2008 Toyota Avalon
The Toyota Avalon is a large sedan that's easy to like and even easier to enjoy. For 2008, the Toyota Avalon gets some styling updates, interior upgrades and, perhaps most significantly, a new six-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon remains a very quiet, comfortable, five-seat sedan that's easy to drive and great to travel in.
Full Review 2008 Avalon
The Avalon rides like a magic carpet, almost impervious to the worst roads you'll travel. The front seats are roomy and comfortable, the back seat downright spacious. Whatever the reasons, the Avalon is smoother and quieter than many sedans that cost a lot more. Avalon is equipped with the latest safety technology, including a full complement of front, side and head-protection airbags.
Trims and Styling
The 2008 Toyota Avalon comes in four trim levels, distinguished primarily by their level of standard equipment. The Avalon XL ($27,325) comes well equipped, with a full complement of power accessories and features such as an eight-way power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control with cabin air filter and audio and climate controls on the steering wheel. Cloth upholstery and 16-inch alloy wheels are standard.
The Avalon Touring model ($29,325) features a firmer suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, high-intensity-discharge (HID) head lamps, fog lamps, and a rear deck spoiler. Touring also adds leather-trimmed seats with four-way power for the front passenger, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and aluminum scuff plates on the door sills.
The Avalon XLS ($31,375) reverts to standard headlights and suspension, but it keeps the fog lamps, 17-inch wheels and leather trim. The Avalon Limited ($34,065) upgrades with a 360-watt JBL Synthesis audio system with 12 speakers and Blue Tooth connectivity, a power rear sunshade, Toyota's Smart Key proximity key system, the HID headlamps, a wood-and-leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and driver and passenger seat heaters and cooling fans.
Touring models and above offer heated seats ($440), an eight-way power front passenger seat with heating ($740), the JBL Synthesis sound system ($840) and a navigation system ($2,000-$4,155, depending on the model). Safety features: All Avalons get larger brakes for 2008, and all come with a full array of airbags, including front-impact airbags, a driver's knee airbag, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front passengers, and curtain-style, head-protection airbags for outboard passengers front and rear. Other standard safety features include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Optional is Toyota's Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system ($650); we recommend getting it because it can help the driver avoid an accident.
Parked outside a suburban bistro, the Toyota Avalon strikes passersby as a dignified if understated car, and that's by design. Toyota figures Avalon buyers want substance that doesn't scream for attention. Toyota's largest sedan fits the mold of old-school European models, almost French in its impressionistic impact.
Overall, the Avalon is eight inches longer than Toyota's top-selling Camry sedan. By most exterior dimensions, Avalon is roughly the same size as the Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Impala, and Chrysler 300. The Avalon dates to 1995, and it underwent its third wheels-up overhaul for 2005. The lower bumper features integrated fog lamps on Touring, XLS and Limited models. From the rear, the tall rear deck and big rear valance enhance the air of elegance and substance, while new smoked tail light lenses add a hint more flair. The Avalon Touring is distinguished by a low rear spoiler.
Lots of the Avalon's styling features have been optimized to reduce wind noise inside the car, including the shape of the windshield pillars and side mirrors and low placement of the wipers under the hood line. The Avalon Limited upgrades with unique, sound dampening glass in the windshield.
A few trim pieces, such as silver-painted plastic parts and the housing around the steering column, demonstrate that Avalon is not an extra-expensive luxury car. The Avalon Limited features a fan in the seat cushion and seatback that blows air through the perforated leather trim to improve comfort.
The steering wheel tilts and telescopes over a substantial range, and it's wrapped with leather on all but the base Avalon XL. Avalon's basic dashboard layout is clean and simple, but not simplistic. One omission inside the Avalon is its lack of individual reading lights for front seat passengers, and the omission glares more because the interior is generally so nice. The larger compartment has two power points and the audio jack. Avalon's door pockets have no lining material, and the hard plastic allows items such as sunglasses to slide (and potentially scratch) easily. The Limited model comes with a rear glass sunshade, operated by the driver. Avalon's rear seatbacks recline over a limited range (still a rare feature), and the feeling of roominess carries through in back. Leg room for rear passengers surpasses that in many taxis: With the driver's seat adjusted for a 5-foot, 9-inch driver, a 5-foot, 9-inch passenger had enough room to stretch legs fully, with feet pointed under the front seat. Individual reading lights are provided for both rear passengers, and two adjustable air vents on the rear of the center console. The trunk opening is smaller than that on other cars in Avalon's class and small relative to the trunk's volume, so large items that might fit in the trunk may not fit through the opening.
A locking pass-through allows longer items such as skis to slide into the cabin between the outboard rear passengers, though Avalon does not offer the folding rear seatbacks available on some competitors.
First Drive 2008 Avalon
The Toyota Avalon is big, quiet and easy to operate. Some driving enthusiasts would say Avalon is too vanilla. The foundation for Avalon's smooth demeanor is its powertrain. The six-speed automatic uses the latest electronic controls and a unique mounting system designed to minimize the transfer of shift shock into Avalon's cabin. Light-throttle upshifts are barely noticeable. We discovered in the process that Avalon can be almost sporty to drive.
The softly tuned suspension means Avalon wants to lean over in faster turns. Yet the body movement is well controlled, and the Avalon doesn't feel floating or disconnected. We might call Avalon cushy but good. If you think the Avalon might not be sporty enough for you, check out the Touring model.
In short, the Avalon is up to whatever the typical driver might encounter or dish out. The Avalon is exceptionally smooth, too, especially for its price. The optional Vehicle Stability Control system, which includes Traction Control and Brake Assist, is an active car-control system that hovers in the background until computers and sensors detect a problem, measured by sliding tires. We can't imagine an Avalon buyer who wouldn't want or need VSC, and similar electronic stability programs are increasingly included in the base price on cars that cost substantially less than Avalon. We urge Avalon buyers to choose VSC, even though Toyota wants extra for it.
2008 Avalon Conclusions
There's not much we don't like about Avalon. The 2008 Toyota Avalon is one of the best full-size sedans going, regardless of price. The Avalon delivers the latest safety technology, and driving it is a pleasant, almost serene experience. ""The Avalon is a good car to go unnoticed in. The styling and the driving dynamics won't get anyone too excited, but that's okay for many folks." says Car and Driver in a recent review. Given its size and the space inside, it gets fine fuel mileage. A test drive might leave you wondering why anyone seeking a smooth, quiet, roomy sedan would pay more than it takes to buy an Avalon.