Every year or so my wife and I head over to Germany to visit a friend of ours that races in the ADAC GT Masters Series- the series right below DTM (it’s the equivalent to the Nationwide series over here in North America, only they drive on real tracks that don’t just turn left).
This gives me an excellent opportunity to drive vehicles we don’t get over here. I just love diesel engines with all that torque under my right foot so I always request a diesel-powered car whenever we go. This time I requested the Toyota Avensis. For those of you not familiar with the Avensis, it’s somewhat related to the Camry and what Toyota sells to the rest of the world.
Unlike a lot of journalists’ I actually like the Camry – it’s not a real head-turner, but it’s not exactly ugly and certainly not as blah as a Volkswagen Passat!
The Avensis Combi is similar to the Venza that Toyota is been selling a ton of in the past year. Obviously, European roads and tastes are different from ours, so the Avensis is perfect for the German Autobahn as well as the tight village roads. Oddly enough, in the 9 days of driving, I only spotted 3 or 4 other Avensis Combi’s in Germany and they were older models. In a sea of BMW, Mercedes and Audi’s, the Toyota stands out, and we got a few curious looks from people that obviously hadn’t seen one before.
In Europe the Combi or station wagon is not viewed in a negative way, in fact they are everywhere. Thanks to proper traffic laws, dogs must be either in a crate or in the back with a metal barrier between them and the passengers, preventing them from hitting the front windshield in the case of an accident. None of this driving around with FooFoo on your lap! That’s probably a large reason there are so many Combi vehicles on the road, as well as the obvious advantages that a wagon offers.
I like the look of the Avensis Combi and would certainly put it on my shopping list if I were to move to Germany. The slick-shifting 6-speed manual is typical of Toyota and is a treat to use. The power from the bottom end – typical diesel – just pulls the car effortlessly, even if you’re in the wrong gear and haven’t bothered to downshift. Driving for hours, and at times at speeds in excess of 180 km/h is quiet and relaxing, while at the same time feeling safe and secure when you have to apply the brakes to shave off all that speed when you hit a roadblock or construction.
Behind the wheel, everything that you need to reach from the driver’s seat is perfectly placed. The steering is perfectly weighted offering lots of feedback. At lower speeds its light, but at higher speeds it gets heavier – just what you need and want when traveling at Autobahn speeds.
Neither my wife nor I speak or read German, so a SatNav is essential when travelling in Germany. When we picked up the car, it had already been switched over to English for us, so that was very handy. Every manufacturer uses a different system when it comes to navigation units and the one in the Toyota was very good. It didn’t get us lost, but it was a little slow in giving directions – not enough lead time when making turns often meant doing several about-turns to get back on track. We went from our hotel to the Hockenheimring race track and it insisted on taking us through a village when there was a faster road around the outside of the village. We caught on to that pretty quickly and just ignored it at that point. It re-calculated quickly, but still wanted to take us through the village because the road was straighter. Sometimes it would be silent for ½ an hour and then out of the blue tell us about an upcoming traffic jam. At one point we were in a huge parking lot at Octoberfest and it told us to go the opposite way everyone else was going.. hmm what did it know that everyone else didn’t? Well it was another exit! Once we’d gotten past all the traffic we were out on to the streets of Stuttgart probably saving us an hour of sitting in traffic. Woo hoo!
Rear-seat entry was easy thanks to the large doors and abundance of room. The storage area has some type of adjustable system that I couldn’t figure out the purpose of, but it didn’t get in our way. I’m sure it’s useful, but I was stumped to its use.
Standards Features –
Key FOB with push-button start; Electrically adjustable rear-view mirrors, heated and folding on approach; Driver’s seat height adjustment, electrically adjustable lumbar support; Automatic door locking; Electronic Park/Release brake;
Fresh air filter; Cruise control; Dual-zone Automatic air conditioning; Heated seats (front); Leather steering wheel with tilt and telescope adjustments; Rear center armrest; 60:40 rear seat with split flat-floor function; Multimedia audio system “Toyota Touch” with rearview camera, 6.1” color display with touch screen function; CD player with MP3/WMA, AUX & USB input with iPod Control, 6 speakers, charging function for mobile devices via USB port, integrated steering wheel controls for the audio system and Bluetooth hands-free, traffic information (average speed, range, fuel consumption)
Safety Features –
Anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD); VSC + (electronic stability control) with TRC (Traction Control); Brake Assist (BA); Tail lights with LED technology and dynamic brake light; Flashing lights with LED technology integrated in exterior mirrors; Electronic immobilizer; Active Front head restraints.
The Toyota Avensis Combi was a treat to drive. It was extremely comfortable for long drives and I honestly can’t find one negative comment to tell you – and that’s very rare in any vehicle – I can always find SOMETHING to complain about! Too bad the stigma of station wagons is so negative in North America, otherwise we might actually have this on our roads. The diesel engine is by far a better option for people than hybrids and electric plug-ins – if only manufacturers would give them another shot here! I think the memories of the horrible oil-burners from the 1970’s has mostly been forgotten.
Looks, fit and finish
Great stereo & SatNav
Nothing comes to mind
By The Numbers…
For more information visit: http://www.toyota.de
Powertrain: 2.2 L, D-4D engine, 6-speed Manual Transmission; FWD
Horsepower: 110 kW / 150 hp @ 3,600 rpm
Torque lb-ft: 340 Nm / 251 @ 2,000 – 2,800 rpm
0-100 kph: 9.2 seconds
Top Speed: 210 km/h
Wheelbase: 2,700 mm
Curb Weight: 2,140 kg
Cargo Capacity: 509 litres
Towing capacity: 500 – 1,800 kg
City: 5.4 L/100 km // Highway: 4.5 L/100 km // Combined: 7.0 L/100 km
Pricing for the 2012 Toyota Avensis 2.2L Combi
Base Price: €29,300 (includes taxes/delivery etc)
Copyright © 2012 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published at: Flagworld.com