Toyota Reinvents Its Avalon Flagship Sedan To Appeal To Younger Drivers

Boasting a median age of 75, Buick LaCrosse buyers rank as the oldest in the business, but drivers of the Toyota Avalon are no spring chickens, either.

Toyota wants to temper Avalon customers’ retreat into silver age with a makeover for its flagship sedan’s 2019 model year. As the large, traditionally lumbering car enters its fifth generation, the nameplate gets a more powerful engine, a smoother ride, and a panoply of high-tech features better befitting a millennial: Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa connectivity, a smartphone-shaped cup holder in the center console, a tablet holder in the rear, and a quintet of USB ports, one per occupant.

The 66-year-old median age for Avalon buyers aligns with the general market for large sedans, which includes the Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, and Kia Cadenza. The LaCrosse leads among the market’s septuagenarians, while the Cadenza boasts the segment's youngest customers, with a median age of 57, according to the AutoPacific New Vehicle Satisfaction Study. But an ongoing decline in U.S. sedan sales has necessitated some dramatic updates to Toyota’s full-size hauler.

Longer, wider, and lower than before, the V6-powered sedan features shorter overhangs, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and an increased 301 horsepower. Four trims – XLE, XSE, Limited, Touring – offer varying degrees of technology, with a hybrid powertrain available on the lower three. The new Avalon comes with an adaptive variable suspension and four drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, and Custom – to tune the ride to the driver’s preference. In a first for the nameplate, the top-of-the-line Touring model goes further, offering a Sport+ mode for a more dynamic drive.

“The new Avalon is quite expressively styled, and keep in mind that its older Baby Boomer audience isn’t necessarily hankering for boring vehicles,” said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at marketing research and consulting firm AutoPacific. “Boomers fueled the social movements of the 1960s, and they were the generation that was open-minded enough to try Japanese brands like Toyota all the way back in the 1970s.”

“In a way, I see the new Avalon as a ‘thank you’ to the customers that have stuck with Toyota decade after decade,” Kim added.

Meanwhile, the large sedan retains some of the trimmings that have made it popular with the older set, such as lumbar support. Said a spokesman, “it really takes care of your lower back as you’re driving.”