While Toyota may be struggling to damage control in the wake of its ongoing safety problems, the auto industry is nonetheless a business based around product, stressed the automaker’s Group Vice President Bob Carter, as he pulled the wraps off the newest version of the Japanese maker’s full-size sedan.
The 2011 Toyota Avalon is the first major entry since a series of safety issues enveloped Toyota, last month. And, significantly, the first point Toyota officials made about the sedan is that it will be equipped with an all-new throttle designed to prevent problems with sticky accelerator pedals.
Safety, in general, was a key part of the maker’s presentation, during the 2010 Chicago Auto Show media preview. Carter also noted the 2011 Avalon will be equipped with the newest version of Toyota’s new STAR safety system, which includes such features as traction and stability control. The sedan also boasts 7 airbags.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our vehicles and our customers,” declared Carter, who spent a fair part of the news conference trying to shore up the maker’s foundering quality and safety image.
But Toyota is hoping there’ll be a lot more to appeal to Toyota loyalists and converts to the brand, as well, starting with the design of the newest Avalon, a vehicle that critics have, with past generations, often derided as bland and even boring.
The 2011 Toyota sedan is far more stylish, with a bit more coupe-like shape. One of the more intriguing details is the use of neon red “lighting pipes” that frame the rear taillights. The ’11 Avalon now has a firmer command feel with standard 17-inch wheels and tires.
The interior, noted Carter, has also been completely redesigned. The instrument panel, in particular, is more elegant and the “sight lines,” subtly direct one’s eyes to the new center stack, which can be equipped with an optional, 660-watt JBL sound system. Even the base package features USB and iPod inputs, as well as XM Satellite Radio.
But this is a people-mover, foremost, so roominess remained a high priority for Toyota designers.
Designed by Toyota’s two U.S. styling centers, the 2011 Avalon was also engineered in the U.S., and will be built in the maker’s Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.
All 2011 Toyota Avalon sedans will be powered by a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6, which will be mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Toyota expects fuel economy of 20 mpg City, 29 Highway.
Look to see the first 2011 Toyota Avalons roll into U.S. dealer showrooms later this year. Toyota plans to release pricing just before the official sales launch.