The 2013 Avalon is new & improved. But has Toyota taken a wrong turn?
By David Menzies for MSN Autos
One of my favourite catchphrases uttered by that philosopher king Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is, “Know your role...” (it’s up to you if you want to add the epilogue, “...and shut your mouth.”)
Granted this pithy prose doesn’t quite rank up there with the Shakespearean soliloquy that kicks off with, “To be or not to be...” But still, The Rock’s quotation makes for superb marketing advice.
Indeed, in the consumer products business – including automotive – one needs to know their role (or as the case may be, market.) Put another way, no sense attending Sausage Fest if you plan on peddling vegan treats.
Which brings us to the all-new 2013 Toyota Avalon. Kind of like the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot in 2009, the Avalon has been “re-imagined.” Which is to say, esthetically, the new model is elegant and looks far more distinctive (both inside and out) compared to the previous generation Avalon.
Drive-wise, it is indeed sportier, faster, and the handling doesn’t give the driver the sensation that his arse is perched atop a bowl of Jell-O.
The P.R. bumpf from Toyota hails the Avalon as a “Flagship reborn.” And while Toyota’s new slogan is “Let’s go places”, I wonder if Toyota has perhaps made a wrong turn with its new-and-improved Avalon?
Case in point: the average age of an Avalon buyer is 68. Since that is the average age, that means there are significant numbers of Avalon drivers in their 70s and 80s. Do you really think these motorists are hankering for the new Avalon’s whiz-bang paddle shifters?
I would argue that this was the very rationale for Toyota launching the original Avalon in the first place: Toyota recognized there’s a marketplace for an old school quasi-land yacht that provides a float-on-the-road handling sensation. Surely the unofficial mission statement was, “Let’s give Toyota buyers a Buick Classic.” Thus, in this regard, the Avalon from Day One was aimed specifically at the senior citizen demographic.
For what it’s worth, I deplore those rides that insulate the driver from the road; give me that cherished tactile sensation that comes from driving, say, a Porsche Boxster any day. But the fact is, some consumers – typically older drivers – very much covet the sort of ride-feel one derives from a Buick Century.
Bottom line: I “get it” that Toyota is in a bit of a dilemma when making a car that is skewed to such an advanced demographic – i.e., those consumers are quite literally dying off. Even so, while Toyota hails the 2013 Avalon as a “game changer” I can’t help but wonder aloud: what if most Avalon buyers were happy with the old game?
Only time – and sales results – will provide the answer.