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Entry price: $33,500

Price as tested: $40,445

This week, we’re driving the 2018 Toyota Avalon, a fourth generation model that debuted in 2013. To this day Avalon is still ahead of the pack when it comes to luxury, performance and value regardless of its current generation longevity.

Built in Georgetown, Kentucky, Avalon delivers noteworthy interior and exterior motifs that have been updated through the years. It’s not to be confused with fellow midsize Camry as Avalon rides on a 1.7-inch longer wheelbase than its sibling. And, thanks to the longer wheelbase, driver and passengers enjoy more interior room and an enhanced ride on all types of roadway.   

As the years go by, Avalon continues to distance itself from Camry, something current owners already know. Corporate Avalon dogma centers on a more discreet luxury offering that differs greatly in comparison to Avalon’s 1995 debut. Back then Gen. 1 Avalon was merely a fully loaded Camry with an Avalon badge. Nowadays, Gen. 4 Avalon is especially distinctive and occupies status as Toyota’s flagship midsize sedan.  

Along the way Avalon models rose to the highest point of luxury Toyota allows for a “non-Lexus” vehicle. Today’s Avalon sits at the doorstep of the Lexus ES350, where both share platform build time and mechanicals including engine, transmission and suspension. Further, Avalon’s continued improvements now include a sleeker and more engaging aerodynamic exterior, (sans that huge front grille) more highway MPG than the Gen. 3 V6 engines, lighter gross weight and shorter length.

With an impressive entry price of just $33,500 for Avalon XLE versus $38,950 for the Lexus ES350, our Touring tester includes many of the same amenities as the entry Lexus ES350. Four other gasoline powered Avalons are available, including XLE Plus ($35,250); XLE Premium ($36,700); our tester Touring ($37,900); and top class Limited ($41,300). Three hybrids are available with Hybrid Plus ($37,500); Hybrid Premium ($38,950); and Hybrid Limited ($42,800).

Avalon’s cabin is both functional and beautiful, with premium leather seating, heated front seats, SiriusXM Satellite, leather wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, power front seats, smart key with push button start, and a bevy of other standard amenities.

Under the hood, Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and 248 lb. torque, resulting in zero to 60 times in the mid to upper 6-second range. Power transfers through a front-drive setup via a six-speed automatic transmission with ECO, Sport and Normal driving modes. 

Whatever extra you might pay for options on other cars usually comes standard within the Avalon family. Included are safety backup camera, dual chrome exhaust tips, Entune Premium Audio with 7-inch touchscreen and eight speakers, (nine speakers in the Touring) HD radio with CD player, navigation, iPod, USB, Bluetooth and Smart Phone compatibility with onboard charging.

— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now.


Auto Bits

5 tips when buying a car for a teen

Know what you can afford: The first and most important question to answer before launching into the car-buying process is “how much can I afford?” Figuring this out will help you determine whether you are in the market for a new or used vehicle.

How will you pay for it? There are numerous ways to manage the financial burden for purchasing a new car, including taking out a loan. If you have decided to go the loan route, determine how much you can afford in monthly payments.

Determine the total cost of ownership: It is important to understand the total cost of ownership before surprising your graduate with the car of their dreams. Everything from gas to auto insurance will be an extra expense added on to the monthly cost for a new or used car and something everyone in the family needs to consider.

Keep an open mind: Once you have established what you can afford and the total cost of ownership, it is time to discover what features and styles you or your teen want in a car. Prioritize a list of the features you would like to see. For the teen in your life, safety is usually at the top. 

Go for a test drive: After picking out a few of your top favorites, it is time to see how the car operates on the real road. Hit the highway to properly gauge a car’s performance, and inspect the car for mileage, tread, etc.

— Brandpoint