Readers who've been with me since the days of the old TireKicker site know that I've sung the praises of the Toyota Avalon pretty consistently over the years.
With the current-generation Avalon, you're getting a full-size sedan built on the Lexus ES platform, with a lower price of entry.
Every Avalon I've driven except the hybrid models has been powered by the same engine as the Lexus ES---a 3.5-liter V6 making 301 horsepower. The Lexus makes 302. You won't feel the difference.
But this year, in introducing an all-wheel-drive version of the Avalon, Toyota pulls a swap in the engine room. AWD is only available with a 2.5-liter four cylinder, and power drops to 205 horses. You'll feel the difference. Nearly a hundred horsepower drop is a big deal. Zero to 60 times of 6.2 seconds plummet to 7.7. Yeah, that's about what you get from an Avalon hybrid, which is actually a tenth slower at 7.8---but fuel economy is the payoff there---44 city/43 highway.
In the 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited AWD, the EPA fuel economy average is 25 city/34 highway---not that far off the V6's 22/32---or, for that matter, the Lexus ES 350's 22/31.
And---the four-cylinder's noise and harshness levels might be acceptable in a Camry, but they feel out of place in what Toyota has made sure is a cabin that justifies a $40K-plus starting price.
For the $42,175 base price, the 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited AWD loads up the interior with premium leather, heated and ventilated seats, a 14-speaker JBL audio system and more (the window sticker is at the end of the review so you can see for yourself).
The problem is, the cabin puts you in a luxury mindset. And the lack of oomph, the sound and the feel don't mesh with it.
Our tester had several extra-cost options, including $1,150 for the advanced safety package (details on the window sticker below), $379 for illuminated door sills, $259 for the all-weather package, $80 for wheel locks and $69 for a rear bumper applique'. So with $995 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited AWD is $45,107.
The 2021 Toyota Avalon Limited AWD is an otherwise convincing entry-level luxury car let down by an economy-car engine. You should ask yourself how much you actually need all-wheel drive, and whether you maybe should be looking at an SUV. Or snow tires.