The good gets better. All-new for 2019, the fifth-generation Toyota Avalon, riding on the brand's new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, is longer, lower, wider, and more powerful than the outgoing model. The rear cabin was extended back 7 inches, while body height, cowl height, and rear deck height are lower by 1.0, 1.2, and 0.8 inches, respectively. In addition, new stamping methods allow for more sculpted body panels.

Handsome styling. The 2019 Avalon receives fresh sheetmetal all-around. Along its flanks, the elegant look is punctuated by prominent upper and lower character lines, and sharp creases around the wheel wells. In back, a narrow light bar connects the progressive taillights, while touring models feature a narrow deck lid spoiler and an aggressive lower fascia bracketed by two pair of chrome-tipped exhaust finishers.

The interior is equally inspiring and library-quiet over rough and uneven pavement as well as at freeway speeds. Contrasting colors highlight a mix of upscale materials, while all lines lead to the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay-compatible 9-inch, pedestal-mounted, infotainment touchscreen that dominates the middle of the dash.

The only misstep is the mesh grille on XSE and Touring models. Overpowering the delicate narrow LED headlight enclosures, it's also too wide and too low for our tastes.

Toyota Avalon

Wide ranging safety. Standard advanced active safety features on every Avalon include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic headlights with high-beam assist – many of which are either optional or available only on certain trim levels of rivals like the Nissan Maxima, Kia Cadenza, Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse, and Chrysler 300.

Engine and suspension tweaks. Under the hood, the 3.5-liter V6 engine gets a boost in horsepower from 268 to 301 for even stronger acceleration and more confidant highway passing. Touring models are equipped with Toyota's first adaptive variable suspension that adjusts the damping and shock stiffness for a predictably smooth Normal mode and dramatically heavier steering, quicker throttle response, more rapid gear changes in higher revs, and a stiffer ride in Sport+ mode – challenging the sportier offerings from Nissan and Chrysler.

Despite the stab at performance, the Avalon works best as a sedate highway cruiser. The piped-in noises don't satisfy like a true V8, while the sport-tuned exhaust hollers but doesn't scream. It also lacks the all-wheel-drive capability of the Subaru Legacy and certain Chrysler 300 models.

Good fuel economy. Fuel economy is above average for the class, showing an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 combined in base configuration. These figures drop to 22/31/25 mpg (city/highway/combined) on all but the base XLE trim.

Final thoughts. The 2019 Toyota Avalon manages to retain what we liked about the previous model – a supple ride and spacious interior – while upping the ante with more horsepower, slicker styling, and more rear seat room.

At the same time, the overwrought grill on some models spoils the overall design, while some of the sportier features appear forced on what's otherwise a sedate highway cruiser.

In terms of the competition, the Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, and Kia Cadenza offer more interior space, both the 300 and Nissan Maxima offer better-handling trims, while the Chrysler can be had with a muscular 5.7-liter V8 engine.

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