I’m a big fan of ripping burnouts in a Hellcat or carving canyons in a McLaren. But, when it comes to the vehicles I own, nothing quite soothes me like an old-fashioned luxury barge. Unfortunately, there’s only one left on the market. Fortunately, it’s very good.
As I see it, I’ve already owned the two best luxury barges to ever exist. The Lincoln Town Car and the Lexus LS400 are as good as it gets. And while they both have modern counterparts—the Lincoln Continental and Lexus LS500, respectively—neither provide the same simplicity that you want from an old-school luxury cruiser.
Take, for instance, the Continental. It offers “perfect position” 30-way power seats. Gee willikers, that’s neat-o, but that also ensures that they will never be as perfectly positioned as they could be. You’d spend your lifetime fiddling with them and still not have the right balance of left thigh extension to third lumbar bladder inflation. That’s not very luxurious.
And the Lexus LS500 is delightful, but it’s a luxury car of the German persuasion that just happens to have Japanese quality. It’s got all kinds of warnings about cross-traffic and a head-up display and a three-acre screen with a tricky touchpad and a sport mode for the suspension. True luxury barges like the LS400 and Town Car have only one setting for their suspension: just right.
And that’s not to say that the LS500 is a departure from the LS lineage; on the contrary, the LS has always tried to match the features of its competitors and offer cutting-edge technology. It just so happens that cutting-edge luxury from 1993 feels like simple luxury in 2019. If you want old-school luxury, you should never look to the current LS.
So, if it’s looking hopeless, you might want to turn to Buick or Chrysler for their big sedans. But fundamental to the luxury experience is a feeling of solidity and quality that will last generations. Not having to worry about your car is the ultimate luxury. And try as they might, neither the LaCrosse—which is heading for the graveyard anyway—nor the Chrysler 300—which will somehow never die—offer that sense of longevity.
The Toyota Avalon, though, reeks of indestructibility. Much like the Town Cars that preceded it, it’s not uncommon to catch an Avalon in livery service with 200,000 or 300,000 miles running like it hasn’t been systematically abused and perpetually starved of oil.
And despite an all-new interior design, the Avalon is still delightfully simple. Everything is at your fingertips, clearly making its purpose known. Want to access your map? The huge button with MAP printed above it is surely your best bet.
Back seat room, as required, is measured in square miles. You can easily put one 6-footer behind another without complaints, with everyone cradled in soft leather. The seats are just right, you know, without all the gizmos that complicate the Conti’s thrones.
Cargo space bests the Lexus while falling short of the gargantuan Town Car’s oddly shaped storage area, but let’s say its more than capable of road trips or airport runs.
Most importantly, the Avalon feels like an old-school luxury car. Everything is quiet, the powertrain is capable of robust forward motion but uninterested in foolish antics, the ride is sublime and handling is a class-leading “fine.”
Everything about the Avalon is easy, simple and relaxing. The heated seats are fantastic, the sound system certifiably bops and everything works exactly how you’d expect it to. You even have CarPlay, which means that in 20 years when the iPhone 19rSE is out your infotainment should still be running without a problem.
The Avalon is neither the most exciting nor the most feature-forward car on sale, but it’s hard to imagine any modern ride that does a better job of getting you from A to B in total serenity. At $35,800 to start, it’s also probably the most luxury per dollar you can get anywhere on the market.