The second-generation Avalon is a car so competent that it won over a die-hard car and motorcycle enthusiast. I purchased the car with low miles from my father, who was dying of cancer and no longer was able to drive. My car at the time was a 1995.5 Audi S6 (review soon to come) that was a great all-around performance sedan, but at 100,000+ miles and almost ten years old was starting to become expensive to maintain. I started driving the Avalon and sold the Audi reluctantly, but over time came to appreciate the Avalon's qualities as a highly competent daily driver. It is extremely quiet, rides very smoothly, and has excellent space for five passengers and a huge trunk. It gets 24 MPG in my traffic-congested commute, and 33+ MPG on long highway trips. Moreover, it is utterly reliable, and so well laid out under the hood that routine maintenance is a snap. It is a car with a target buyer far older than me (36 years old), so it is as stodgy as they come, but it is also designed for buyers who expect a well designed, high quality car and know one when they see one.
I gave the car middling marks for performance, but those marks are probably unfair. The car is intended to be a comfortable family car, not a sporty car, and its performance is quite competent overall. The engine has good power, not neck-snapping, but capable of handling any traffic conditions, and the transmission shifts very smoothly. The car has a lot of body roll in cornering and nose dive on braking, but actually sticks well when cornering and stops short. The only real flaw that I have found is that its snow traction is surprisingly bad for a front-wheel drive car. I might be spoiled after driving a Quattro-equipped Audi for years, but the Avalon seems to lose traction and spin its wheels far too easily - the traction control engages constantly in snow and frequently in rain. I suspected that the OEM tires were the problem, but it has been just as bad after I replaced them with Kumhos that had good snow traction ratings from Tirerack.
The car has so far been flawless for the first 50,000 miles, and I anticipate many more trouble-free years of driving with proper maintenance. (I maintain vehicles by the book or better, using synthetic oil.) The only concern that I have is that the body structure seems a bit loose already, but it may just be a bit more flexible by design than the Audi, which was structurally very stiff. I am occasionally tempted to get a more exciting car, but I have decided that I will keep this one regardless, as my daily driver. With the Avalon eating up the commuting miles at low cost, it might be feasible to get the 87-89 911 Carrera that I have always wanted, as a weekend-only car. :)