It Got a Lot Better With Its Last Redesign But How Can This Big Sedan Improve Before Next Year’s Likely Restyle?

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What changes will make it different?

Very few, probably, given that this spacious five-passenger four-door is just two years out from a full model-year 2013 redesign. It got a sleeker look and new features, and gained a gas/electric hybrid version to go along with its V-6 model. A midcycle freshening could be on tap for model-year ’16, but an all-out redesign isn’t likely to occur before model-year 2018.

Why should I wait for the 2015 model?

Mostly to see if there are new paint colors or if lower-line models receive standard equipment previously offered only on the more expensive trim levels. This is what happened for model-year ’14, when the base XLE model acquired the rearview backup camera that had been exclusive to the upper-trim XLE Premium, XLE Touring, and XLE Limited models.

Should I buy the current 2014 instead?

It’s worth considering; the ‘15 isn’t likely to gain anything worth delaying a purchase if what you need now is a spacious, comfortable, reliable full-size sedan with perks like leather upholstery and heated front seats included in the base price. Prices are likely to increase, and if the 2016 gets a facelift, the ‘15’s looks will be current for just one model year. In addition to the rearview camera, all ‘14’s were upgraded with a three-blink turn-signal mode for more convenient lane changes. And the Limited grade added ambient lighting to the dashboard.

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Will the styling be different?

No, not until the next update. The redesign improved this car greatly. Gone is the stodgy, squared-off look, replaced by sportier themes that have attracted younger buyers, lowering the average age of the Avalon owner and easing some of the stigma that went along with driving one. In addition to the aforementioned trim levels, Hybrid models should return in similarly configured Premium, Touring, and Limited grades. They’re distinguished by blue-trimmed emblems and a hidden exhaust tailpipe. Inside, all models have Optitron-type gauges with a 3.5-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) color multi-information display in the main cluster. The Hybrid’s display features a Hybrid System Indicator, which shows power output and regeneration and includes an Eco “coach” to encourage economical driving.

Any mechanical changes?

Non-Hybrid versions should return for model-year 2015 with a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Hybrids use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a battery-powered electric motor, producing a combined 200 horsepower. They employ a continuously variable transmission unit that operates like an automatic. Like all Toyota hybrid cars, this one can run on one or both of its power sources to balance acceleration and gas mileage. An EV Drive mode allows the driver – batter charge permitting — to travel on the electric motor only for a short distance at speeds under about 20 mph. A driver-selectable ECO mode optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to prioritize fuel economy.

Will fuel economy improve?

Not without a powertrain revision – or a correction in gas-mileage testing methods. Expect EPA ratings to remain 21/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined for gas V-6 versions and a very impressive 40/39/40 mpg for the Hybrid.

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Will it have new features?

Minor details might change, but standard and optional equipment should be largely unaltered. In addition to features already noted, all models will again include keyless entry with pushbutton engine start, heated mirrors, an 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way front passenger seat, and a dashboard touchscreen of 6.1 inches, or 7 inches with the navigation system included in Limited versions. XLE Premium will add to base XLE models a power moonroof and universal garage door opener. The XLE Touring will again boast driver’s seat memory and a navigation system with the automaker’s Entune App Suite. Limiteds add to that xenon headlamps, a high-end JBL-brand audio system, premium leather, front seats that have extra power adjustments and can be cooled, rear climate controls and heated rear seats, automatic dimming outside mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a power rear sunshade. Optional on the XLE Premium and standard on the Limited is blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic alert. A Limited-exclusive Technology Package includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, pre-collision braking and an inductive wireless charging pad for supported smartphone and MP3 players.

How will 2015 prices be different?

Toyota’s not been shy about adjusting this car’s pricing to play off the competition, particularly the well-equipped Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza. It actually lowered the price of the 2014 XLE Touring gas and Hybrid models. (Base prices listed here include the manufacturer’s destination fee; for this car, around $810. Expect V-6 versions to start around $32,800, with the XLE Premium around $34,600, the Touring around $36,500, and the Limited around $41,100. For Hybrids, estimate a range of around $36,900-$43,000.

When will it come out?

Autumn 2014

Best competitors:

Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima

What’s a cool feature?

With sportier lines and high-tech connectivity features, Avalon’s youth movement is subtle but sure. It’s supported by the Entune App Suite, which allows users with a supported smartphone to access the following through the car’s central touchscreen: Bing web searches, iHeartRadio and Pandora streaming audio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable. Entune is fairly easy to use, so even those who aren’t technologically savvy will acclimate quickly.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]