Normally, the cars I pick for Meh Car Monday were never originally designed to be meh, as such. Mehness just sort of happened to them. I’m not so sure about the Toyota Avalon, though, since the car seems to have as its main goal an almost funereal quality of nothingness, disguised as “comfort.” The Toyota Avalon isn’t so much a car as it is the automotive equivalent of dying, peacefully, in your sleep.
When I first revealed to my peers that I was considering the Avalon for Meh Car Monday, I met with some resistance. Mike Ballaban banged on the glass of my work-terrarium and told me, with some fury, that the Avalon is not meh, it’s wonderful, because “it’s one of the few cars left that’s supposed to be soft.”
Raph also joined in, pulling my blogging-restraints until they cut into my wrists, and reminding me that he’d penned several highly pro-Avalon screeds.
Here’s the thing, though: both of these clowns’ arguments just prove my point: Ballaban was praising the fact that the Avalon is designed for a body-numbing comfort, like what a septuagenarian with a morally-questionable past would crave, and the whole point of Raph’s story is that it’s fun to hoon a car that’s so boring it’s effectively invisible.
They’re both right about what they think of the Avalon, and both wrong if they think that doesn’t make it deeply and powerfully meh.
The Avalon is Toyota’s biggest front-wheel drive car, and is among Toyota’s most ‘premium’ cars. In that sense, it sort of overlaps with Lexus sedans, but it lacks Lexus’ more distinctive (or, really, any) styling touches. It’s more like an embiggened Camry, really, and equally impossible to be excited about, despite being somewhat larger.
Yes, it’s technically just fine, having a V6 throughout all its generations, giving power that’s always basically adequate, and being plenty reliable, as Toyota is known to be. As a machine, it’s fine, just fine. It moves people and some of their crap around, and does it with a good degree of comfort.
I’m not arguing any of that. I’m not even going to look up the specific specs on the car because I just can’t even make myself give a shit, because it just doesn’t matter.
The Avalon is a vehicle designed for people who are done with the physical world, who only just barely tolerate physical sensations of sensory input of any kind. All they want out of a car is to be able to be grudgingly shunted from one tedious location to another and being able to maintain as close to a comatose state during transit as possible.
The styling is forgettable and bland because Avalon owners resent the visual stimuli of cars that have any sort of identifiable ‘look.’ It’s offensive. Same goes for a car that makes car-sounds, or moves in a way that feels more intense than being gently rocked in a sarcophogus.
Look how Toyota advertised the first generation of Avalons:
This ad could be re-dubbed to advertise some sort of euthanasia drug, no problem. Listen to that tagline again:
“Experience the tranquility.”
That’s the motto of a company that makes sleeping pills.
They stuck with the sky/heaven/make-the-pain-of-existing-go-away theme for a number of ads:
Note what they talk about here: “peace of mind,” “lofty atmosphere,” “tranquility,” and it’s all spoken in a breathy, funeral-director’s low-pitched voice of studied, understanding sympathy.
Even the name—Avalon, a name you can really only say in a breathy, just-above-whisper tone—sounds like a retirement community or a startup company that can put you to sleep and harvest your organs and pay your family in Bitcoin for them.
Here’s a Taiwanese ad, that I’m pretty sure is the same thing:
Now that I’m writing all this, I’m wondering if, maybe, the Avalon is actually something more than meh. Perhaps the Avalon is so so meh it’s become like a spectre, an almost-always white Angel of Easy Comfortable Death that haunts our roadways, slinking by, quietly and unnoticed, until we’ve traded enough joy for comfort that it comes to take us, take us away to a smooth, bland place to recline in ease as we ride out the remainder of our lives.
The Toyota Avalon is not a car anyone can ever actually desire, because desire is anathema to what the Avalon is. You get an Avalon when all your automotive desire is gone, dripping oil and spewing steam by the side of the road, pushing your exhausted automotive soul to seek the cruel but welcome respite of a big, quiet Camry with plush seats.
Don’t go softly into that Avalon. Rage! Rage against the driving of the Avalon!