Toyota Motor Co. is the biggest automaker on this planet, promoting autos on each continent. Akio Toyoda, great-grandson of the founder and now the person in control of this sprawling industrial large, has introduced pleasure to the perimeter merchandise produced by Toyota (suppose Supra sports activities automobile and NASCAR racing) in addition to innovation and solidity to the automaker greatest recognized for its regular, dependable merchandise — like Camry, Corolla and Prius.

So, whereas many automaker presidents are racing to boast about their EV transition plans, Toyota has remained — silent. The automaker with probably the most hybrid autos produced and offered all around the world during the last 20-plus years, by far, Toyota continues to weigh methods for what is going to actually work subsequent. We’re at the moment seeing hybrid minivans (the brand new Sienna), and a hybrid Tundra pickup is coming this fall, whereas Toyota’s stone dependable hybrid-battery/electrical motor/gasoline engine powertrain proliferates by way of nearly each sedan providing in each Toyota’s and Lexus’s lineup. And these autos promote — effectively. With extra hybrid/plug-in choices coming, with as much as 50 miles of electric-only driving, Toyota is assured that this technique ensures shopper religion and continued gross sales volumes, which can be paramount for the wanted revenue for regardless of the “subsequent” know-how is that can be employed in our future driving fleet.

The identical steadfast philosophy is on show on this week’s Avalon full-size sedan. Whereas a number of of its former opponents now not come down for breakfast — Buick LeSabre, Chevy Impala and Ford Taurus — Toyota has elected to stay centered on its car-centric choices regardless of the wave of crossover and pickup gross sales which have swung the new-market pendulum. 

With none doubt, full-size sedan gross sales have plummeted. With like-sized rivals itemizing on one hand — Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza, Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger — the Avalon’s attraction has apparently grow to be restricted. Gross sales in 2020 fell over one-third, little doubt abetted by the bodily plague in addition to by the march to crossovers.

Someplace within the halls of Toyota’s advertising and marketing division, a lone voice has been crunching the numbers and lobbying for the Avalon, primarily a Camry stretched 4 inches longer. For the final 4 years, low gas costs, lowered laws and a booming financial system helped spur patrons to make grander investments in luxurious autos, crossovers of all sizes and, after all, pickup vehicles. 

Now, gas costs are rising quicker than the LED indicators can sustain, extra laws are imminent and the financial system is sending combined messages. Can that lone product planner’s voice be reciting the hymn for the return of the frugal, sensible sedan?

The Avalon is a conundrum. It prices $10,000 greater than a Camry and is just the scant 4 inches longer (the wheelbase is just 2 inches longer) because the Camry continues to dominate four-door sedan gross sales, attributable to beneficiant upgrades all through its platform. Each of those stalwart choices include a hybrid-powertrain possibility, each can now be ordered with AWD, a boon to Snowbelt driving confidence, and each automobiles share the identical engines — a 205-hp 4, a 215-hp hybrid and a 301-hp V-6. 

However the Camry weighs 340 kilos much less — primarily your in-laws using round with you all the time within the Avalon — so the Camry will get higher real-world gas financial system with the bottom 2.5-liter 4 than the Avalon (EPA rated at 25/34 mpg, 28 mpg realized). 

Our examined Avalon Restricted with AWD featured the bottom 2.5-liter 4 and a well-equipped sticker value of $45,479 (Avalon pricing begins at $36,970). In equally priced automobiles with base four-cylinder engines, most automakers at the moment use a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4 for larger torque, increased peak horsepower in addition to the elevated gas financial system promised by a smaller engine. These engines are refined, highly effective and environment friendly. 

The Avalon wants the V-6, or a turbo 2.0-liter like Toyota borrows from BMW for the Supra, not the two.5-liter that moans and groans beneath duress on this automobile. Efficiency is OK, in case you’re prepared to settle or be very affected person. The opposite options discovered on this sedan can’t outdo settling, not at this value level. 

Giant sedans have additionally forgone the entrance bench seat, eliminating the six-passenger area that households used to purchase full-size sedans for. Six occupant households now want three-row crossovers, minivans or full-size pickups to journey collectively. 

The Avalon has strong composure and experience consolation, a prolonged checklist of accoutrements and security gear, plus an enormous trunk that expands by way of the folding rear seats. But the low entry top, decrease top whereas driving and the final competence of its sibling the Camry must be elements in shrinking gross sales of each the Avalon and different large sedans as shoppers vote for crossovers with their wallets. 

As nice as Akio Toyoda is, he can’t change that many elements in patrons’ style.

Subsequent week: Ford F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff has been reviewing cars within the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for practically twenty years.

Tim Plouff