More stories related to 2005 NAIAS The third-generation Avalon is all-American and all-flagship, Toyota Motor Corp. officials say.

The Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, MI, did the engineering. Styling came from Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, CA, and production began this month at the Georgetown, KY, plant.

The result is a flagship that is longer, taller and wider, with a clean, classy interior and all-new powertrain to address complaints of bland styling and a desire for a flagship with a bit more presence.

For ’05, Toyota further differentiates the Avalon from the popular Camry. Officials say they have created a true Toyota flagship sedan for those who don’t want to make the jump to a luxury nameplate.

’05 Toyota Avalon

Toyota hopes to sell 85,000 units annually. That is ambitious, given the auto maker sold 36,460 Avalons in the U.S. in 2004.

But for ’05, the number of available models increases to four from two, when it goes on sale next month.

Because the Avalon shares an assembly line with Camry production, and Camry also is built on a second line with the Solara, Toyota can alter the mix according to demand.

TTC was responsible for all aspects of the vehicle, including the lower half of the vehicle (powertrain and drivetrain) – areas traditionally engineered in Japan, says Randy Stephens, TTC executive engineer and program manager for development and operations.

The new sedan went from final styling approval to production in 18 months, the quickest development time to date for a North American-produced Toyota.

A new engine bay was needed to accommodate the new-generation 3.5L V-6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission.

The new high-output DOHC V-6 generates 280 hp at 6,200 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) of torque at 4,700 rpm with aluminum block and heads and a new short-stroke, high-rev design. The dual variable valve timing with intelligence on the intake and exhaust cams is a Toyota first (other models have only single), helping to boost output 33% over the previous generation.

This 24-valve engine was developed specifically for the Avalon but will migrate to future models, Stephens says.

The passenger compartment is new to accommodate a flat-floor design and longer wheelbase. The 111-in. (282-cm) wheelbase is 3.9 ins. (10 cm) longer than the outgoing Avalon. A wider vehicle allows for 3-across seating in the back and the flat floor makes it more comfortable for the middle-seat passenger. The rear seats also recline slightly.

The new rear section allows for Toyota’s first dual-exhaust system and extensive rear crumple zone redesign.

Other features include dynamic laser adaptive cruise control, the first knee airbag for a Toyota nameplate and a pelvic-protection airbag.

The 4-model lineup is expected to compete against fullsize and premium midsize sedans.

The XL, or base model, should garner 14% of sales and the XLS will continue as the volume leader at 45% of the mix.

New for ’05 is a sportier performance-tuned Touring model, between the XL and XLS, slated to take 12% of sales. The rest are expected to opt for the new, top-of-the-line Avalon Limited.

The buyer profile is 68% married, 57% college educated and 23% with children. The median age is just shy of 60.

Don Esmond, senior vice president and general manager-Toyota Div., Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc., says the auto maker is content with the mature age, as its Scion brand is taking care of coveted younger buyers.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com