When it comes to hybrid vehicles, Toyota knows their stuff. The Prius has been around for decades now, and have constantly improved them with each new makeover. It is the best-selling hybrid of all time. So as the company expanded their hybrid offerings to many of their other models, customers can feel comfortable enough to buy these larger vehicles in hybrid form. I couldn’t wait to see how their full size Avalon, which I enjoyed in its gasoline version, would stack up. The verdict? It’s a wonderful hybrid car too.
We tested the 2017 Avalon XLE Premium, which slots between the base XLE Plus, and the XLE Limited. Power comes from a 2.5 liter 4-cylindar engine, and a trunk mounted electric motor. Those combine for 200 horsepower, and they send those horses to the front wheels via a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
While 200 horsepower doesn’t sound like much to push a full size 3,500lbs. sedan, the Avalon doesn’t feel underpowered in the least. You can figure zero to 60 in under 8 seconds, which is about a second slower than the gas-only Avalon. But most Avalon owners aren’t concerned about stoplight drag races.
What you get for trading that 1 second zero to 60 performance is gas mileage. The Hybrid gives you a remarkable 40 MPG in the city, and 39 MPG on the Highway, versus the 3.5 liter V-6, which makes 21 City and 30 highway. So the Hybrid gives you almost a 700 mile cruising range! That is a major difference. And the engine is very quiet and the power comes on smoothly, and seamlessly.
The ride quality is plush, meaning it’s tuned to provide a comfortable boulevard ride. Push it hard into corners, and you’ll notice a lot of body lean. The steering is over assisted and therefor feels a bit vague at lower speeds, but the Avalon goes where you point it, with no drama. But again, the customer for this car isn’t looking for a sport sedan, they are looking for comfort and luxury.
And luxury they will find in the cabin of the Avalon.
If you told most people that they were sitting in a Lexus, they wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed. The cabin is stylish, comfortable, and easy to get used to. The front seats are quite comfortable for all day cruising, and have lots of adjustability. The cabin has very nice leather trimmed interior appointments. There is enough brightwork sprinkled throughout the interior, to give the Avalon some luxury distinction. In fact one could say that the interior is more stylish than the exterior.
Our car was finished with handsome grey leather seats, and that grey leather is also carried onto the door panels. Not only does it lighten up the cabin, it gives the Avalon an upscale look.
For those who need a lot of storage, the Avalon features a large center console, and there are smaller bins to hold wallets, and other items one carries and would like easy access to. There is an “e-bin” in the center console with a cable pass-through to charge a cell phone with the 12-volt outlet and USB ports. This bin is also a wireless charging system that operates with compatible phones.
There is plenty of sound deadening materials to make the Avalon very quiet, as good as you’d expect in their Lexus brand. The electronic instrumentation is both attractive and easily legible and logically laid out. Soft touch materials on the door sills, armrests and center console add to the upscale feel in the cabin, as does the leg and headroom. The rear seat can actually accommodate 3 adults comfortably. The trunk is a little tight, at 14 cubic feet, 2 cubic feet less than the gas powered Avalon, but the batteries have to go somewhere. That means the rear seats don’t fold down, but there is a ski pass through.
There are standard amenities galore on the Avalon. The base XLE Plus offers 17” alloy wheels, automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pre-collision braking, and lane departure warning, with lane keep assist. A moonroof brightens up the cabin, and dual zone climate control, heated outside mirrors, leather 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support (4-way power seat for passenger), and the front seats are heated. There is also automatic dimming rearview mirror, tilt and telescope steering wheel, with redundant controls for radio, phone, etc. Of course there is Bluetooth connectivity, keyless ignition, rear back-up camera, Toyota’s Entune Audio Plus, with voice controls, hooked up to a large 7-inch touchscreen in the center stack. It has an excellent 8-speaker audio system with CD player, Satellite radio, and auxiliary input jack and USB interface.
Our XLE Premium adds on blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, driver’s seat memory settings, the Qi wireless smartphone charging and Entune Premium audio with a Navigation system and App Suite, smartphone app integration, and nine speakers and fog lamps.
And if you move up to the Limited model, you’ll get xenon headlight, automatic wipers, a 10-way power driver’s seat, (8-way for passenger) ungraded leather upholstery with ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, a rear power sunshade, tri-zone climate control, upgraded gauge cluster, auto-dimming outside mirrors, and an 11-speaker JBL sound system. Surprisingly, no heated steering wheel. Go figure.
The Avalon Hybrid doesn’t have much competition. There’s the Lexus cousin, the ES300h, and the smaller Lincoln MKZ, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, or the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. So if you want a truly full size sedan, with economy car gas mileage, this is your vehicle.
The Avalon Plus starts at $37,500. The Premium starts at $38,950, and the Limited bumps up the price to $42,800. Our Premium only added $224 for a carpeted trunk mat, and with destination charge made the bottom line come in at $39,789. And to be honest, I’d save the extra money that the Limited asks for, and not miss a thing.
Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman has been a motor journalist for over 30 years, reviewing automobile, as well as motorcycle ride reviews and accessory reviews.
His car articles have appeared in Robb Report Magazine, Autoguide.com, Car-Revs-Daily.com and other media. His work has also appeared in Road Bike Magazine, Motorcycle Tour and Cruiser, SpeedTV.com, MotorcycleUSA.com and others.
As motorcycle columnist for The Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, the paper became the only major circulation newspaper in the country to have a separate weekly section devoted to motorcycles. Later he wrote a weekly column for Cyclefocus Magazine.