Car Review: 2006 Toyota Avalon
August 29, 2009, 02:51 PM
I bought my '06 Limited new after coming to the startling realization (after test drives) that my 60-year-old self now values comfort, room and quiet over sport-sedan athletics. As long as one keeps in mind the obvious -- this is NOT a G35 or a 330 or even a TL -- it's a fine car and an outstanding long-legged cruiser with a strong engine and MPGs that border on the amazing. At 55k miles I have the following observations: strengths are its commodious, beautifully-appointed interior with a back seat worthy of a sheik and small harem; its velvet-smooth power train; its long legs (over 500 miles between interstate fillups) and excellent MPGs (up to 30 at interstate speeds, 22 - 25 around the 'burbs); and oustanding fit and finish. Lesser items: flaccid handling with numb, uninspired steering feel (and the Touring just added a hardher ride, in my view); a very user-hostile GPS, corrected in subsequent years, and truncated sat-radio/music readouts; and occasional abrupt downshifts at low speeds under load.
I know at least a few of these cars have had quality niggles; mine has not and it was zero-defects from delivery until now, as one expects from Toyota. If you're looking for a comfortable, luxurious "poor man's Lexus," this is da bomb. If you want a sports sedan, go elsewhere.
Car Review: 2004 Chevrolet Venture
August 29, 2009, 02:11 PM
I bought my '04 Venture in May 2008 @ 80k miles to use for wedding transportation and wound up keeping it. Despite the mediocre ratings this series gets from CReports and in crash tests, in the 15k miles I've stacked on it in one year I've been quite pleased with it. It's comfortable, very flexible with 8-pax seating options, quiet, and gets commendable gas mileage; I also tow a 3500lb boat with mine, albeit not for long distances. The powertrain seems solid.
Lesser points: it wallows a bit (needs shocks, I'm sure); the OBDII port is dead; the 12v power point is also dead (I wired in a new one); I get a wind whistle/shreik at hiway speeds in certain x-wind conditions (I see there's a TSB on this); and the pax-side power window is dead. But for what I paid (about $5500) it's a great value and its utility is hard to beat. (I run ours with all the center seats out and use that section as a "covered pickup bed.")