Auto Review: The full-size Toyota Avalon Hybrid

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Apr. 17, 2013
Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Contributed Photo

As technology makes greater fuel efficiency possible for more categories of vehicles, it’s not all that surprising to see that the full-size four-door sedan has now joined the ranks, thanks to the redesigned Toyota Avalon Hybrid. Toyota brought its gas/electric hybrid powertrains to the world with the Prius in the late ’90s and has been steadily offering these frugal drivetrains into all manner of vehicles. The Camry Hybrid we reviewed a few months back proved quite roomy (like all midsize sedans these days), as well as a pleasure to drive and averaged 42.3 MPG in our week with the vehicle. The new Avalon offers even more room and ease of access, and a similarly modest appetite for fuel. I happen to think cars like this might show what is really possible now that manufacturers are getting serious about fuel economy, all while delivering the large vehicles many require and /or insist on.

The 2013 Avalon is a complete redesign, and while I call the car a full-size, Toyota likes to call the Avalon a competitor in “the highly competitive premium mid-size segment.” This may be because all the classes have more room than they used to, thus blurring the lines between them.

Riding on a 111-inch wheelbase, all Avalon models are more aggressively styled than last year, and Toyota claims the V6 model has the lowest curb weight in the segment. The standard engine is a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, but our Avalon Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter Inline Four, in cahoots with a dual electric motor array that is rated at 105 kW. Ultimately, the total system output for this version is 200 horsepower. The car operates on the gas engine, electric motors, or both, depending on conditions and settings (all-electric mode can be specified at low speeds with an EV button). The front wheels are then driven through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which in addition to automatic operation has a six-speed manual mode as well. Repeated runs to 60 mph took less than 8 seconds, and overall acceleration was smooth and surprisingly brisk. The chassis has also been altered to make the Avalon more enjoyable to hustle around on challenging pavement, with a firmer suspension than before and very responsive brakes. Even the electric power steering has reasonable feedback, unlike the often over-boosted assist many big sedans are saddled with.

The exterior of the Avalon has been tightened dimensionally, but the interior is still a capacious, luxurious place, especially in Limited trim. The instrument panel has been widened, and many changes designed to increase spaciousness go hand-in-hand with the selection of materials to increase overall quality. Both front and rear seats are easy to access and quite roomy, and while the trunk area houses the hybrid battery pack, there’s still 14 cubic feet of cargo space.

Most impressive of all are the Avalon Hybrid’s EPA numbers, which are 40 MPG city/39 highway, and we saw just a tick under 40 MPG during our week with the vehicle. With options, our 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited had a sticker price of $43,314.

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