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Interior view shows the 2019 Avalon hybrid sedan. (Toyota sedan)

2018 NAIAS: New Toyota Avalon gains advanced suspension, lighting systems

An adaptive variable suspension that improves ride and handling, and a dynamic headlamp system that illuminates the surroundings on curved roadways represent brand-first technologies debuting on the all-new 2019 Avalon, Toyota’s flagship sedan.

“The fifth-generation Avalon introduces meaningful, fundamental technologies to the Toyota brand,” the midsize sedan’s Chief Engineer, Randy Stephens, said in an interview with Automotive Engineering prior to the car’s world debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

U.S.-based design, engineering, product planning, and manufacturing teams drove the development of the new-gen Avalon. “This marked the first time that a concept plan was written in the U.S. for a full model change,” Stephens said, referencing work by Mark DeJongh, Avalon’s Executive Program Manager.

The re-engineered midsize premium sedan, on a 113-in (2870-mm wheelbase) is lower, longer, and wider than its predecessor. Overall height drops by 1 in (25.4 mm) as the vehicle moves to Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA), a modular unibody platform that debuted on the 2018 Toyota Camry. 

Reducing cowl height by 1.2 in (30.5 mm), rear deck height by 0.8 in (20.3 mm), front overhang by 0.4 in (10.1 mm), and rear overhang by 1 in (25.4 mm) contributes to an aerodynamically slicker 0.27 Cd versus the outgoing car’s 0.28 Cd.

Avalon’s development work unfolded with a core team of 20 Toyota Motor North America Research and Development (TMNA R&D) engineers temporarily stationed in Japan.

“Our U.S.-based teams were involved in every aspect of the car and its powertrain,” noted Stephens. Their engineering responsibilities ranged from the radiator, the intake system, engine calibrations, and transmission to underbody, chassis, electronics, and multimedia, he explained. After initial concept confirmation, the team returned to TMNA R&D in Saline, Michigan, to complete the vehicle development.

Avalon’s new engine is a 3.5-L (2GR-FKS) V6. Horsepower and torque ratings will be released at a later date. The former 3.5-L V6 (2GR-FE) produced 268 hp (200 kW) at 6200 rpm and 248 lb·ft (336 N·m) at 4700 rpm. The new V6 mates to a newly developed Toyota-Aisin 8-speed direct shift automatic transaxle (UA80E), replacing a 6-speed ECT-i automatic (U660E).

Avalon Hybrid will be powered by a 2.5-L Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder mated with a 650-V e-motor (A25A-FXS) and a continuously variable transmission.

The automaker’s U.S.-based electronic controls team created a Toyota-first application via the optional Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). “In the past, our U.S.-based suspension team had responsibility for the conventional suspension, including the shocks and springs,” said Stephens. Their up-front involvement on the AVS elicited a wide-range of system-tuning characteristics.

“We achieved the car’s performance targets--including how fast the suspension reacts, the level of flatness, the yaw response, and the steering feel--without a compromise to either ride comfort or handling,” Stephens said. The AVS system’s continuously variable damping force provides a maximum of 650 steps with each solenoid force change occurring in 20 ms.

Avalon Limited and Touring models mark the first Toyota applications of the Adaptive LED Cornering Lamp and the sequentially illuminating Dynamic Auxiliary Turn Signal. The adaptive LED enhances the driver’s view around corners, curves and during lane changes at night, while the sequentially-illuminating turn signal enhances visibility to other motorists.

“We planned for each specific lighting function at the start of styling and that approach resulted in this advanced all-LED projector headlight system’s slim package,” Stephens said, noting Toyota’s work with its supplier-partner, Valeo.

Toyota’s flagship sedan is the first in its segment to offer smart watch connectivity. This lets the driver locate the vehicle, lock/unlock vehicle doors, and start the engine via smart wristwatch finger swipes or voice commands.

Avalon Limited and Touring models include a standard 10-in (254 mm) head-up display to project vehicle speed, turn-by-turn navigation, audio settings, and other information on the windshield. It’s the largest HUD in its segment, the engineers claim. Other driver information centers are the 7-in (177.8 mm) multi-information display in the gauge cluster and a 9-in (228.6 mm) capacitive touchscreen in the center stack. The 2019 Avalon thoughtfully reverts to mechanical knobs and buttons for the driver to control audio, climate and other functions; the outgoing model had only capacitive controls.

Four trims are offered for the V6: XLE, Limited, the all-new performance-oriented XSE, and Touring. With several technologies bundled together (AVS--on Touring model only; Intake Sound Generator, exhaust baffle tuning, Active Noise Control, and Engine Sound Enhancement), the Avalon XSE and Touring have a full-rpm-range sporty exhaust tone.

“We’re not trying to sound like a V8 or a V12," Stephens explained. "But with the Sport+ drive mode engaged and the accelerator pedal down--even in the mid-level rpm range--you’re going to hear a throaty engine sound without a boomy undertone.”

The 2019 Avalon will be assembled at Toyota's Kentucky plant and goes on sale in spring 2018 in North America and global markets.

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