2008 Toyota Avalon XLS

Simple luxury and comfort

Our XLS test car was one trim level below the range-topping Limited, but was still well equipped. Leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, a power driver's seat, a six-disc CD changer, and an auxiliary audio input are all standard. Options on our car included power passenger seat, XM satellite radio, JBL 12-speaker audio system, and heated front seats.

The ivory interior is airy and spacious, with a dash that slopes away from the occupants. Climate controls saddle both sides of the plastic door that hides the radio interface, but steering wheel buttons allow the driver to command both the audio and HVAC systems. The seats are wide and comfortable and rear-seat space is excellent, even inviting, for two adults.

Smooth, and economical

The Avalon is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 268 hp and 248 lb-ft or torque. Power is routed to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, which replaces last year's five-speed. Shifts are slow, but very smooth. Mashing the gas pedal returns a satisfying and consistent acceleration throughout the entire rev range. The Avalon achieves the best fuel economy in our group, returning 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

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