2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium Review

It's almost like they don't want you to buy a Lexus.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: July 10th, 2015

The Toyota Avalon remains one of but a few affordable full-size sedans on the market. With a starting price of $31,590, it's a great option for buyers who are looking for all the rear legroom in the world without a price tag that might have come off a house. When the fourth-generation Avalon hit the market, it was styled with a bit more vigor than in generations past, in part to attempt to bring the average buying age down into the mid-40s or thereabouts. It certainly carries everything buyers in that demographic are looking for - it's positively huge, it's styled nicely, it's reliable, and it's not lacking for power.

If you're feeling a bit greener than your average citizen, you can opt for the Avalon Hybrid. It bumps the price up to $36,470, but if you're looking for a comparably-equipped hybrid, your next step up would be the Lexus ES 300h, which is roughly $4,000 more expensive. Yet, as Lexus is a subsidiary of Toyota, the Avalon contains a good deal of Lexus DNA at a considerable discount. You do have to sacrifice a few things, but the Avalon Hybrid should give Lexus pause, as it presents a value that might pull some buyers back to the big-box brand.

  • Interior

    Whereas Lexus retains a staid interior design language, Toyota's approach is a bit more adventurous. The fourth-gen Avalon's interior is a marvel, with heavy use of multiple layers, colors, and materials. The Avalon also brings some touch into the equation, eschewing certain HVAC and infotainment buttons in favor of a swath of corrugated touch-sensitive material. It doesn't show fingerprints, and it has little cutouts to guide your finger without your eyes. It's actually very nicely done. Our screen was the optional, larger unit, a seven-inch Entune touchscreen that's plenty visible at all times - unless, of course, there's any hint of direct sunlight on the screen, in which case the display is rendered useless. Perhaps a more matte solution could fix this.

    That screen issue is but a single pockmark on an otherwise flawless interior. Rear legroom is abundant; hell, front legroom isn't anything to shake a stick at, either. The Avalon Hybrid's gauges resemble its Lexus brethren's; the tachometer is gone and replaced with an economy gauge. Let's be honest; how many Avalon owners actually need a tach?

  • Exterior

    The Avalon hasn't changed much since its fourth generation debuted in 2013. It's a sharply styled sedan that has managed to escape Toyota's tradition of equipping grilles the size of the bumper itself; don't worry, though, that gaping maw will come to the Avalon when it's refreshed for 2016. In the meantime, its looks are contemporary without being annoying, and we think it's a countenance that buyers of all ages should be fine with. Because that's what it is; it's not exemplary in any way, it's just fine.

  • On the Road

    The first thing you'll notice upon entering the Avalon is how premium it feels. The door closes with a soft, yet authoritative thunk. Everything is covered in material on the softer side of the spectrum. The vehicle kicks to life not with the grumble of an internal-combustion engine, but with a series of beeps that tells you the car is ready to roll.

    The hybrid system in the Avalon is something we've seen before in countless other iterations (similar thereto, but not exactly the same as). In this application, the electric motor and Atkinson-cycle four combine to produce 200 horsepower. That doesn't sound like much in a car this big, but you will not be lacking thrust. The electric motors kick in to provide instant torque from the moment the pedal is pushed; we were actually spinning the front wheels on occasion. Overall, the system operates almost seamlessly, swapping between electric and gas power with nary a shudder.

    This results in some pretty astounding fuel economy. Even in awfully-thick urban commuting, we averaged 40 to 43 mpg per trip, and highway jaunts were also right around that magical 40-mpg mark. All that, in a car big enough for a basketball player. Well done, Toyota.

    In terms of ride quality, this is where the Avalon truly separates itself from its Lexus competition. Lexus vehicles possess superb outside-noise mitigation and pillow-soft suspension. It's like riding in a sensory deprivation chamber. The Avalon, on the other hand, lets a bit more noise through, and its ride is on the firmer side. It doesn't exactly crash its way through bumps, but it might be a bit too firm for more delicate drivers.

  • Final Thoughts

    If you desire a more traditional definition of luxury, or a more traditional definition of switchgear, a Lexus clearly stands out as the car to buy. However, if you want to save a little bit of dough (and give up a little bit of ride quality) in favor of an utterly capacious full-size sedan with some great styling and wonderful fuel economy, you're going to be hard pressed to pass on the Avalon Hybrid.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle naturally-aspirated I-4, plus permanent-magnet AC electric motor with nickel-metal-hydride battery pack

    Transmission: Continuously variable

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 200 horsepower (net)

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 40 city / 39 highway

    Base Price: $36,470

    As Tested: $38,455 (incl. $825 destination)

    Available Features: Navigation with nine-speaker premium audio and seven-inch screen

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