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2012 Toyota Avalon Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Toyota Avalon was new.


Performance: 8.4

The 2012 Toyota Avalon is a highway cruiser, and in that regard it performs admirably, but test drivers agree that if you’re looking for engaging performance, the Avalon isn’t the car for you. Thanks to its cushy suspension, critics note that the Avalon floats down the road, but its soft ride and numb steering mean that the Avalon performs poorly when the road gets twisty.

Despite its lack of cornering ability, reviewers agree that the Avalon’s V6 and six-speed automatic are well-matched to its comfort-oriented pretensions. There’s more than enough power, and the transmission’s seamless operation enhances the Avalon’s smooth ride.

  • "The front-wheel-drive chassis struggles with the engine's power, so it's easy to accidentally squeal the front tires from a stop." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "My test car came with a 268-horsepower V-6 engine that was powerful and quiet. I liked it; it actually felt like it was made for the mom who's on the road all day. It almost made me feel pampered because it was so quiet, pleasant and peaceful when my kids weren't in it." -- Mother Proof 
  • "The standard 268-horsepower V6 engine accelerates the Avalon more rapidly than similarly powered competitors while still returning impressive fuel mileage estimates of 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Toyota Avalon is powered by a 3.5-liter V6, which makes 268 horsepower. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The EPA hasn’t provided fuel economy estimates for the 2012 Avalon yet. However, the similar 2011 model is rated at 20/29 mpg city/highway. While those estimates are competitive, the Avalon still trails affordable large cars like the Buick LaCrosse eAssist, which gets 25/36 mpg city/highway.

Behind the wheel, most test drivers agree that the Avalon’s V6 provides ample power, while the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission helps the Avalon deliver a comfortable ride.

  • "The automatic transmission is decently responsive in Sport -- and yes, we’re surprised that the pedestrian Avalon even has a Sport mode. Left in Drive, the transmission delivers gear changes gently and without fuss." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "There's ample power from a stop or for passing and merging. The smooth transmission provides ready downshifts." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The Avalon's sole engine/transmission combo - Toyota's 3.5-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission - delivers an impressive combination of swiftness, smoothness and now even better economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Its ubiquity may define it as ordinary, but this combination of engine and transmission is so buttery smooth that its gears could well be lubricated by cholesterol." -- New York Times

Handling and Braking

No one is going to mistake the Avalon for a performance car. The cushy ride that works so well on the highway can make the car feel unwieldy on twisty roads. But since the Avalon is designed for comfort rather than performance, this might be fine for some buyers. 

  • "The Toyota Avalon's chassis is tuned for comfort rather than sport, meaning the Toyota wobbles and rolls in sharp corners." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "This large sedan is well isolated from road imperfections, and is especially comfortable at highway speeds." -- Consumer Guide 
  • “The ride is always poised: isolated, but never floaty or undulating. Road noise is minimal. But the left and right all-season tires could be lobbing hand grenades at one another and the numb rack-and-pinion steering would never issue a battle report." -- New York Times

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