avalonEver bought a new car, only to realize that you missed some big thing that now makes you hate the car? Me neither, until now.

The problem on my Avalon? The ‘stylish’ armrest has leather halfway, which gives way to chrome. The leather has a hard plastic end piece underneath the end, and that pointy thing, in addition to the leather stitching and change in elevation, is right where I lean my leg against the door as I drive.

What? You say you don’t do that? Bully on you, but I suspect many people do this. Why? First, my car is one year used, and has a nice wear on that part of the leather. Plus, keeping my legs straight is NOT that comfortable, and also, this natural position supplies your knee as a platform to rest your arm on while you steer one-handed.

Anyway, I got the car because it was quiet, powerful, and looks great. But I did not realize how much ongoing pain a sharp object poking into my leg would cause. For now, I have to live with the car until I build up my credit a little over the next few years. But in order to move on and just SUFFER for 3 hours a day during my commute, I need to get my complaints off my chest. Enjoy.

1. The Armrest from Hell

armrestFunny story – when I tried to return the car on Day 4, I was, of course, already past the 3 day limit in California. But my finance guy at the dealership did commiserate with me, telling me that he has the same problem with his Mercedes! He just learned over time to move his leg.

ARGH! Not surprisingly, while test driving cars, I eliminated a lot of them because of this very problem, including the Prius, which I wanted to like. I think I missed it in this car because I was so impressed with how quiet it was. Sigh. Lesson learned.

BTW, did I also mention that the center console is also hard and a little pointy, and hurts my OTHER leg which rests against it while driving? I’m trapped in a torture device.

2. Blinding Chrome Trim

chrometrimThe chrome trim around the dash looks great. Until you are driving and the sun shines into the car. Because of the many angles of the trim, the sun can always catch the trim and reflect right into your eyes. All the time.

I am looking into getting replacement trim, like a matte black or something. We’ll see how much that will cost me. Ugh.

In addition, the wood veneer above the glove box is high gloss, and does its own share of glaring at me at certain times of day. Lovely.

3. Sun Glare on the Main Display

The speedometer has a nice outcrop above it to shield it from the sun, and the dials themselves are sunk back, so there is rarely a glare on them. The display on the center console has no such forethought. When the sun is high in the sky and shines down on the center console, the display is unreadable.

4. Small Buttons on the Main Display

goldstarToday, I had a rental car, the Fiat 500L. Yes, it’s small, but I think that smaller cars have had to work harder at design, and so they have made a lot of cool innovations. One of those is that the touch display is simple, and items like text, graphs, and buttons, are large and easy to understand.

Not so on the Avalon. The display might as well be a Goldstar monochrome monitor from the 80’s, with uninspiring buttons that are often placed so close the edge that your finger has trouble touching them.

5. Center Console Controls Out of Reach

One thing I liked about the competing Hyundai Genesis is that the center console is tilted towards the driver. This makes the car more driver-centered, and keeps everything within easy reach. Not so the Avalon. Look at the  pic above and see that, for example, the tuning knob is pretty far away, not to mention the other controls beyond it. Looks nice, but functionally, dumb.

6. Poor Controls on the Wheel

steeringThere are so many things wrong with the steering wheel controls, it’s hard to know where to start. Oh wait, I know. Why, Toyota, did you put the cruise control on it’s own stick behind the wheel instead of ON the wheel (see it sticking out behind the wheel, bottom right of picture)?

No wait, I have another. Why is the ‘display’ button on the RIGHT side, yet controls the display in FRONT of me, while the ‘mode’ button on the left controls the stereo to the RIGHT?

7. Poorly thought out speedometer display

I’m OK with the uninspiring analog speedometer and tach dials, but the tiny display inbetween them is pedestrian at best. First, you can only cycle forward through the four options, not backwards.

And the two things I want to see most are NOT on the same screen, so I have click through to see one or the other. What are those two things? Current gas mileage, and average. Instead of putting them together, they put a digital version of your speed with each. As if you can’t see that on the analog dial. And doesn’t mpg track closer to the tach anyway?

One more thing. It has an ‘economy’ indicator which is some strange green globe that changes as you work the gas pedal. Except, it’s hard to see the change, much less what it means.

8. Analog Seat Heater Controls

seatheaterThis is a small beef, but the push in dials seem strangely anachronistic in an otherwise digital space. Analog seems fine for the speedometer and tachometer, but these weird dials seem like an afterthought.

In addition, why not put them on the side of the seat with the other seat controls? My Chrysler LHS did that and it worked fine with OFF/MED/HIGH, not an entire useless range. But this is small, and it may be helpful to be able to exactly dial in the heat level. Maybe.

9. No bottle holders in door, front or back

I guess they figured two drink holders in front were enough. I do like the drink holders, they are sufficiently deep, and when in use, don’t block any of the center console like in some annoying designs (see Item 9 in my previous rant on cars in general in Pet Peeves: Automobiles.) But one great modern innovation is the bottle holder in the door compartment.

Not in the Avalon. It would have been really helpful, too, to have them in the back, since when you have three people (in my case, kids) in the back, the only place to put cups is in the center armrest, which is UP if you are carrying three in the back. So therefore, NO cupholders available. Blech.

10. Too Little Airflow to Back

rearOn hot days, my black interior gets hot. I am willing to pay the price because the A/C brings down the temp fast – unless you are seated in the back.

Why do car makers keep limiting rear airflow to just the back of the center armrest? Two little vents? Take a cue from my minivan, and beef up the rear seat vents.

CONCLUSION

I have to keep this car at least for a couple years in order to not lose money on it. Plus, I got a great loan interest rate, which I don’t want to lose until my credit score breaks 700 again. Maybe I’ll give the car to my wife when her Odyssey (200K+ miles) croaks. Then I can choose another car. Maybe I’ll just go for the noisy but comfortable and economical Civic next time. Sigh.