REVIEW DATE: 04 May 2007
We've Become Accustomed To Some Excellent 2.0-Litre D4-D Diesel Engines In The Avensis But With The 2.2-litre D-4D Units, Toyota Have Unleashed Something Even Better. Andy Enright Reports On The D-4D 150 Version.
What a difference 200 cubic centimetres makes. We've become quite accustomed to Toyota's excellent 2.0-litre D-4D diesel engine, but endowing each of its four cylinders with another 50cc of capacity has changed the very nature of the car. Whereas before the D-4D was bought by those sporting their sensible shoes with pride, it has now metamorphosed into an engine that serves up a healthy dose of fun on the side.
The 2.2-litre D-4D unit we're looking at here comes sporting a hefty 148bhp but Toyota's engineers have also developed a 175bhp T180 'Clean Power' version with a whole host of technological innovations. Both engines are produced by Toyota Motor Industries Poland, are Euro IV-compliant and are ushered in alongside upgrades to suspension settings and an improved refinement package, making the car a far more agile handler. A six-speed manual gearbox also makes its debut.
The main focus for volume sales is the 148bhp engine we check out here, priced from £19,045 for saloon or hatch, or £1,000 more if you want the Tourer estate. With a combined fuel economy figure of 47.1 mpg and emissions of 157g/km, it's certainly affordable to run, the combined fuel economy figure being only 4mpg lower than that of the 130bhp 2.0-litre D-4D car. Performance is in significantly better however, the larger-capacity car slashing nearly one and half seconds from the sprint to 60mph, registering a brisk 9.1 second performance over the yardstick dash. A top speed of 130mph means that normal motorway cruising speeds should be both relaxed and fuel-efficient. The all-aluminium construction of this engine keeps weight down, helping the car's handling balance and further improving fuel efficiency.
Even Toyota anoraks may have trouble recognising the latest facelifted Avensis from its post-2003 predecessor but peer closely at the revised front and rear ends and improvements begin to become apparent. The engineers have also been hard at work on improving the suspension and steering systems used across the range, improving the ride (which didn't need much enhancement) and the handling (which really did). Otherwise, it's pretty much as you were.
"Smooth doesn't even begin to describe it."
Both 2.2-litre D-4D Avensis models feature an improved set of Noise, Vibration and Harshness countermeasures. Already renowned as one of the most refined cars in its class, the Avensis now augments this with an acoustic windscreen, thicker bonnet insulation, extra sound deadening material in the engine compartment and a thicker passenger cell floor and tunnel silencer. Given that Toyota initially benchmarked the Avensis' sound insulation against the Lexus LS430, it's easy to imagine quite how hushed motorway cruising is now. As well as being quieter, the latest Avensis is also a little lighter on its feet thanks to the front anti-roll bar being beefed up by 20 per cent. The front shock absorbers have also been pumping iron while the power steering pump is stronger for a quicker steering response. The result is a car that corners more keenly with less roll and better all round body composure.
Trim levels are angled in this model towards the plusher end of the Avensis trim spectrum as you'd expect from prices in the £18,000-£22,000 bracket. All come with air conditioning, an alarm immobiliser, power windows and mirrors, ABS and an excellent quality stereo system. All models now also come with vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control (TRC) and brake assist (BA) to boost the already impressive Avensis safety credentials.
Safety has been prioritised with all models getting no fewer than nine airbags as standard, including a driver knee airbag which, at the time of this generation Avensis' original launch, represented a UK first. Secreted beneath the steering column, this system protects the driver's knees and lower legs from injury. Step from an MK1 Avensis into the cabin of the current car and you'll spot no significant family resemblance. The doors thunk shut like a Lexus and it was to their luxury division that Toyota looked to imbue the Avensis interior with a genuinely upmarket feel. It seems to have worked. Soft touch plastics, neat metallic finishes and a huge cabin make the Avensis feel a class up.
The exterior styling is neat, if a little forgettable and perhaps the only area of the latest car that's in any way disappointing. The nose features the Toyota family face and the bonnet is very compact. Viewed in profile, the stub nose and boot are dominated by the huge sleekly domed cabin, the high waistline giving an impression of rigid solidity. It's almost as if Toyota were overanxious to underline the Avensis' newfound gravitas. Compared to its predecessor, it is 110mm longer and 55mm higher with a 70mm increase in wheelbase. The driver sits further forward and higher, maximising rear legroom.
If you were looking for a smooth, well equipped and beautifully refined diesel mid-ranger, the Avensis D-4D was always a prime pick. The latest 2.2-litre model adds a few more strings to this model's bow and offers keener drivers something a little less stodgy. With 148bhp on tap, the 2.2-litre engine is punchy and hugely efficient and certainly whets the appetite for the 175bhp Clean Power installation. If you thought that getting excited about a Toyota Avensis was the first step on a slippery slope, it's time to think again.
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