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2002 Toyota Avalon REVIEW

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

Con: High price tag, funky dash design, toothy chrome grille.

Pro: Lexus-like quality, smooth V6 engine, huge rear seat.

Edmunds Say: A comfortable, though pasteurized, full-size sedan.

What’s New: Toyota has tinkered with the options packages, but otherwise left the Avalon alone. A new luxury package for the XL includes power leather-trimmed seats, 15-inch alloy wheels, remote keyless entry and a JBL audio system. There's also a Sport Luxury package that adds 16-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler in addition to the items in the luxury package.

Review: It would seem buyers of full-size sedans generally aren't interested in character. Most big four-doors are dull pieces of machinery to look at and a snooze to drive. The beauty in such a vehicle lies in what it can do for the customer in terms of providing space for people and things without compromising the ride or occupant comfort. It should look upscale, but not gaudy, providing just enough glitz and luxury to let others know you have achieved a degree of success in life. Finally, such a vehicle must also be reliable and able to handle years of daily-driver tasks without so much as a whimper.

Since its introduction in 1995, the Toyota Avalon has fit this description: bland as egg whites, but solid, roomy and dependable. There are two models from which to choose: XL and XLS. The main difference between the two is the level of standard equipment, with XLS representing the more luxurious version with JBL audio, programmable HomeLink remote system, remote keyless entry and aluminum wheels.

Either can be ordered with front bucket or bench seats trimmed in available leather upholstery. Other options include a premium audio system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer, memory seating positions for front passengers, a sunroof and a 115-volt A/C outlet capable of powering small electronic devices.

For its own power, the Avalon relies on a three-liter V6 engine. Equipped with variable valve timing, this V6 offers good fuel economy and power. It produces 210 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque, which is transmitted to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic.

These horses are more than enough for city driving and highway passing, and owners can expect 0-to-60 acceleration times to take about 8 seconds. Once moving, the Avalon's light steering and soft suspension make for comfortable long-distance cruising.

Toyota's full-size car is also great for transporting people and luggage. Road and wind noise is minimal thanks to thick side glass and substantial sound-deadening materials. While billed as a six-passenger car with the front bench, the middle front occupant doesn't have much legroom. We recommend getting an Avalon with the comfortable and supportive bucket seats unless there is genuine need for six-passenger seating. The trunk holds 15.9 cubic feet of cargo, and there is a locking pass-through door behind the rear seat. This pass-through allows room for longer items such as skis.

Another one of Avalon's strengths lies in safety. The car has earned a crash-test rating of "Good" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and better-than-average scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Toyota's Vehicle Skid Control, or VSC, can be added to the Avalon XLS. This system includes traction and stability control systems that can reduce the chance of hazardous skids and slides. The Avalon also features a brake-assist system that detects emergency braking and applies supplemental pressure to reduce stopping distances.

With the Avalon, Toyota meets and exceeds the full-size sedan-buyer's expectations. Sure, the price is higher than offerings from Detroit like the Buick LeSabre and Mercury Grand Marquis. But unflappable quality doesn't come cheap. Want a Lexus but need six-passenger capacity or huge amounts of rear legroom? The Avalon is your car.

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