Driven

Rewired: 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Everyone knows the Toyota Avalon as the flagship for Toyota.  Last spring, Toyota unveiled an entirely redesigned Avalon.  The new design also came with the addition of a hybrid model, and that is the one we have here. We were interested to see how Toyota applied their mastery of hybrid technology to the new 2013 Avalon.

Toyota Avalon 1

The new body is quite a looker.  The new front grille and headlight design present a more bold appeal.  Toyota admits that the new Avalon was designed with a younger audience in mind, and they weren’t kidding.  Go around back and you’re bathed in the glow of full LED taillights.  Inside is an entirely new layout; touch-screen radio and climate controls are found in the middle of the Lexus RX-esque sweeping centerpiece.  A noteworthy touch is the leather-wrapped dashboard, which feels like a big step up over soft-touch plastic and came with the added benefit of matching the seats.  Although not a huge surprise for the Avalon, there was plenty of room for all passengers. The gauges were very easy to read with an overall sleek design, and the steering wheel was adjustable for all types of seating positions.  The biggest disappointment however, was the small and clunky center screen.  Radio adjustments were a lesson in patience and navigating through the menus was a chore for the passenger to take on. It lacked intuitiveness, which is key when using any infotainment system.  Overall, however, the inside of the Avalon was one of the nicest sedans we’ve been in for quite some time in terms of fit-and-finish.

Toyota Avalon 5

In terms of drive-ability, the Avalon has come a long way.  It presents a quiet ride for the occupants with little wind-noise.  We were surprised at the drivability of the big sedan. However, the revised suspension of the new model might be disappointing for an Avalon traditionalist.  The ride may be too rough for the class; the VW Passat we tested was actually more comfortable.  As mentioned, our tester was a hybrid.  By combining a 2.5L 4 cylinder and two electric motors, the Avalon Hybrid is rated at 200 horsepower.  As you probably had guessed, it is not exactly set up for drag racing.  The Hybrid’s CVT is never my favorite transmission of choice, but it works well here. That being said, the Avalon Hybrid performed well both for highway cruising and jaunts around town.  We were never struggling for power, but an extra fifty or so horsepower really be noticeable.  Perhaps we were spoiled by the Passat TDI’s extra torque and do-it-yourself manual transmission.

Since this was a sensible hybrid and not some orange little hatchback, I used a relatively light foot.  Surprisingly, I found myself choosing Eco mode instead of EV or Sport.  There’s something about the Avalon Hybrid, somewhat similar to the feeling we found in the Lexus CT200h, that urges you to relax.  Despite this, I still found myself struggling to achieve the Avalon Hybrid’s 40 city, 39 highway EPA ratings.  After a week of not driving it like I stole it, I netted only 33.7mpg.  Needless to say I was surprised.  After checking the tire pressures (correct all around), the only reason I could find for the disappointing mileage was the weather.  It was a bitterly cold week, as evidenced by the fact we couldn’t find any place to have the Avalon washed before photographing it.  With the heater and heated seats on high, the engine was forced to run more times than not.  Is that worth a 7mpg hit? I’m still skeptical.

Toyota Avalon 3

All in all, the new Avalon is absolutely worth looking at if you’re in the large car market.  The exciting new sheet metal now stands out more boldly than previous models.  The new exterior also matches the luxurious interior, which has been clad with leather and soft-touch materials.  The XLE Premium trim of our tester is actually the lowest of the three hybrid trim levels.  That doesn’t mean you’re left without any comfort, and it would definitely be the one I’d choose.  If you’re looking for a large sedan, do not pass by the Avalon.  The segment has gained quite a few hybrid competitors in the past year but its hard to overlook the fact that Toyota has been in the game the longest.

-Scott Villeneuve

2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium
$33,555
Special Color $395
Wheel Locks $81
Preferred Accessory Package $343
Destination Charges $795
As Tested MSRP $37,169

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