2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid LimitedPosted on September 10th, 2015
Full-size premium sedan is a Lexus in disguise
By Nina Russin
Over the past twenty years, the Toyota Avalon has evolved from a stretched-out version of the Camry into a league of its own, offering buyers similar ride and handling to more expensive Lexus models. The availability of a gasoline/electric hybrid is rather unusual in this segment that also includes the Ford Taurus and Buick LaCrosse.
The 2015 model is basically carryover following a major redesign in 2013. Changes include an upgraded Entune multimedia system and paddle shifters on gasoline-powered cars.
Base price for the Avalon Hybrid Limited is $41,700: on the high side for the segment. However buyers get their money’s worth with standard features that include remote keyless entry and start, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery and steering wheel, power heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Bluetooth interface, a rearview camera with cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and satellite radio.
A technology package on the test car adds dynamic radar cruise control, automatic high beams, Qi wireless charging, and pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. Final MSRP is $44,475.
Forty mile-per-gallon fuel economy
There’s a vicarious thrill in driving a 3600-pound car where the fuel gauge never moves off of full. My weeklong test drive covered approximately 150 miles and used up about a quarter of a tank of gasoline. Engineers boosted the hybrid’s fuel economy to 40 miles-per-gallon city/highway by extending the car’s pure electric range and reducing the coefficient of drag through more aerodynamic side mirrors and vortices that direct air around the car’s exterior.
Drivers who want to push the envelope even further can choose the eco setting on the driver select mode. The setting softens throttle response and reduces air conditioning output in order to boost gas mileage.
Power comes from a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine that, with the addition of electric motors, replicates the power and performance of a six-banger. In the race to the front of the highway entry ramp, the Avalon is a consistently strong finisher.
Test drive in Phoenix
During the test drive I made several trips to Sacaton, the town center of the Gila River Indian community south of Phoenix as well as driving on surface streets and highways through Phoenix’s east valley. August is the height of this area’s monsoon season so I also had the opportunity to test performance during some heavy outbursts.
In the end, the Avalon delivers on every front that it promises, with good power, a suspension that’s smooth without being floaty, decent steering response and solid linear braking. The spacious second row makes the Avalon a good choice for extended road trips.
During the brief, heavy spurts of rain the Avalon felt solid as a rock, with no loss of traction in areas of standing water. Rain sensing wipers are a big advantage in this type of weather, since the storm cells tend to be small, with the driver moving in and out of rain.
Standard blind spot monitoring and the rearview camera reduce stress when traveling through dense traffic on the streets or in crowded parking lots. High intensity discharge headlamps disperse longer, brighter beams of light than halogen for improved nighttime visibility. Interior quiet rivals more expensive Lexus models.
While leather upholstery isn’t my first choice at the height of an Arizona summer, I did appreciate the easily adjustable driver’s seat that provides excellent lower lumbar support. Memory settings make it easier for multiple drivers to share the car.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight or after dark. Rearview cameras seem to vary a lot in quality, something especially noticeable after a rainstorm when some lenses become blurred. This is not the case on the Avalon. I was able to see the rearview image as easily during a monsoon as on a dry, sunny day.
A large, spacious trunk has plenty of room for luggage, golf bags and small camping equipment. A standard cargo net prevents groceries from sliding around. Cyclists will be better served with one of Toyota’s crossover vehicles that offer a taller cargo area.
The Toyota Avalon Hybrid comes with ten standard airbags, antilock braking, stability control, daytime running lamps, high intensity discharge headlamps, tire pressure monitoring and Safety Connect that automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a collision.
Toyota builds the Avalon in its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant.
Like: A spacious, luxurious full-size sedan with exceptional fuel economy.
Model: Avalon Hybrid Limited
Base price: $41,700
As tested: $44,475
Horsepower: 200 net system horsepower
Zero-to-sixty: 8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 40/39 mpg city/highway