TOYOTA AVALON HYBRID BLENDS COMFORT AND MPG

2013 Toyota Avalon

By Tom Crosby

The Toyota Avalon is the company’s flagship luxury sedan and in 2013 the car was redesigned and a hybrid added to the line-up providing all the comfort of a five-passenger sedan while delivering an average of 40 miles per gallon.

Using the same hybrid engine that has been so successful in the Camry – Avalon’s less expensive sibling – the 2013 Avalon Hybrid incorporates all of Toyota’s successful electric/gasoline technology.

There are three hybrid trims, the base XLE Premium, the XLE Touring (our test drive) and the Limited Hybrid – all using the same synergy drive system – a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a pair of high output electric motors generating 200 horsepower working together.

For less than $3,000 for a gas-only Avalon, the hybrid gets 40-mpg average compared to 25 mpg for the gas-only Avalon. And while it drives green, it looks muscular with a thrusting front hood, low beltline, chiseled front shoulder character lines and some minor trimming in height, wheel overhangs above 17-inch thin-spoke wheels, and the rear window surround.

A new Quadrabeam headlight cluster and larger grille in the new front fascia help make the hybrid look stylishly sleek, modern and powerful.

Hybrid employs four drive modes with normal the default and drivers selecting EV for short, under 20-mph trips using only electric power, ECO for reduced throttle response and SPORT to fulfill the promise of highway muscle by maximizing throttle response. ECO and SPORT provide a perfect bigamist marriage with the continuous variable transmission.

Handling is surprisingly agile for a full-size, front-wheel drive sedan, with responsive rack and pinion steering and a firm – not cushy – suspension with MacPherson front struts and independent dual link in the rear, both connected to stabilizing bars operating under the hybrid’s 12% more rigid unibody construction.

Hybrids require space for their nickel-hydride batteries and trunk space is sacrificed along with mobility for rear seats, which are roomy but neither recline nor fold-flat. Inside room and comfort, however, are not sacrificed.

Heated front seats are comfortable and the 6.1-inch dashboard touch-screen and a nine-speaker audio system use Entune, Toyota’s integrated multimedia navigation and telematics system.

Gauges are easy to understand and use; knick-knack spaces plentiful. Top notch fit and finish helps keep the interior quiet, and standard safety features include blind spot alert and back-up camera monitor.

LIKES: Performance, looks, comfort, handling, mpg, quiet
DISLIKES: Rear seat mobility
BOTTOM LINE: A top full-sized sedan hybrid competitor with 650-plus miles per fill-up

FACT FILE: AVALON HYBRID 4DR XLE TOURING

  • Base price with destination charge $38,045
  • Curb weight 3,585 lbs.
  • Wheelbase 111 inches
  • Length 195.2 inches
  • Width 72.2 inches
  • Engine specs 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC
  • Horsepower 200 hp net with hybrid
  • Gas engine 156 hp at 5,700 (gas)
  • Torque 156 hp at 4,500 rpm (gas)
  • Electric motor 105 kW/4,500 rpm
  • Torque 199 lb-ft at 0-1,5000 rpm
  • Transmission Continuously Variable Transmission
  • EPA Rating 40 mpg city and 39 mpg highway
  • Range 17-gallon, regular or higher
  • Performance 0-60 in just over 8 seconds