More than just a replacement for the Cressida, the Avalon was Toyota's entry into a new market segment when it debuted in early 1994 for the 1995 model year, after some unveiling on the March 1994 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. This standard "full-size" sedan included a split bench front seat and room for six. It was aimed at cars like the Ford Crown Victoria, Chevrolet Caprice/Impala, Mercury Grand Marquis, Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile Eighty Eight.
Like the Camry, Avalon was built at Toyota's Georgetown, Kentucky, facility. It was conceived for the traditional American mindset and, in particular, owners of midsize sedans who seek more room, comfort and sophistication.
Compared with, say, the Buick LeSabre, the Avalon gets slightly better city gas mileage (21 versus 19 mpg), but the same on the highway (29 mpg). The Avalon has more horsepower but less torque, a shorter wheelbase, smaller trunk, less interior volume, but is, overall, a more modern car, which helps Toyota utilize the space available.
Based on V6 Camry mechanicals, the Avalon has a longer wheelbase and more horsepower than the Camry and more conservative styling. The Avalon has the power steering, brakes, windows and seats and the soft ride that buyers in this class expect. Bucket seats will eventually be available, seating five rather than six. There are two trim levels: XL and XLS. The XL has a cloth 6-way manual seat (power optional), auto-off headlamps, rear defogger with timer, front folding armrest on the bench, and an electronically tuned stereo cassette, all standard. Leather seats, aluminum wheels, power moonroof, and ABS are the major options.
The XLS upgrade includes 7-way power with the buckets, 6-way power with the bench, automatic climate control, 6-speaker premium sound system with cassette, theft-deterrent system with keyless entry, simulated wood trim, ABS and aluminum wheels.
The 1995 models went on sale in Fall 1994, with no price given until then.
The Avalon continues into 1996 without change, as the only import nameplate to accommodate six passengers by providing an available power split front bench seat, 39.1 in. of front headroom and 44.1 in. of legroom. It has a total interior/cargo volume of 120.9 cu. ft. and is therefore classified as a large car by EPA standards. Cargo space is 15.4 cu. ft., and maximum towing capacity is 2000 pounds.
The Avalon is based on the Camry V6 platform, which was stretched to a 4-in.-longer wheelbase. The body is marginally wider than the Camry's but is only about 21Ú2 in. longer. The Avalon's conservative styling suits the intended image yet immediately distinguishes the model from its Camry progenitor. The 3.0-liter V6 (the same engine found in the Lexus ES 300) provides a quiet demeanor and plenty of power (4 hp more than the Camry) but mandates filling up with a more expensive premium-grade fuel.
The Avalon has the requisite dual airbags, 1997 side-impact protection and even a 3-point seatbelt for the middle rear passenger. Front and rear disc brakes work in concert with antilock brakes (optional on the XL). XLS models have alloy wheels as standard equipment. Befitting their place in the pipeline, both Avalon models are well equipped with copious comfort and convenience features.
As of October 5, 1994:
- $22,758 (1995 Toyota Avalon XL 4DR Sedan)
- $26,688 (1995 Toyota Avalon XLS 4DR Sedan)
As of April 7, 1995:
- $22,988 (1995 Toyota Avalon XL)
- $26,958 (1995 Toyota Avalon XLS)
As of August 25, 1995:
- $23,418 (1996 Toyota Avalon XL)
- $27,448 (1996 Toyota Avalon XLS)