The 2013 editions of the Venza crossover and Avalon large car, the Camry-spawned offspring of the Toyota line, were exhibited at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. It was clear that the Avalon is taking a very different styling direction.
The Avalon, which will be released late this year, is a product of the company’s North American operations, in fact the first car that not only was completely designed in North America (at the Calty studio in Newport Beach, CA), and is being carried all the way through to production by the engineering team in Ann Arbor, MI. An objective was to give the car so highly styled an appearance that it could symbolize a move away from the typically subtle look that has been a Camry trademark.
The new body design was validated with use of sectional test dies of zinc alloy, which are easy to fabricate and low-cost. The die sections provide a quicker way to ensure a complex new shape can be incorporated in manufacturing with needed quality.
Unlike the 2012 model, the new Avalon will have a split grille, a small upper section with a Euro-like lower. LED lights abound, from the taillights in back to a curved underline of daytime running lights for the “double-eye” projector-type HID headlamps. A spoiler is integrated into the rear deck.
Inside, the steering wheel is encased in leather, and there are paddle shifters and ten airbags. The instrument panel has three display screens: driver information, audio-navigation, and a third for climate control, for which a three-zone HVAC system is available. The dashboard switches include capacitive-touch technology for an upscale operating feel.
Creating the stitched leather section of the dashboard is a semi-manual operation, with an assembly line worker hand-feeding the leather into the sewing machine. If the feed were totally automated, Toyota explained, the stitching line could drift, particularly as it curves.
Avalon historically has been a V6 automobile, and although the powertrain wasn’t officially announced, Toyota sources said it would be the 3.5-L V6.
The 2013 Avalon will be 2.3 in (58 mm) shorter at 195.3 in (4961 mm) overall than the 2012 model, primarily from a reduction in rear overhang of 1.7 in (43 mm). It’s also 119 lb (54 kg) lighter at 3497 lb (1586 kg). However, the redesigned interior package actually resulted in more cargo space: 16 vs.14.7 ft³ (453 vs. 416 L). The wheelbase remains the same at 111.0 in (2819 mm).
Handling, not a previous priority for the car, should be much improved. The body structure was modified for greater torsional rigidity, and coil spring rates and rear stabilizer bar stiffness were increased for anti-roll. Shock absorbers have new valving, and there are rebound springs to help with calibration, so the increased agility doesn’t result in a harsh ride. There’s a three-position control for performance—Eco, Normal, and Sport—and both the throttle response and steering feel change with switch position, going from reduced throttle opening and low steering effort to greater opening and higher effort for more road feel.
Both the Venza and Avalon are produced on Camry assembly lines at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, KY, the largest in the U.S. The Avalon is on Line No. 1, the Venza on No. 2.
The Venza changes were modest, primarily a new upper and lower grille and fog lamps in front, new taillights in the rear, and a new 19-in wheel. The update also was performed at Toyota’s U.S design studio.