Large sedans are becoming an increasingly rare sighting in the automotive universe these days. GM, Ford and Cadillac have abandoned this segment or just about, and while the German prestige brands are still there, you’ll have to spend more than $100,000 to get one. Today we look at two full-size sedans that are still available at a realistic price.
2019 Toyota Avalon
Driving ecstasy is not the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to the large Avalon sedan. This quiet 4-door is known for its comfort and reliability, but dynamic driving never has been the focus here.
And yet, the model has made progress recently. It's no coincidence that the newest Avalon comes in the wake of the next-gen Camry launched in 2018. The two cars share a new platform that debuted with the Camry, and Toyota says it has transferred to the new Avalon the same nervier handling and the same chassis responsiveness as you get in the Camry.
The styling is more daring, which is a welcome step forward. If the extroverted styling works for Lexus (it certainly hasn't hurt that brand’s sales), the thinking goes, then maybe premium-car buyers who prefer the Toyota brand will go for it.
By this point it's news to no one that sales in this segment are plummeting, consumers having increasingly turned their attention to SUVs. In the spring of 2018, Ford officialized the change of eras, announcing its intention to axe all car models in its North American lineup (with the exception of the Mustang), leaving its showrooms filled with similar-looking SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks. Meanwhile, the Impala from Chevrolet as well as the XTS and CT6 from Cadillac have also departed this world, among others.
With the latest redesign, the Avalon gets a new 3.5L V6 engine developing 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, which represents an increase of 10 hp and 17 lb-ft. The upgraded engine is paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission, which provides not only more power but better fuel economy than the old 6-speed transmission.
Standard technology includes a 7.0-inch digital display, flanked by a pair of analog gauges, that displays vehicle information and displays navigation instructions. The Avalon can also be equipped with a 10-inch head-up display and comes standard with wireless phone charging and five USB ports.
The Toyota Safety Sense P active safety suite is also included standard. It incorporates a precollision system with pedestrian detection, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assistance, automatic high beam, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Audiophiles will love the 14-speaker, 1,200-watt JBL stereo system with surround sound that spreads the speakers around in the car's entire cabin, taking advantage of an already-quiet environment. The Avalon also features a new exhaust that amplifies engine noise in the Sport drive mode, plus it benefits from artificial sound enhancement via the audio system to provide a more-engaging driving experience.
On the road
The primary mandate of the Avalon has always been to offer a comfortable and smooth ride. Toyota might boast the increased sportiness of this new edition, but the car still doesn’t like to be shaken. The suspension is too lazy, just like the transmission. The perfect place for this car is a long stretch of highway at cruising speed.
2019 Volkswagen Arteon
This is the car formerly known as the Passat CC (it subsequently became simply the CC). Volkswagen brings it back in 2019 transformed into the Arteon, which plays the same role as the CC did in the family of Volkswagen cars, that of a flagship that offers a more attractive alternative to the dull Passat.
Volkswagen Canada has been open about its intentions with this car. The goal is to sell about a thousand units a year in Canada. This is roughly in the same ballpark as the Avalon, probably not by coincidence. The Toyota sedan sold 626 units in 2018 in Canada, by the way.
This is a niche vehicle, clearly, and for this reason Volkswagen has kept things simple. There will be just the one well-equipped version, with only two groups of options, a driver assistance package costing $2,095 and an R-Line version at $2,995.
Beyond the streamlined styling that’s reminiscent of the CC, the Arteon benefits from a wheelbase longer by five inches. It’s also wider and longer for extra space in the back. The R-Line Group changes the wheels from 18 inches to 20 inches and adds R-Line logos to the exterior.
The Arteon offers a single 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, figures very close to the Avalon. This power goes through an automatic 8-speed transmission and in Canada all Arteons have a 4-wheel drive configuration.
The only version on the market sells for $47,995 and comes with a pretty full set of standard equipment, for instance 3-zone climate control, 12-way heated power seats with Nappa leather surfaces and driver memory adjustment, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a massage function for the driver. A heated leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel is standard on all models.
Audi's 12.3-inch digital cockpit also comes standard, as is the 700-watt Dynaudio system with 13 channels and 12 speakers. The 8-inch touchscreen works like a tablet, by pinching. You have the navigation system, but an oversight, not Apple Carplay nor Android Auto, only the App-Connect that uses certain functions of these two systems.
On the road
The Arteon benefits from increased chassis stiffness, firmer suspensions and front and rear locking differentials. In addition to the personalizable drive modes, Volkswagen has also tightened the driving by installing a shorter steering wheel that takes a turn less from one end to the other than the Passat, resulting in a more dynamic feel on the road.
No, you're not driving a sports car, but on the road, the Arteon really does show the fruits of that more-rigid chassis. The 20-inch Continental tires bite down hard, and the Sport mode allows the engine to express itself more fully. For those who like Volkswagen products for their dynamism, this is, at least to some degree, what you get with the Arteon.
Advantage Toyota Avalon
For its impeccable reliability and its high resale value, it's hard to beat the Avalon. It should also be mentioned that the V6 and its 301 horses pushes with more oomph than the 4-cylinder turbo of the Arteon.
Advantage Volkswagen Arteon
In every other respect, the nod goes to the Arteon. According to the EPA's stats, the VW offers more interior space and a larger trunk. You also have all-wheel drive on the Arteon, and overall it delivers more-responsive handling, smoother braking and superior driving pleasure than the Avalon.
Volkswagen offers a 4-yr/80,000 km versus the 3-yr/unlimited warranty Toyota adds to its Avalon, but really there’s little difference between the two. Both also offer comparable active and passive security functions.
Those who tend to favour reliability at all costs will probably lean to the Avalon. Others, me for instance, will appreciate the more-modern interior environment and more dynamic conduct of the Arteon on the road.
2019 Toyota Avalon
We like less
Lack of support (seats)
2019 Volkswagen Arteon
We like less
No more V6
At this price you can have an Audi A4
|...||2019 Toyota Avalon||Volkswagen Arteon|
|Transmission||8-speed auto||8-speed auto|
|Fuel consumption (city)||10.9L/100 km||11.2L/100 km|
|Fuel consumption (highway)||7.6L/100 km||8.2L/100 km|
|Torque||301 hp||268 hp|
|Cylinders||267 lb-ft||258 lb-ft|
|Cargo space||456 l||770 l, 1,557 l (seats down)|
|Fuel tank||60 l||66 l|
|Length||4976 mm||4862 mm|
|Width||1850 mm||1871 mm|
|Height||1435 mm||1435 mm|
|Wheelbase||2870 mm||2841 mm|
|Warranty||3 yr/60,000 km||4 yr/80,000 km|
|Pricing||$42,790 to $47,790||$47,995|