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Avalon takes sleek turn

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Toyota's flagship sedan, the Avalon, is stylishly elegant for 2013, offers more technology and safety features and has a noticeably controlled and poised ride.

The Avalon impresses with a base retail price that's $2,200 less than the starting retail price for last year's Avalon.

The price cut to a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $31,785, stems in part from the moonroof being removed from the list of Avalon standard equipment.

But leather seat and steering wheel trim, heated front seats and power-adjustable driver and front-passenger front seats remain on every Avalon.

The base engine — last year's smooth and powerful 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 — is still there, too, and is mated to an updated six-speed automatic.

Meantime, new standard features in the Avalon include 10 air bags, up from seven last year. There's a new eBin, too, where drivers can manage and store away plug-in devices like phone, radar detector, etc.

Consumer Reports puts predicted reliability of the new Avalon at better than average.

Competitors to the front-wheel drive, four-door Avalon include other premium mid-size sedans such as the 2013 Buick LaCrosse, which has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $32,555.

But the base LaCrosse doesn't have leather seat trim, and its base engine is a 182-horsepower four cylinder.

Another competitor, the 2013 Hyundai Genesis sedan, packs more power — 333 horses from a larger displacement V-6 than the Avalon has — and an eight-speed automatic for a starting retail price of $35,095.

The 2013 Avalon is about 2 inches shorter in overall length and about an inch shorter in height than its predecessor. But it still looks generously sized, and some auto critics still refer to the Avalon as a large sedan though the federal government continues to classify it as a mid-size.

Interior dimensions for passengers are not changed much from last year's model, save for rear-seat legroom which went from 40.9 inches in the 2012 Avalon to 39.2 inches in the new car.

The test Avalon Limited, The new Avalon dashboard design is inviting, with a minimum number of visible buttons on the dashboard to control everything from navigation to audio and phone operation.

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