Toyota isn't setting out to change hearts and minds with the Avalon's handling, but its straight-line performance could lead you to that impression.
All Avalons get power from a 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower, which shuffles to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It's the new norm in big family sedans, and the Avalon's a little more like its competition with every passing year--there's a touch of vibration and noise in the current car under full throttle, for example. It can perform very briskly from a stoplight, despite the luxury-liner looks and cushy seats, but the transmissions on past test vehicles have felt a little less than perfectly smooth. A manual shifting mode exists, and we're convinced we were the first ones to try it out on the test car provided.