The 2018 Toyota Avalon is available in XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Touring and Limited models, with Avalon Hybrid versions available for all but the base XLE.
Standard versions of the Toyota Avalon are powered by a 268-horsepower, 3.5L V6 that has variable valve timing for smooth response across the entire rev range. It's hooked up to a 6-speed automatic transmission that has Eco, Normal and Sport modes as well as steering-wheel paddle shifters for manual control.
Avalon Hybrid models get a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and a 105-kW electric motor system as part of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive-- the same as used in the Camry Hybrid. The electric motor system adds to the powertrain's output when needed and recovers energy when decelerating or braking. The powertrain makes 200 horsepower altogether. Fuel efficiency for the Hybrid is estimated at 40 mpg city, 39 highway.
The Avalon has ride and handling characteristics help bridge some of the difference between a plush luxury car and a sporty premium sedan. With MacPherson struts in front and dual-path dampers, plus a dual-link rear suspension, anti-roll bars front and rear and pillow ball joints in back, the Avalon has been tuned to be agile yet refined. Electric power steering provides less boost at higher speeds and is weighted to for good centering in tight corners.
While the Avalon is more enjoyable to drive than the previous models, it's still one of the quietest sedans without a full-fledged luxury badge. Thanks to measures such as an acoustic windshield and special sound-absorbing materials throughout, road and wind noise are especially well-masked.
All models are neatly finished on the outside with LED tail lamps and a chrome-tipped exhaust; but it's inside that the new Avalon is most noteworthy. The Avalon's instrument panel uses special IntelliTouch capacitive switches under a grained surface; they're designed to be used with gloves, and by those with long fingernails.
Equipment is comparable between normal V6 and Hybrid versions of the Avalon. The base XLE includes heated exterior mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a backup camera, cruise control, leather upholstery, woodgrain interior trim, heated power front seats, a Smart Key system, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming and a Display Audio sound system with a 7-inch touch screen, eight speakers and auxiliary and iPod/USB inputs.
XLE Premium models add push-button start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a compass and a blind-spot monitor/warning, while the Touring model adds 18-inch painted alloy wheels, LED headlamps/fog lamps and premium leather upholstery. It also gets an upgraded sound system with nine speakers, a navigation system and Entune services and Bing search, iHeartRadio, Pandora and OpenTable apps.
The Limited and Hybrid Limited models are at the top of the model line and include HID headlamps, heated exterior mirrors, 3-zone automatic climate control, premium heated/ventilated leather upholstery, a 10-way adjustable driver's seat (8-way for passenger), heated rear seats and LED daytime running lamps, A Premium Navigation system is included, as well as that steps up to an 11-speaker JBL setup plus subwoofer and separate amplifier, as well as HD Radio with iTunes tagging. The system also allows access to customizable vehicle settings.
With the current Avalon, Toyota decided to try and shake up the sedan's formerly sleepy image in the hopes of attracting buyers whose personal Venn diagrams don't overlap entirely with AARP membership. I'll be damned if Toyota wasn't successful, because not only is the 2020 Toyota Avalon interesting to look at, it's pretty decent to drive.
The 2020 Toyota Avalon is available with two very different powertrains. The standard version has a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine that makes 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. But for this review, I'm focusing on the Avalon Hybrid, powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with the brand's electronic continuously variable transmission, which results in 176 hp and 163 lb-ft.
My test car is an XSE Hybrid, and despite the not exactly headline-making power number, the car feels totally adequate while accelerating up onramps and overtaking on the freeway. The best part of the hybrid drivetrain -- aside from its stellar, EPA-estimated fuel economy of 43 miles per gallon in the city and on the highway -- is its glassy-smooth delivery of power. Toyota's been doing this hybrid thing for a long time now, and it really shows.
The Good ~ Smooth, efficient drivetrain ~ Great interior, amazing seats ~ Lots of standard safety tech
The Bad ~ Lots of wind noise ~ No Android Auto ~ That grille is huge
The Bottom Line Full-size sedans are a dying breed, but Toyota's Avalon Hybrid is a compelling option for those still interested in this class.
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