2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
All-new version delivers passion in a big sedan.
The Toyota Avalon has been completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. We thought the previous-generation Avalon (2005-2012 models) was commendable for its smooth ride and easy operability. The all-new 2013 Avalon builds on this, offering more responsive handling while maintaining excellent ride quality. A smooth, powerful V6 engine comes standard, while a hybrid gas-electric powertrain is optional for better fuel economy and extremely low emissions. But what makes the Avalon great is that it's so easy to operate, a refreshing trait in a world of complicated, vexing cars and gadgets. The interior is comfortable and attractive, with leather standard. We found it very easy to live with the all-new 2013 Avalon.
For a brand long known for its high quality and plain vanilla design, Toyota sent shock waves through the industry when it first displayed the all-new Avalon. When compared to the latest-generation Camry midsize sedan, the 2013 Avalon full-size sedan looks like it came from another company entirely. But the 2013 Avalon is precisely what Toyota's top executive, President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, had in mind when he promised to pump new passion into the brand.
The 2013 Avalon is visually striking, with the sort of cutting-edge styling you might expect from the latest Ford or Hyundai, or even Mercedes-Benz. The new design clearly gives the new Toyota a much more expensive look and feel.
The overall look of the 2013 Toyota Avalon is more muscular and refined than the old, lumpen box, with a coupe-like roofline that is somewhat reminiscent of the striking Audi A7. The interior, meanwhile, boasts an almost luxury-class level of refinement, with upgraded leather that is now being hand-stitched to deliver a visual sense of craftsmanship. The large touchscreen adapts the latest version of Toyota's EnTune infotainment system and the LCD screen atop the center stack replaces most traditional knobs and buttons. The rest migrate to a capacitive system that can be operated with barely a touch.
The redesigned 2013 Avalon is available with two distinct powertrain options, the most popular of which is likely to be the 3.5-liter, 90-degree, DOHC, six-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence that produces 268 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 248 pound-feet of torque. The 3.5-liter V6 delivers surprisingly good fuel economy considering the size of the new Avalon sedan and the power it pumps out. We found it smooth and powerful. Toyota says the Avalon with the 3.5-liter V6 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is quite quick.
Those who want to maximize mileage will be drawn to the Avalon hybrid models, which use the latest iteration of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive and are expected to get up to 40 miles per gallon. That's impressive for a full-size sedan, and all the more impressive considering the minimal sacrifice in performance. The 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is estimated to launch from 0 to 60 mph in around 8 seconds, which is average acceleration performance. The 2013 Avalon is the first full-size Toyota sedan to offer a hybrid gas-electric powertrain.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon is produced at Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. The new Toyota sedan is, in fact, the most American car the Japanese maker has ever offered, the design work being handled by Toyota's advanced styling studio in Southern California, while the primary engineering work was done in suburban Detroit.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon comes in XLE and Limited grades and several sub-trim levels. Avalon XLE ($30,990) comes standard with heated, leather front seats, eight-way power driver's seat, four-way power front-passenger seat, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, two-door Smart Key, heated mirrors, mirror turn signals, 17-inch alloy wheels. Avalon XLE Premium ($33,195) adds a rearview camera and moonroof, three-door Smart Key, auto-dimming mirror with compass, garage door opener, three-button Eco Switch. Avalon XLE Touring ($35,500) includes fog lamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, navigation system, paddle shifters and EnTune Display Audio.
Avalon Limited ($39,650) upgrades further with premium perforated leather heated and cooled front seats, 10-way power driver's seat, eight-way power front-passenger seat, heated rear seats, three-zone climate control, 7-inch high-resolution touch-screen audio, with navigation, Entune and JBL, JBL Premium HDD audio, color HVAC screen, Safety Connect, rain-sensing wipers, rear sunshade, HID headlamps, LED Daytime Running Lights, puddle lamps, ambient lighting, auto-dimming outside mirrors.
Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium ($35,555), Avalon Hybrid XLE Touring ($37,250), and Avalon Limited ($41,400) are similarly equipped. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices and do not include $795 destination charge.)
The optional Technology Package ($1,750) for Avalon Limited and Hybrid models adds Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, automatic high beams, and Pre-Collision System.
Safety features standard on all Avalon models include Toyota's Star Safety System, 10 airbags, whiplash-lessening seats, three-point seatbelts, LATCH child-seat anchors, child-protector door locks, anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer. Optional safety features include Safety Connect, Pre-Collision System, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon has a wider, more aggressive stance than the outgoing sedan, there's a sense of kinetic energy that we can't ever recall seeing in a Toyota sedan especially one this big. The overall feel is one of a slightly more compact and taut vehicle, perhaps reflecting the fact that its overall height has been lowered an inch, with the overhangs shortened 0.6 inches up front and 1.8 inches in the rear.
Nowhere is the new look more obvious than up front, where the Avalon's new face bears more than a subtle similarity to the latest-generation Ford Fusion, itself strongly influenced by ultra-luxury sports car maker Aston Martin. That Ford/Aston trapezoid grille is framed, at top by wraparound Quadrabeam projector headlamps, below by distinctive new foglamps.
This is the fourth generation of the Avalon. The soft, almost flabby look of the outgoing model (pre-2013) has been replaced by a tautly sculpted body, character lines stretching through the hood and from just behind the front wheels to the tips of the taillights. Toyota designers worked in half-windows at the back of the sloping roof to give rear seat passengers and even broader view of the world passing by. That underscores the way Toyota has attempted to make form and function equal partners in the new Avalon.
With some coupe-like sedans, there's a distinct trade-off in functionality, but the 2013 Avalon's 111-inch wheelbase allowed designers to sculpt a curvaceous exterior and still provide a surprising amount of head, leg, hip and elbow room, front and back. Headroom in the front seats is 38.5 inches, or 37.6 inches with the optional moonroof.
And there's little excuse for rear seat passengers not to stretch out and relax.
Front and back, the 2013 Toyota Avalon is a far more lavishly outfitted sedan than the model it replaces. With one notable exception, Toyota has largely abandoned the cheap plastic panels that have drawn criticism in other recent models, including the latest generation of the Camry.
We're tempted to describe the layout from the pilot's perspective as almost cockpit-like. Toyota designers and engineers have worked well together to bring all that the driver might need to see or touch into just the right position, including that large touchscreen used for the EnTune infotainment system. As you'd expect, it is the anchor of basic systems like navigation, audio and Bluetooth calling. It also allows ready access to smartphone-based apps such as Pandora, Bing, iHeartRadio, and services like fuel pricing, stock reports, traffic and weather data. Meanwhile, a second, capacitive-touch screen operating the climate control system. But you don't have to mess with all that. The navigation system is optional and can be avoided altogether. If you don't opt for navigation, the screen remains, for operating the radio and other features. Nighttime or daytime, the screen delivers a big, crisp image of what's behind you whenever you shift into Reverse.
The Avalon adopts the sort of elegant and subtle ambient lighting cues we've until recently expected only on mid to upper-range luxury vehicles. And that carefully stitched leather further adds to upscale feel. We think Toyota could have done a better job with the wood trim, however, which looks too much like plastic.
Cargo capacity is good: 16 cubic feet of trunk space, 14.4 cubic feet for Avalon Hybrid models. Folding down the back seats provides more cargo space and room for longer items.
We got our first chance to drive the 2013 Avalon in its various configurations during an advanced drive at Toyota's suburban Detroit test track. The experience revealed the new Avalon to be a significant improvement from the soft and mushy boulevard cruiser that defined prior generations of the Avalon.
Toyota took significant steps to firm things up. Among them: more braces and welds to increase chassis rigidity. A rigid chassis is a key element both for sharp handling response and a smooth ride. This allowed more precise tuning of the suspension. Suspension changes include new stabilizer bars and new spring rates. Toyota used MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension in the rear. Shedding about 100 pounds of mass also helped.
Body roll (lean) has been largely kept under control. Meanwhile, there's virtually no torque steer on this front-driver, even under the most aggressive launches. Torque steer is the tendency of the front wheels to turn under hard acceleration, felt as a tug on the steering wheel; stand on the accelerator, and the new Avalon takes off in a straight line.
The electric power-assisted steering system errs towards a little too much boost, though it tightens up, if artificially, in Sport mode. One disappointment was the decision not to allow the driver to further stiffen the suspension when shifting into Sport mode on the Touring and Limited grades. The electronic system only modifies throttle, steering and gear shifts to improve overall responsiveness. We'd have liked to add still more tautness to the suspension, as well. But kudos for adding Dynamic Rev Management, which is particularly useful with paddle-shift-equipped models (Touring and Limited editions).
At 268 horsepower, the 3.5-liter V6 provides more than adequate, if not neck-snapping, power. It's mated to a 6-speed automatic. That's a couple gears short of other full-size offerings but we doubt many will notice considering that shifts are almost completely transparent and there's little sense of hunting even aggressive driving.
At an EPA-estimated 21/31 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined, the 2013 Toyota Avalon provides a significant improvement for what you might have imagined getting from a full-side sedan just a few years ago. Regular 87-octane gasoline is recommended, no Premium fuel required here.
Even more impressive is the first-ever Avalon Hybrid, rated at 40 mpg City, 39 mpg Highway and 40 mpg Combined. Those are numbers you might have longed for with a subcompact when the last-generation Avalon hit market.
The Avalon Hybrid package teams a four-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors using essentially the same Toyota Synergy Hybrid drive found in the latest version of the Camry. It's about a second-and-a-half slower than the V6 Avalon from 0-60 mph but it still delivers enough power to feel confident passing or getting onto a freeway.
Avalon Hybrid's 2.5-liter inline-4, for the technically minded, uses the fuel-saving Atkinson Cycle and itself develops 156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. The electric motor brings that up to an even 200 hp. Toyota claims the Avalon can operate on battery power alone. But this is no plug-in. You'll be lucky to get a full mile if the battery is fully charged. While the Avalon Hybrid can technically operate in electric mode at speeds up to 25 mph, that's rare. It'll usually fire the four-cylinder engine up well before then, especially if you've got a heavy throttle foot. A neat trick with the Hybrid is the ability to maintain climate control even when the gas engine is shut off.
The all-new Toyota Avalon brings fresh design in an easy to operate large sedan. The new Avalon XLE adds some desirable new features at a discount of several thousand dollars over the previous version. Handling is much improved for a taut feel, while excellent ride quality is maintained. The standard 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and powerful, while a new hybrid-electric offers an EPA-estimated 40/39 mpg City/Highway. The new Avalon is an easy car to live with and an easy car to own.
Paul Eisenstein filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Avalon in Detroit.
Toyota Avalon XLE ($30,990), XLE Premium ($33,195), XLE Touring ($35,500), Limited ($39,650); Avalon XLE Hybrid ($35,555), XLE Touring Hybrid ($37,250), XLE Limited Hybrid ($41,400).
Options As Tested
Toyota Avalon Limited ($39,650).
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