a traditionally Detroit-dominated section of the marketplace: the full-size sedan. The last assault Toyota made on a domestic market was in 1993, when the T100 pickup was introduced as an alternative to big trucks from Ford, GM and Dodge. The 1994 Dodge Ram and the lack of a V8 in the Toyota conspired to keep sales to a minimum. We think the company has learned something from its experience with the T100.

For instance, the Avalon's V6 is a powerful motor, allowing the Avalon to keep up with GM front-drivers like the LeSabre and Bonneville in acceleration, and besting the V8-powered Crown Victoria in the race to 60 mph. Handling is on par with the Bonneville SSE, and braking is outstanding. But see, this wasn't enough for Toyota, so this year they bumped power and torque output and gave the XL standard antilock brakes. How 'bout working some of this type of magic on other Toyotas like the Tercel, Corolla, and Celica, huh guys?

Other news for 1997 includes a radio antenna embedded in the rear window and freshly styled alloy wheels. Exterior mirrors are now heated, glass is of the high solar energy absorbing type, and when you punch the remote keyless entry fob, the Avalon "visually confirms" that it received the message, according to Toyota press materials.

Inside, the Avalon is noticeably more narrow than the domestic competition, but six will fit in a pinch when equipped with the optional bench seat. The rear seat is exceptionally comfortable, offering more leg and foot room than bigger sedans, with good support and a high seating position.

Front seats are comfy as well, and face an ergonomically designed dashboard that places everything right where you expect to find it. This car reeks of quality construction and materials inside and out. The styling is generic, with oversize headlights and a narrow grille imparting an out-of-balance appearance to the front end.

Overall, the Avalon impresses us as an excellent alternative to aging, and aesthetically impaired, offerings from GM and Ford. Chrysler's LH-Series sedans are a better value, but the guaranteed quality of the Toyota is probably worth the extra couple grand.

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