We’re not the first to observe it, but it bears repeating: Toyota and its design and manufacturing teams do a great job in designing and building the nondescript. You can see it in Toyota’s history, its lineup…you can even see it in its choice of a national headquarters. Cadillac – you might remember – left Detroit for Manhattan, while Toyota left Torrance (CA) for Plano.
And so it is that Toyota elects to launch an all-new Avalon and Corolla in Del Mar, CA – which, to its credit, is anything but nondescript. Just north of San Diego, whose airport lobby greets you with a replica of Ryan Aviation’s Spirit of St. Louis, Del Mar resides in one of those residential/commercial bubbles the Golden State is famous for. The Torrey Pines Lodge is just south, Del Mar’s racetrack is just north, and our hotel, L’Auberge, might have been called Serenity by the Sea; Frank Costanza would have loved it.
Serenity, of course, has been the descriptive of Toyota’s Avalon since Toyota execs first came up with a bigger, blander Camry. Beautifully constructed and abnormally (for its price point) refined, the Avalon was intended for empty-nesters in need of more room. And if that suggests a psychographic disconnect, so – obviously – do the number of bigger homes sold to older adults after their children move out; it’s amazing what you can afford when no longer paying tuition or the kids’ car insurance.
For 2019, ‘serenity’ – if not out – is given less emphasis, while ‘sexy’ rears its seductive head. This is, as Toyota is wont to put it, “an all-encompassing makeover by Toyota’s US-based design, engineering and manufacturing entities at Calty in Ann Arbor, Michigan.” Toyota, as you’d guess, checks all the boxes, and the results – at least for that intended demographic – are impressive.
This newest Avalon is – in both its sheetmetal and handling dynamic – even more expressive than its predecessor. To Toyota’s credit, they’ve trimmed the overall length and overhangs, while extending the wheelbase and, by ‘extension’, available interior room. We can’t, however, understand the reduction in cowl height and hip point; lower may be better when spec’ing the next Supra, but I’m not getting it when designing an Avalon, especially when you consider the uptick in crossover sales. This is a climb-in seating arrangement, not step-in…and as the son of an 88-year old mother, I know d*mn well the disconnect between low seating and stowing her walker.
Once inside, however, you’re sucked into an upscale ambience taken right from your brother-in-law’s Lexus. Again, we’ll turn to the PR-generated descriptive: “New-for-2019 Cognac(!) colored leather-surfaces highlights Limited’s upscale vibe.” Real wood is used as an accent, a 10-inch screen tells you all you need to know and much you don’t need to know, while the seats achieve a nice balance between hold-me-in and let-me-out. In short, it’s a cabin that comes darn close to resembling a cocoon, without the damning qualities of a cockpit.
On the road, the Avalon drives smaller than its size. We were most impressed by the potential of the Avalon hybrid, with an abundance of torque and a 43 EPA estimate for combined miles-per-gallon. That, of course, is what the Prius was offering not too long ago, and you can achieve it in a fullsize luxury sedan. The new Avalon will be heading to Toyota stores as you read this – that’s if, of course, you happen to read this.
For those of you shucking the ‘burbs for Dallas’ Uptown, a redesigned Corolla might just be your ticket. Unlike any number of its predecessors, which lacked any suggestion of having been ‘designed’, this one – all-new for 2019 – is built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, offers a sport-tuned suspension to everyone, along with the audio and info upgrades you might expect to pay for but are included on the ‘standard’ side of the MSRP.
And the Corolla sheetmetal is compelling. Launched as a 4-door hatch, the vibe is new, while the proportions recall one of my favorites in the category, the Mazda3. Inside, there’s an almost European simplicity to the Corolla’s layout. Again, Toyota would seem to have nailed the seating, as the front buckets are supportive while the rear bench is accommodating. This, of course, is a smaller car – and the NBA can (and should) overlook it. But if you’re of average size and your company of docile demeanor, there’s plenty of room for lunch buds to go to lunch, or a young family to take a real vacation.
Under the hood is Toyota’s new 2.0 liter, naturally aspirated four. The engine is lighter than its 1.8-liter predecessor, power is up and so are miles per gallon. And for the three of you still wanting to shift manually, Toyota supplies a manny with six forward speeds. We thought the manual was appropriately compelling, but have long recognized the benefits of an auto in urban environments. The automatic also responds well.
As this is written, we’ll assume pricing of the new Corolla will closely parallel the old one, so think around $20K to start, while fully equipped will be around $25K. For a recent grad, or a mom or dad just looking for something to run errands in, the new Corolla checks most of the boxes. We’d buy one somewhat plain, and then run it ’til the wheels fell off.
2019 Toyota Avalon
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback