My first Toyota and what a great choice it was!
What's most intriguing about this car, even upon one's first sight of it, are its remarkable feats of industrial design. It has great interior space that is actually used intelligently, and which conveys to its occupants an even greater *sense* of spaciousness... one will not likely feel claustrophobic in this car! What makes these achievements SO remarkable is the realization that the actual exterior dimensions are only *slightly* greater than that of the Camry, "next one down" in the Toyota lineup!
"Fit and finish" is nearly perfect, and the interior cabin is remarkably quiet... not only is road noise virtually nonexistent with the windows up, but my 8 year old son tried screaming to me from inside the car (deliberately, as a test) and I couldn't really hear him from about 20 feet away!
Extremely quite interior cabin with an unexpectedly spritely yet incredibly quiet and smooth running 6 cylinder engine. The engine is also notable for its liquid - filled mounts, computer - controlled variable valve timing (which helps it to perform admirably with "regular" gas, although premium can improve performance even more so), and other surprising technical advances. The standard 4 speed automatic transmission (with overdrive that could be turned off when need be) performs flawlessly. The 4 wheel ABS disk braking is very smooth, as is acceleration.
Although the Avalon was (at least originally) designed to compete against the Buicks, its suspension is not nearly as "soft" (read "boat - like"). In fact, although one feels a bit of sway it is a highly *controlled* sway, with my concluding that the suspension overall is actually quite tight. Between that and the excellent steering system, one gets a fairly good "feel" for the road without the abrupt jostling that overly tight suspensions tend to provide.
Seating comfort is very good and spacious in both front and rear - a rarity these days even in many "luxury" cars. Lumbar support is good, as is head room; shoulder, hip and leg room are genuinely excellent all around.
360 degree visibility is excellent, including the two remote side mirrors and rear-view mirror. For me, visibility of the dash gauges is excellent, but like all cars this depends on your own height, body proportions, and preferred distance from the dash. Accessibility of all dash controls, including the standard cruise control and standard AM/FM-cassette-CD player "all-in-one" unit (!) is very good to excellent. The digital odometer/dual tripometer, outside temperature reading, and clock displays are easy to see and read - even from the rear seats - without being the least bit distracting. The standard 6 - speaker sound system is very good.
Interior lighting, storage compartments (including a very large glove compartment), and cup holders are all excellent (the small storage bin above the rear-view mirror is just right for holding sunglasses, and the center console's bin is just right for accommodating some CDs or tapes). The secondary 12 volt power supply outlet in that center console's bin is both convenient and safely designed. The standard manual front seat positioning is so good that most people would probably find the optional power seats (with position memory) to be nice but not necessary. All interior electronics (including the dealer-installed power moonroof on my car) work flawlessly. Interior "fit and finish" (of molding, hardware, etc.) is excellent. The overall "look" of the interior is one of functionality and understated (yet very real) style - I'd call it mild blandness.
Exterior fit and finish is just as excellent as is the interior's, although the rear trunk's lid has an unexpectedly tinny feel to it. The front grille, although pleasant to look at, is plastic. Exterior lights are large and bright - impossible for another car's driver (or pedestrian) to miss. The paint job appears to be excellent, with absolutely no observable blemishes or waviness to it. The car's underside and wheel wells are zinc and black coated (standard, to decrease road noise and potential for rust-through over the years).
The engine compartment is spacious, incredibly well designed and laid out, notable for its tubing and wiring that is minimal and as well organized as an electronic circuit schematic. All fluid wells are easily reached and made of translucent or clear plastic. The rear trunk is very large yet designed to make it fairly easy to get items in and out of it; it even has a convenient open storage well in it to prevent those emergency bottles of oil, brake or windshield fluids, etc. from toppling over in abrupt stops.
So far, gas mileage appears to be fairly good for a 24 valve 6 cylinder engine (seems to be running more towards the higher end of the EPA estimates for me; many people have reported up to 34 mpg).
All in all, it's a good looking and great performing medium to large sedan that's most remarkable for its excellent fit and finish, truly ingenious use of space, and relatively high cost.