Old age slithered under my door a couple of years ago.
At the tender age of 62, I'm technically "near-elderly." Buicks look downright stylish now. And even worse, far worse: The pillowy-soft Toyota Avalon, one of the best Buick-pretenders ever built, seems totally, completely hot.
Then, of course, it occurred to me: New Buicks really are stylish, and in one of the biggest shockers of the year, the 2013 Avalon turns heads everywhere. Honest.
Up front, the Avalon's sleek curved chrome grille provided shiny garnish for a much bolder and bigger five-bar grille beneath it that looked pretty darned aggressive. The upper grille was also flanked by headlamps that were almost elegant -- and headlights are definitely not a Toyota strength.
A mildly curving hood with character lines on its edges gave the metallic black Avalon a dash of muscle, flowing up to meet a steeply sloped windshield. Adding to the car's wedgy shape were short, taut front fenders and a sloping, almost slinky roof line. Large wraparound taillamps maintained the European flavor, joined by a German-looking strip of chrome between them.
The interior, meanwhile, read "Lexus," which maybe it should. With a window sticker of $36,295, the Avalon was about as costly as an entry-level ES 350.
But its interior more closely resembled the bigger, bolder, more expensive GS 350. A deep, flat-black upper dash flowed around a stitched hood over the instrument panel. Smooth, sectioned, semi-supportive gray leather seats also contributed to the luxury look.
As you would expect from any veteran cruiser of the bingo circuit, leg- and headroom in back were literally taxi-like.
That said, I was mildly disappointed that Toyota chose to carry over its longtime 3.5-liter V-6 largely untouched, still producing 268 horsepower and spinning a six-speed automatic.
The Avalon rarely lacked for power and was rated at a reasonable 21 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway. Moreover, its mainstay six-speed automatic was largely invisible, clicking off soft, quick shifts and keeping the engine happy.
The new Avalon will attract some younger buyers, I'll bet. If not, its New World lines should make us geezer-boomers look a whole lot better when we roll out in our plaid shorts, white socks and grocery-store shoes.
2013 TOYOTA AVALON XLE TOURING
Base price: $30,990
Price as tested: $36,295
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 31 highway
Weight: Approximately 3,500 pounds
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Power: 268 hp, 248 pound-feet of torque
0 to 60 mph: 6 seconds
Length: 195.3 inches
Width: 72.2 inches
Height: 57.5 inches
Bottom line: stylish and spirited