2008 Toyota Avalon XLS

Tuned to isolate you from the road

The strut-type suspension on all four corners of the Avalon is clearly engineered for comfort rather than performance. Mated to a rigid chassis, the car excels at damping out road irregularities of any size. Rolling down smoother roads at highway speeds, the car glides with a refinement that only rarely feels slightly too springy. Our car was optioned with stability control, traction control, and brake assist for $650, but 2009 models will come with stability control as standard.

Softer than an acoustic Coldplay set

Navigating the Michigan back roads between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, it's clear that the Avalon is the softest sedan in our comparison. The Toyota floats over straights and heels through high-speed turns. The Bridgestone Turanza tires begin screaming long before the other cars start to lose grip, and the featherweight steering makes it difficult to place the car precisely when snaking through curves.

Despite its performance shortcomings and the absence of fun-to-drive traits, the Avalon is a very good car. It's a large cruiser in the classic American style that delivers the comfort, quality, power, and subdued luxury that its buyers expect. The characteristics that make it so soft - the cushy suspension and low-effort steering - create a cabin that isolates the driver from the potholes, noise, and the general cacophony of a crowded highway. It's a package that would make commuting to a stressful job or tackling a long road trip very relaxed.

A fine car for comfortable cruising

The Avalon doesn't belong on an enthusiast's shopping list; the car ardently fights back when driven hard. But for those who want to arrive at point B in comfort, the Avalon's relaxed demeanor makes it great for surviving the suburbs and rush-hour freeways. At a price of $35,013 for our well-equipped test car, the Avalon also makes a great, affordable alternative to a Lexus, Infiniti, or Volvo.

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