Until recently, the Limousine Service Car Market was dominated by the Lincoln Town Car, which accounted for roughly 80 percent of livery sedan sales. With that car discontinued, livery fleets are looking for alternatives.
Interestingly, when I got a first look at the new 2013 Avalon last month and having owned several Avalons, it crossed my mind it could also be the replacement car for the Limo market. It turns out that my thoughts were on target. Toyota recently announced they are offering two livery models of the all-new 2013 Avalon to meet the needs of car service fleet operators. There are more than 12,000 livery operators nationwide with an average fleet size ranging from 12 to 18 vehicles. Sedan sales to these companies typically range between four and six thousand a year.
On average, livery operators keep their cars in service for about five years, driving between 40 and 50 thousand miles a year.
The new Avalon, with its mix of styling, comfort, performance, reliability, and fuel economy can offer a compelling sedan to livery operators. The new fleet-focused models will also mark the introduction of the first Avalon Hybrid that promises to help reduce livery operator’s fuel costs.
The two livery versions of the 2013 Avalon are a V6 gasoline model and the Avalon Hybrid.
The V6 version of the Avalon livery model starts with an XLE grade and adds rear HVAC, heated rear seats and deletes the heated front seats. The gasoline model relies on a 3.5-liter, DOHC, 268 horsepower V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission to help it achieve a combined EPA-rated fuel economy of 25 mpg (21 city/31 hwy). Other standard features include; 10 airbags, 8-speaker Display Audio system, Smart Key for the two front doors, leather seating surfaces, heated outside mirrors with turn signal, 17-inch alloy wheels and a black on black treatment for the exterior and interior. This livery vehicle package is available with a $31,360 MSRP.
The 2013 Avalon Hybrid utilizes a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle, four-cylinder engine with an electronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that houses electric motors powered by a Nickel-Metal hydride battery to produce a total system output of 200 horsepower. This efficient fleet model is EPA-rated at 40-MPG combined (40 city/ 39 hwy). The base Avalon Hybrid livery model adds rear HVAC, rear seat heater, and two-door smart key to the Hybrid XLE Premium grade.
Equipment deleted from this XLE Premium for the livery model includes three-door Smart Key, back-up camera, moon roof, heated front seats, and the inside mirror that includes a garage door opener. The Avalon Hybrid Livery model in XLE Premium grade is expected to start at $33,750.
AVALON SPACIOUS INTERIOR AND ROOMY BACKSEAT AREA
Even though Avalon’s restyled exterior is more compact, and every exterior dimension smaller, interior space and comfort including that large rear backseat and floor space don’t seem to have been compromised. Here are those backseat area dimensions: headroom (37.9 in); legroom (39.2 in); shoulder room (56.9 in)
Premium materials and craftsmanship are combined with the latest technology to create an upscale feeling. Extensive use of soft-touch materials helps enhance the interior’s feeling of quality and comfort.
AVALON UNDER THE HOOD
Avalon V-6 has a 3.5-liter, 90-degree, DOHC, engine with dual variable valve timing to optimize the intake and exhaust valve operation. It produces 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. Even though the axle ratio has been reduced to 3.23-to-1 from 3.54 on the outgoing model to improve fuel economy, Avalon can sprint from 0-to-60 mph in a little over six seconds,
Transmission response is enhanced with a torque converter that locks up early, even in second gear. The transmission can be shifted from D mode into S mode so shifts can be actuated with + or – movements of the lever. The Sport mode provides quicker upshift control and throttle blipping downshift control.
Three drive modes include Eco, Normal and Sport. The Eco Mode prioritizes fuel efficiency by reducing driving performance and air conditioning. Sport mode gives you a more direct steering feel and quicker throttle response. Avalon gets an EPA-rated 25 mpg combined (21 city/31 hwy). When equipped with the 18-inch wheels, the rating drops to 24 mpg combined.
HOW ABOUT BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE NEW AVALON
Ride and Drive quality has been enhanced. Up front, the Macpherson strut suspension has been tweaked for ride comfort. Unique, more rigid knuckles and lower control arms have been adopted for the 18-inch wheel applications to improve handling and steering feel. A dual-link rear suspension is used to maintain both ride quality and handling precision.
Avalon’s electric rack and pinion power assist responds to vehicle speed to create a lighter effort sensation at lower speeds and increased effort and on-center feel at higher speeds. Test-driving in hillside-country, Avalon’s steering, ride and handling delivers just the right feel for a variety of driving situations. Steering is quick and accurate with excellent on-center feel. Ride quality is best described as family sedan-pleasant, but handling is still fine enough to have some fun in the hills and around curves.
The 2013 Avalon unibody is designed to absorb and effectively dissipate frontal, side, and roof impacts to minimize cabin deformity. Avalon is equipped with 10 standard airbags to maximize occupant protection. Plus, an available Blind Spot Monitor uses radar to detect vehicles in the adjacent lane where drivers may not see them. The same radar technology has been adapted for a Rear Cross Traffic Alert that is designed to detect low-speed cross traffic behind the vehicle.
AVALON FUEL ECONOMY
Toyota expects fuel mileage should be a key advantage for Avalon. Based on current gas prices and driving 50,000 miles a year, the gas and hybrid livery editions could deliver substantial fuel cost savings. Those savings and fuel economy are available for every Avalon owner as well!