The 2013 Toyota Avalon.

The 2013 Toyota Avalon.

Parked side by side with the 2012 model, the redesigned Toyota Avalon looks like a completely different car. In many ways, it is. The 2013 is smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient, and it’s now available as a hybrid. But at its core, the Avalon remains a stretched-out, not-quite-a-Lexus edition of the Camry.

Despite a slight reduction in length, the interior space was expanded and the trunk is larger. The rear-seat legroom compares favorably to that of competitors such as the Chrysler 300 and Buick LaCrosse; in fact, Toyota plans to introduce a livery edition. The reclining rear bench has been discontinued. The rear seats don’t fold down, but there is a pass-through for skis.

The cabin has been completely redesigned. The occasional appearances of painted hard plastics were eliminated, and the dashboard and control surfaces were revamped. The stereo and climate controls are now operated by futuristic, touch-sensitive panels. The “buttons” are marked by small indentations next to the text, presumably to help drivers acclimate to the new technology.

The new exterior is sleeker than the outgoing model’s and features a slightly lower roofline. Last year’s bulky chrome façade was replaced by a big, gaping, Ford Fusion-like grille that sits below the badge-and-headlight stack and dominates the front end.

Specs for the 2013 Toyota Avalon.

Specs for the 2013 Toyota Avalon.

The Avalon’s 3.5-liter V-6 was carried over from the prior generation and still delivers 268 horsepower at 248 pound-feet of torque. Toyota’s engineers installed new shock absorbers and stiffer springs to create a firmer suspension and reduce body roll through corners.

Another series of refinements resulted in a 111-pound reduction in curb weight and a significant improvement in fuel economy: The 2012 Avalon was rated at 28 miles per gallon highway; the 2013 gets 31. The Avalon Hybrid burns 39 miles per gallon on the highway and 40 in city driving.

Toyota offers the Avalon in XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring and Limited trim levels. The “base” XLE sports leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats, keyless ignition and entry and dual-zone climate controls. Upgrading to the Premium, Touring and Limited editions adds items such as an 11-speaker JBL stereo, adaptive cruise control, bigger wheels, navigation and much more.

The 2013 Avalon is in showrooms now. Pricing starts at $30,990 for the XLE — about $2,000 less than the 2012 base model — and tops out at $41,400 for the Hybrid Limited.

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