CC Outtake: 2003 Toyota Avalon XLS – Bench Seats Are For Buicks

Introduced as a 1995 model, the Avalon was Toyota’s first true full-size family sedan sold in North America. Although externally smaller than most front-wheel drive, full-size rivals including Chrysler’s LH and GM’s H-body sedans, the Avalon nonetheless boasted full-size interior space and an available feature characteristic of more traditional American full-sizers: a front bench seat.

(Bad sun glare, I know)

In offering a front bench seat, Toyota was clearly appealing to the tastes of the older-skewed demographic who primarily purchased the Avalon. In hindsight, offering the more open-feeling front seat traditionally found in large American cars was probably a smart move in gaining a few potential conquest buyers who otherwise never would’ve considered “one of those cramped feeling foreign cars” (regardless of the fact that Avalons were built by American hands in Georgetown, Kentucky).

The front bench seat with column option was very unusual and out of place for a North American market Japanese sedan. Seldom-ordered and thus a rarely-seen option, the bench seat was offered as optional equipment through this second generation Avalon’s tenure in 2004. To the best of my knowledge, the Avalon was the only Japanese sedan ever sold with a front bench seat in North America. But that’s not a Buick?

Photographed on First Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts – January 2020