Shigeki Terashi, executive chief engineer, Toyota Technical Center (TTC), is standing beside the new Toyota Avalon, arms outstretched with his fingers pointed, like he’s describing the size of the fish that got away. He’s using his hands to section off the redesigned and re-engineered 2005 Avalon, showing where new technology has been added to the existing Camry platform to create the Avalon.
He points out that from the firewall forward, the Avalon is “all new” — from the firewall to the B-Pillar, “Camry” — from the BPillar to the bulkhead ,“all new ” — from the bulkhead back, “Camry.”
The Avalon also shares the Camry’s shock towers and rear suspension as well as many of the underbody frame components.
Though the current Camry platform served as the basis for the Avalon, Toyota says that the entire platform has been reworked to accommodate the longer, wider Avalon (1 in. taller, 1.5 in. wider and 5 in. longer than the current Camry.)
The engine bay has been redesigned to accept the new V-6 engine and transmission and the rear seat area was stretched (four of the five extra inches), to create the longer wheelbase and flat, tunnel-less floor allowing for comfortable three-across seating. The rear end has extensively redesigned crumple zones and has also been modified to accept dual exhaust, a first for a Toyota sedan.
The body uses more high-strength steel in the underbody areas and shock towers to improve safety while saving weight. The added steel also increases torsional stiffness. The rear doors have dual side-impact beams and threestage door check rods that increase the door opening angles to nearly 90 percent.
It’s not surprising that the Avalon shares so much with Camry, as it will share the same Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly line along with the Solara. Terashi says that the nextgeneration Camry will use a shortened version of this platform and the new 3.5L V-6, most likely with reduced horsepower.
|Limited interior features plush leather seating and light wood accents. |
The navigation system and HVAC controls hide neatly into the center stack.
|The rear seat features reclining seatbacks and limousine-like leg room with comfortable seating for three.|
More importantly for Toyota North America, Terashi, who also oversaw the development of the latest-generation Solara, says that the Solara project was the final step in a long-term strategy, “to give full and complete engineering responsibility for an all-new vehicle to TTC (Toyota Technical Center, North America).” The 2005 Avalon is that vehicle.
“Until this project,” says Randy Stephens, executive engineer, TTC, “TTC had never been given management responsibility for the socalled lower half of the vehicle.”
That included not only platform development, but drivetrain development as well, something that had always been handled by a separate engineering group in Japan. A hand–picked group of TTC powertrain engineers were sent to Japan to oversee the development of the new V-6 and 5-speed automatic transmission.
It was part of a global Obeya (Big Office) set up by Terashi, placing the coordination of all aspects of development control within TTC.
The Obeya discipline uses the combined knowledge and experience of the entire development team to analyze all aspects of vehicle development at once, making decisions and setting priorities early. Obeya streamlines the development process and creates a vehicle that requires fewer design changes, saving both time and money.
Stephens says that an added asset of Obeya is the reduction in development time allowing more time for study and information gathering, leading to a more focused vehicle concept and fresher styling.
The “most American” Toyota, boasting 75 percent local content, was designed by the Calty studio in Newport Beach, Calif. The Avalon draws heavily on the Solara styling cues, mating the Solara front and rear to an almost Audi-looking profile.
The interior is classic big-car luxury with roomy seats (standard cloth on XL, leather on all other trim levels) and plenty of natural wood trim. The audio and HVAC controls are neatly hidden behind a brushed-aluminum flip- up panel in the center stack, and the controls for the optional navigation system are mounted on a flip-out drawer (like an ash tray) so they can be hidden away when not in use. While the designers may have sculpted the final car, many of the fine details were heavily driven by focus groups, made up of full-size American sedans and current Avalon owners, including an intensive User Interactive Study made up of a 15 Avalon owners, ranging in age from 37 to 70. Unlike most focus groups, these panelists were allowed to actually interact with special features on the preprototypes. Among other things, this small group was influential in the final decision to move the shifter from the dash (like the Sienna) to the console.
The 60/40 split rear seat has a manually adjusted reclining backrest. Front sets are heated and ventilated (separate fans for seat bottom and backrest) and have a unique adjustable power lower cushion, available on the Limited that uncurls, adding two inches to the seat bottom for long-legged drivers.
Next Generation Power
The Avalon is powered by a high-output, 3.5L 4-valve, V-6 engine that will eventually find its way into other Toyota vehicles as they arrive over the next few years. The shortstroke, high-rev design is based on the 4.0L V- 6 used in Tundra, 4Runner and Tacoma and features an aluminum block and heads.
|Power lower seat cushion extension, available on the top-of-the-line Limited, extends the front of the lower seat cushion by 50 mm (two inches).|
A new linear-speed, solid-state cooling fan, dual mufflers and a two-stage air cleaner chamber help reduce all of the noise created by making all of that power. To further reduce NVH, the engine is supported at four points and uses an active control mount with one fluid-filled and one air chamber.
The air chamber can be vented to vacuum or atmosphere and timed to match engine idle speeds, canceling low-rpm motion between 900 and 950 rpm and reducing shift vibration. The engine is backed up by the 5-speed sequential-shift automatic transmission introduced on the 2005 Sienna minivan.
Safety and Handling
The Avalon shares its suspension with Camry. The front uses struts with L-shaped lower control arms and is mounted to a subframe. Struts with multi-link control arms make up the rear. There is a choice of four different alloy wheels and either 16-in. or 17-in. tires depending on the model. The trunk holds a full-size spare on a steel wheel. Stopping power comes via 4-wheel disc brakes with 11.7- in. vented rotors up front and 10.87-in. solid rotors out back.
ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) is standard with the next-generation Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) + TRAC optional on the XLS and Limited.
All Avalons are equipped with dual-stage front airbags with driver-side position sensor and passenger-side occupant classification sensor and two-row side curtain airbags.
|Extensive use of high-strength steel in the uni-body (above) provides for a weight savings while increasing safety. Dual side-impact beams in the rear doors (below) improve protection due to a larger rear door opening.|
The Limited offers an optional Dynamic Laser Cruise Control, the same system found on the Sienna minivan. The driver can select the preferred interval to the car in front using a speed-adjusted interval rather than distance. The system uses the electronic throttle first and then brakes (plus brake lights) to keep the car at the appropriate distance. The controls are mounted on the steering wheel and a small readout under the speedometer displays the interval selected.
All Avalons come standard with keyless entry. Limited buyers get a version of the Denso-supplied Smart Key system found on the Prius. The industry’s smallest remote allows for hands-free operation, turning on interior lights and unlocking doors or opening the trunk when touched. The system also allows for the car to be started by simply pressing a button on the dash. An optional dealer-installed remote-start system is also available.
The Limited gets a sound-dampening windshield that uses a softer, low-durometer inner membrane layer to absorb road noise. The Avalon borrows its optional rainsensing wipers (standard on Limited) and Valeo-supplied one-piece, flat wiper blade from the Lexus LS 430. The concealed dualfluidics washer nozzles increase the coverage pattern while using less fluid.
Mr. Terashi says that the team benchmarked BMW and Mercedes during the development of the Avalon, though Terashi says that those vehicles have a tendency to have stiffer rides. The suspension was softened up some to appeal to the American market.
The Avalon is true to its benchmark with driving dynamics that are very Teutonic. The ride is very quiet. While there is some wind noise, road noise is non-existent. The steering is neutral on center with a little too much power assist for my liking. That may be due to a compromise in tuning to appeal more to the big American sedan crowd.
Avalon went on sale in February with expected sales of 85,000 annually. Avalon trim levels have doubled from two to four, starting with the base XL starting at $26,350. The Touring ($28,600) adds 17-in. wheels and tires, leather-trimmed seats, high-intensity discharge headlamps, integrated fog lamps and a rear lip spoiler as well as a sport-tuned suspension. The XLS ($30,800) adds things like LED interior lighting, a 6-disc CD changer and a power moonroof. The top-of-the-line Limited ($33,540) adds an upgraded 360-watt JBL Synthesis audio system.
The only option missing is an all-wheeldrive system, which Toyota engineers say won’t work on the new platform. That means no AWD Camry either. What is interesting is that Toyota says with the growing interest in hybrids, the pressure is on to develop hybrid powertrains to fit into the platform.
A new reusable oil filter with replaceable filter element is integrated into the oil pan.
The new 3.5L V-6 will find its way into many new Toyota vehicles.
A unique “concave” cam profile means faster valve opening, and longer duration increases volumetric efficiency for more output.
Toyota Avalon Specifications
Engine: 3.5L, 24-valve DOHC V-6 with Dual VVTi
Bore and Stroke: 3.70 x 3.27 in.
Compression Ratio: 10.8:1
Valve Train: 4-valve DOHC roller rocker
Horsepower: 280 at 6,200 rpm
Torque: 260 lb.ft. at 4,700 rpm
Drive System Type: Transaxle/FWD
Transmission: 5-speed ECT-I automatic
Front: MacPherson strut with 0.94 in. stabilizer bar
Rear: Dual-link MacPherson strut with 0.59 in. stabilizer bar
Front: 11.7 in. ventilated disc
Rear: 10.9 in. solid disc
Type: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock to lock): 3.22 turns
Turning circle: 36.9 ft.
Engine oil: 6.5 qt.
Fuel tank: 18.5 gal.
EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)
Overall length: 197.2
Overall width: 72.8
Overall height: 58.5 in.
Tread (front/rear): 62.2/61.6
Minimum ground clearance: 5.3
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)
Headroom (front/rear): 38.8/37.5
Legroom (front/rear): 41.3/40.9
Shoulder room (front/rear): 59.4/58.2
Hip room (front/rear): 55.8/56.2
EPA Passenger Volume: 106.9 cu.ft.
EPA Cargo Volume: 14.4 cu.ft.
EPA Class: Large
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 22 city/30 highway