The Complete Package
And he should know. He’s not only the chief engineer for this Avalon, but he served in the same capacity for the fourth generation in 2012.
“Obviously, as we’ve gone from one generation to the next, we’ve made improvements,” says Stephens. “But for the first time, we have the underpinnings — the platform and the suspension — to deliver the performance that matches the styling and the technology. This really is a significant leap forward for Avalon.”
If Stephens were a marketing professional, it might be tempting to categorize that last statement as hype. But he’s an engineer who headed up a team of product developers at R&D in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So, for him, it’s what lies under the new sheet metal that ultimately makes the difference.
A Dedicated Sport Model
That includes, most notably, the tangible benefits of Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). Like the 2018 Camry that preceded it, the 2019 Avalon rides on a chassis that’s lower and wider. Though the overall length remains essentially the same, the wheelbase has been extended. And the new Avalon’s double wishbone style multi-link rear suspension incorporates four-mode Adaptive Variable Suspension — a Toyota first.
Marry those more robust platform chops with updated versions of either Toyota’s V-6 engine or Hybrid Synergy Drive — both of which are expected to deliver up to 10 percent gains in power and fuel economy — and you have the makings of an Avalon that can carve turns with as much aplomb as it can cruise the highway.
“We will, of course, offer a luxury version of the 2019 Avalon,” says Stephens. “But for the first time, we will also offer a dedicated sport model that will appeal to the next generation of Toyota customers. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if our current buyers gravitate to it as well.”
Everyone will certainly appreciate the new Avalon’s progressive exterior styling. Calty’s designers have transformed this sedan’s competent, though conservative, lines into those of a fully realized sports sedan, with the athletic and aggressive proportions to match.
Technology Test Bed
And then there’s the matter of customer-friendly technology. Avalon has a long history of serving as the brand’s test bed for the latest digital breakthroughs. For example, in 2013, it was the first Toyota vehicle to offer wireless smartphone charging.
Building on that tradition, the 2019 Avalon will be the first Toyota to integrate with Apple and Android smartwatches, making it possible — at the touch of those devices’ small screens — to find your car, start your car and unlock the doors remotely. And it will be the first to offer Apple CarPlay that aims to more fully integrate the driver’s smartphone with the vehicle’s in-dash display.
“We really focused on bringing as much innovation to Avalon as possible,” says Stephens. “The team came up with ideas and we polled customers in clinics. More and more, customers want to go from home to car and to work and have all of their devices work smoothly and seamlessly. Avalon will deliver on those expectations as no Toyota has ever done before.”
North American, Born and Bred
The 2019 Avalon will also be one of the most North American Toyotas ever. Team members in Plano assisted with product planning. Stephens and his colleagues led the development. Calty designers, also based in Ann Arbor, crafted the exterior and interior designs. And production begins in late April at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky in Georgetown.
“Some people might call the Avalon a halo vehicle for Toyota,” says Stephens. “We used the phrase ‘brand catalyst’ to guide our development. On many different fronts — from ride, to handling, to technology, to safety and more — this new generation really does take the brand to the next level. It offers luxury. Now, more than ever, it has sporty performance. But mostly, it delivers an authentic driving experience. We can’t wait to put it in the hands of our customers.”