Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Review: Toyota Avalon, 2004-2012


2004 to 2012 Toyota Avalon

Vehicle Type

Luxury Sedan


The Toyota Avalon takes a place above the Camry in the Japanese automaker’s product lineup as a big, sophisticated luxury cruiser with a relatively simple goal: delivering an affordable taste of the motoring high-life to owners.

Owners on the internet tend to rave about the roominess, comfort, luxury and quality imparted by the Avalon driving experience.

Toyota packed the Avalon full of some of the market’s most sought-after features and luxury amenities. Updates and face-lifts were applied to keep the model fresh and competitive, with 2011 and newer models featuring revised exterior looks, improved feature content, and more premium interior design touches.

Driver support systems include traction control, advanced brake assist functionality, stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Seven airbags, including a front knee bag for the driver, and front side curtain airbags for both rows, are also standard. All Avalon units are front-wheel drive, preferred by many drivers for all-season stability.

In the used marketplace, the Avalon will offer up hardware like a CD-changer, JBL audio system, self-dimming rearview mirror, a sunroof, heated leather seats, in-cabin air filtration, navigation, Bluetooth and automatic climate control.

All last-generation Avalon models got Toyota’s 3.5L V6 under the hood, mated to an automatic transmission. Horsepower figures sit between 268 and 280 depending on the year in question, and transmissions got five or six gears. From 2008 and on, the Avalon’s six-speed unit helped boost performance and fuel economy.

What Owners Like

First and foremost, owners on the internet tend to rave about the roominess, comfort, luxury and quality imparted by the Avalon driving experience. Long-haul comfort, acceleration, and bang-for-the-buck are also highly rated. The up-level audio system is said to deliver a noteworthy listening experience, too.

What Owners Dislike

Numerous complaints surfaced in online Avalon owner circles about the navigation system, occasional clumsy or harsh gear shifting and bland cabin and body styling.

Here’s a look at some owner reviews.

The Test Drive

Avalon seems, largely, to have impressed its owner’s community with reliable and trouble-free operation, though a few checks of any used unit you’re considering should be considered mandatory.

Though relatively inconclusive, some owners report frustrating and hard-to-track electronic issues with some of Avalon’s interior electronics. As such, spend some time ensuring everything inside the car functions as expected. Extra attention is advised for the navigation system, climate controls, all cluster lights, and the audio system. Pair your Bluetooth phone, set a navigation destination, try all of the steering-wheel mounted controls and fiddle with the climate system for a few minutes, to be safe.

Shoppers should also pay attention to the used Avalon’s front end – noting any pulling, vibrating or shimmying through the steering wheel that could indicate an alignment issue, or a possible issue with a CV joint or wheel bearing. Note any abnormal tire wear that’s heavier on the inside or outside of the treads, which could indicate an alignment problem, too. Here’s some more reading.

Listen for popping or clunking noises from the front and rear of the vehicle as you travel over rough roads at a variety of speeds. Unwelcomed sounds could indicate a worn-out or damaged suspension component that will require some attention. Also, ensure the seller isn’t trying to sell you a worn-out set of tires or brakes. If you’re unfamiliar with inspecting these consumable components visually, ask your favourite mechanic for assistance as part of a pre-purchase inspection.

While driving, note transmission shift quality, ensuring the unit executes quick, clean, solid gear shifts that are free of flaring, surging, or slipping. Any questionable gearshift behavior is likely the result of a bad transmission control module, which can be reprogrammed as a fix. In extreme cases, the symptoms above can be a sign of damage within the transmission. If you’re unsure about how the transmission in the used Avalon you’re considering is behaving, have a Toyota mechanic take a look.

A well-documented issue deals with a potentially nasty oil leak caused by faulty oil lines on the 3.5L 2GR-FE engines used in the Avalon, and in particular, units manufactured before April of 2008. In numerous cases, this line fails and bursts, spraying hot engine oil all over the engine compartment. This causes a nasty smell, potential smoke, a giant mess, and potential engine damage or failure – which is a safety hazard. To be safe, check for signs of oil leakage on or around the engine, and ask your local Toyota dealer’s service department if the Avalon you’re considering might be affected by this issue, or any recall-related work to address it. This issue was eventually remedied with revised oil lines, though it’s unclear within the owner’s community exactly when.

Further, on higher-mileage units, note that poor or sporadic performance, possibly accompanied by jerky acceleration and a check-engine light, could be the result of a bad ignition coil, which fires the engines spark plugs. If one of the Avalon’s six coils (one per cylinder) is going, others will likely follow soon.

The Avalon is subject to several safety-related recalls, so if you’re  not buying at a Toyota dealership, be sure to contact one with the vehicle’s VIN number to see if any recall work is outstanding.

The Verdict

The majority of Avalon owners have enjoyed largely trouble-free operation and plenty of confident miles from their machines. If the used unit you’re considering exhibits none of the potential issues noted above after inspection by a trained mechanic, purchase confidently and expect a spacious, comfortable and laid-back driving experience well suited to long-haul travelers and busy families alike.