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LONG DISTANCE RUNNER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Feb 27, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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2011 Toyota Avalon LTD

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago. We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Jake and Elwood, you might say, had quite the trip in front of them. 106 miles to Chicago might not seem that long, but given what they were up against, the chance of them making it was slim. They were in a tunnel, covered in mud from a run-in with a machinegun-wielding ex-girlfriend, and a couple of feet above them, outside of the tunnel, were over a hundred police officers (and that country western group in a motor home). What they were driving has become an icon, but other than that, a police cruiser is not my chosen mode of transportation. Instead, I chose the Avalon. And a different route. And no guns. And no cops or cigarettes. I did wear sunglasses though, but only when the sun was out.

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My route was from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, on through Grand Canyon to Phoenix, to Palm Desert, and back to Los Angeles. When we returned to Los Angeles, we had covered a little over 1,300 miles. The tires had touched the asphalt of three different states, the skid protection done its job on the patches of snow and ice on the ridges of the Grand Canyon, the heated seats kept us warm during the 18 degrees of the high desert winter and the cooled seats kept us cool when the blazing sun of the 70 degree desert spring had heated the car. No we did not switch the seats halfway, the Avalon can heat and cool you butt on demand. Very appreciated on a trip through the different climates. The Toyota Avalon is about as close to a Lexus you can get. The Avalon’s exterior only hints towards the big brother, but the interior gives the same luxurious feeling. This particular Avalon is equipped with the optional Navigation and Premium Audio package that includes, among other things, a 660W 12-speaker audio system, a backup camera, navigation system, and USB port with iPod connectivity. But even without that optional package (which is, of course, a very nice option) the Avalon is quite the limousine. Each time someone would get in the back seat they would say something like “wow, this is like a limo!” To add to the whole limo-luxe feeling, the rear seats recline, offering a slumber-ready futon-like place to rest while someone else does the driving.

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The Avalon is a large car, but it is still pretty nimble to drive and control. The 3.5L, 288-horsepower engine, coupled with a very smooth six-speed automatic (with sequential shift), moves the Avalon with great ease. A push on the accelerator and off you go! Even at high speeds, such as those on the I-15 in the middle of the desert, the Avalon will easily speed up to accommodate your desired velocity. The nimbleness of the car comes much from the ease by which you can see where the car is when driving. The blind spots are not bad at all and the back-up camera makes parking a breeze. Even if everyone could live without a Smart Key System that lets you get into, start and shut down the engine, and then get out of and lock you car without ever touching the key, that is a neat feature which comes in very handy when carrying things. As I approach the car with the key in my pocket, it will light up both the interior lights as well as some of the exterior “this is your car”-lights. Yes, another thing we all can live without, but it does give the car a more luxurious touch.

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So, apart from being a great road-trip car, how does it do around town and in daily-life situations? Well, all of the comfort features and performance mentioned above of course come in handy also when just driving around town. The car is big enough to take on a very large shopping-run your wallet can afford, and since the Avalon is a Lexus in disguise, you can arrive in style and still have money to spend. The audiophile can rest assured that the stereo system is of high quality as well. Whatever your taste, or rather, the taste of the person who decides what will be played, as in my case, it should be easy to find something to suit. The XM radio hosts a wide variety of options, and if you still can’t find what you are looking for, just plug in your mp3 player in the USB port. You can actually control an iPod with the car’s own controls, eliminating the problem of looking down at the iPod to change songs.

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Another notable feature of the Avalon is the headlights. They do a great job at lighting up the road ahead, but also the road ahead of the road ahead. This was noticed when driving around the pitch-black neighborhoods of a suburb to Phoenix. Well, they call it a suburb; I would call it the desert. Even without the high-beams the headlights did a great job. The Avalon, loaded with Navigation and the Premium Audio system still costs only $37,884. For a car like this, I think that’s amazing. Want a luxurious ride without the high payments? Think Avalon. The exterior styling of the Avalon reminds a little of the Lexus, but yet has a distinctive look all on its own. In my mind the exterior looks great without actually trying… Luxurious in its own way. What do you think? Follow this LINK to our Facebook page and comment on this story.

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SUMMARY JUDGMENT Jake and Elwood never had it this good. SPECIFICATIONS: Name of vehicle: 2011 Toyota Avalon 4-DR LTD Sedan Price: $35,485 (base) $37,884 (as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 20 mpg (city) 29 mpg (highway)

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Engine size and type: 3.5L V6 DOHC 24V with Dual VVT-i Horsepower: 268 @ 6200 rpm Torque: 248 pound-feet @ 4700 rpm Transmission type: 6-speed Electronically Controlled automatic Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) and sequential shift Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Steering (type): Variable-assist power rack-and-pinion Suspension (front and rear): MacPherson strut front suspension with offset coil springs and stabilizer bar; dual-link independent MacPherson strut rear suspension with offset coil springs and stabilizer bar Brakes and tires: Power-assisted with ventilated front and solid rear discs. Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. P215/55R17 (with a full-size alloy-wheeled spare) Dimensions Length: 197.6 inches Width: 72.8 inches Height: 58.5 inches Curb weight: 3616 pounds

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