First Drive: 2008 Toyota Avalon Touring (32.8 MPG)

by Rick Harrell on September 24, 2008

Rick’s Rental Reviews: 2008 Toyota Avalon Touring

Toyota Avalon Opener

+ Roomy and Plush
+ Lots of Power and Responsive Handling / Nice Ride
+ Efficient for Size and Power
– Looks “Old-School”

– Interior gaps and finish are “sub-Toyota”
– Costly up-front

Introduction: This is a fuel economy site. What’s a huge, luxury boat doing in the review section? Outrageous!

Before we break out the “Jump to Conclusions Mat”, realize what we have here: a full-sized luxury sedan with leather, many options, a prodigiously powerful V-6, a 6-speed automatic, and a slick drag coefficient. How does a combined 32.8 MPG sound? Ahh, your attention has been drawn.

The Toyota Avalon has long been hailed as the “Japanese Buick”. Last generation’s model offered a bench seat, plenty of room, and a soft ride. Fast forward to the current model, specifically the Touring edition. The suspension is perfectly balanced between ride and confidence-inspiring handling. The 6-speed auto keeps revs down and FE up. Gadgets on the inside can appeal to younger crowds: like large info screen in the dash and steering wheel controls. The simplicity of those gadgets keeps the AARP members coming back. Can one car cross generational gaps?

On the Outside: Conservative yet sizable luxury is the definition. Each angle shows a different side, so to speak. Take a look and judge for yourself. It’s like a plump Camry. When you look inside these vehicles, you don’t expect to see a 31 year-old guy. I felt like I had to either play the part or pretend like I borrowed my Dad’s car or something.

The small deck-lid spoiler is small enough to imply (dare I say) some sportiness, but it likely functions as an aerodynamic aid. Large wheels speak of the same. HID headlamps, with fog lights, further define the luxury angle. What sets this vehicle apart is the fact that it accomplishes something no other vehicle can: Toyota reliability with Park Avenue appeal. It’s not new. This transformation has been going on for years.

On the Inside:

Slip behind the wheel and take-in the sweeping dash and electroluminescent gauges. The console slides forward and cradles your elbow. Good stuff. Little things like a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with controls for radio, climate control, and cruise make driving easier and ergonomic.

The black leather appointments and an 8-way driver’s seat with power lumbar support made it a comfortable cruiser. The audio system is quite good in its 9-speaker form (a 12-speaker JBL package is available in higher trims). Elbow comfort score: 9 out of 10.

The center display is a large, blue screen with vehicle info (higher trims use the same space for a navigation system in upwardly-mobile models). The lower 1/3 of the blue screen shows each trip’s elapsed time, tank FE, distance-to-empty, and outdoor temp., on each trip, all at once. The middle section offers a detailed description of the automatic, dual-zone climate control, and the top 1/3 shows radio info. It’s a nice touch.

Up front – cubbies, decorative covers, and pockets abound. There’s plenty of space for stuff. For some reason, there’s a decorative door over the radio. Close it all up, and it’s like that plastic covering on furniture. Do I dare open the door and expose the radio? Otherwise, gaps don’t really match-up well and the appearance is geriatric, and at times, bland.

Rear seat passengers enjoy a veritable sofa of space, complete with air vents and windows that glide completely into the gigantic doors. Three adults could likely fit comfortably for a light commute. Four would enjoy limo-esque room and comfort – even 6-footers would rave of the leg room in the back. Only expect a pass-through: the seats do not fold flat. That shouldn’t be a problem with the cavernous trunk.

Safety: Standard luxo-yacht features are present: excellent crash scores, full airbags (including driver a driver knee-bag), stability control, ABS, etc, etc.

Efficiency: As with most vehicles these days, the more gears, the better. The engine turns at ~1750 RPM @ 60 MPH and 2200 at 75. Combine that with a low drag coefficient and a torquey engine, and you get good fuel economy on the highway. The final tally was 32.8 MPG at a speed average of 50 MPH. Three days were tested using in-town driving conditions. The result was low-20s in the MPG department. It still requires energy to move this boat. The advantage is the eager-to-upshift automatic. Gentle acceleration from a standing start rarely sees 2000 RPM. Before you know it, you’re in 5th gear at 40 MPH with the torque converter engaged. This balances the power vs. FE struggle. Other cars should take note. One downside is gear indecision. Step on the gas and it takes a moment to shift down through the gears.

The Drive: I’m not making this up. The Toyota Avalon Touring is a blast to drive. I’m not talking Subaru STI cornering, or Mustang Cobra acceleration, but take a look at the following vitals: 0-60 is in the 6-second range. At 4-grand, this engine comes alive with burst of power. You would think there’s a V-8 under there. But wait there’s more!

The Touring package tightens the suspension to keep the large car from floating all over the place, with only a hint of stiffness. It’s a nice setup. Cornering with the large tread and well-balanced dampers actually inspires confidence. Steering response is excellent from the small wheel. Get on the highway and kick back. It won’t beat you senseless from road irregularities and tracks well.

For the Energy Conscious: This is a big car. It takes the highways like much smaller cars with respect to FE, but city mileage suffers. There are many sedans that offer a better combined average. My trip was very highway-centric. You can get a 4-cylinder Accord with similar features and much better FE. The Camry XLE 4-cylinder is another example. Also see the Mercury Milan-4, Chevy Malibu-4, LTZ 6-speed auto, etc.

Raw Data — Specs:
Model: 2008 Toyota Avalon
Trim: Touring
EPA Class Size: Large Car
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with lock-up torque converter and gated sequential gear hold selector (no forced upshifts)
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6 with dual Intelligent Variable Valve Timing
Rating: 268 hp @ 6200 rpm; 248 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Drivetrain: FWD
Seating Capacity: 5 with room to spare
RPM @ 60 MPH: ~1750
New Price as Tested: $29,600 USD (August, 2008)
Curb Weight: 3490 lb.
EPA: 19/28/22
EPA Average Fuel Cost per Year: $2095
Emissions: ULEV

Raw Data — Stats:
EcoModder Tested Mileage: 32.8 MPG
Speed Avg.: ~50 MPH
Time of Operation: ~8.0 hours
Distance Driven: ~525 Miles
Ambient Outside Temp: 75-95F
Cruise Speed: 70-75 MPH
Test Loop: KC – Wichita – KC
A/C Usage: 100% of time
Miles on Vehicle: ~13,000
Wind/Weather: Hot, Humid, windy, and stormy with very heavy rain in the last 50 miles
Driving Style: Average (including some rush hour jams) and full-throttle run-ups

Photos Courtesy and


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{ 1 comment }

1 dev September 21, 2009 at 9:22 am

I just bought an 08 Toyo Avy Toury with TomTom. It is absolutely beautiful. Blk on Blk. I have to wash it more often because the grill just scoops up the bugs 🙂

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