2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited Review

The biggest hybrid sedan makes a subtle statement

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Responsive throttle, serious roominess, good ergonomics, great fuel economy for something this big, easy to live with on an everyday basis.
Negatives: Droning four-cylinder gas engine, too much chrome on the fascia, massive lower grille, ponderous in turns, needs better infotainment screen graphics.
Bottom Line: There's really no competition for a hybrid this size, and that's great for Toyota. The fact that it's huge, gets great mileage and actually moves quickly is a boon.
Look across the automotive landscape for a big hybrid sedan, and you'll find a sole candidate. Yes, there's only the Toyota Avalon hybrid with absolutely zero competitors to be found anywhere. Okay, so the Buick LaCrosse as an eAssist Hybrid version, but its efficiency can't compete with the Avalon Hybrid's. You can find small hybrids and midsize hybrids everywhere. Camry, Sonata, Fusion, Malibu but no Impala, Taurus, etc. We can't figure out why since bigger cars warrant improved gas mileage rather than dinky hatchbacks that should already get solid mileage numbers. We got a chance to drive the hybrid version of the already great Avalon, and these are our impressions.

Driving Experience



If you want a hybrid, you just can't expect much in the way of driving excitement, really. Something has to be sacrificed for fuel economy, and that usually leaves thrills left behind on the factory floor. The Avalon Hybrid isn't a sporty car, but it is one of the better hybrids to drive. The 2.5-liter four combined with the electric motor give the car spritely acceleration, making cars like the Hyundai Sonata seem tepid by comparison. Otherwise, it steers and handles like most hybrid sedans, offering little in terms of feedback and apexing abilities. But most customers won't care, and that's ok.

Ride Quality: Comfortable but a bit on the firm side for most Avalon customers who expect more cush than sport.

Acceleration: Feels quicker than it is. Mid-seven 0-60 isn't bad, and good throttle response helps.

Braking: Good brakes that have a bit of grabbiness at the top of the pedal. The rest of travel is progressive.

Steering: Fairly numb steering that doesn't provide much feedback. Vague in corners but fine for freeway driving.

Handling: Body roll is very noticeable, as is the understeer. This is not a street carver. The gas only Avalon is far better.




Though the infotainment system dubbed "Entune" could use a bit of jazzing up from an aesthetic standpoint there's not much to complain about with regard to the Avalon Hybrid's tech specs. Even in the most basic trim level, you get Bluetooth, navigation and a 7" touchscreen. Not too shabby. The layout of the dash and ease of controls are some of the Avalon's strong points, and the Hybrid's remains the same. It might not be the sexiest look available for the infotainment screen and controls, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about.

Infotainment System: Clear 7-inch screen that can use a better font. Otherwise, it's easy to read even in bright sunlight.

Controls: Appeases young and old alike thanks to slick flush buttons, easy-to-read center stack and big silver metal knobs for audio control. Why others make it more complicated than this is beyond us.

Bluetooth Pairing: Very easy to pair both iOS and Android smartphones. No issues here. Re-pairing when re-entering the car is seamless.

Voice Call Quality: Excellent on both ends of the call. Clear and plenty of volume.




Though the current Avalon won't be mistaken for an Audi A7 in terms of visual sexiness, it is a good-looking car, a bit on the sleeper side, though. No one wil think you're loaded, but they also won't poo-pooh its design. The Avalon Hybrid is long and lean with a much more prominent fascia than ever before. It also eschews the retiree look of the previous generations, thankfully. In darker colors, it has a sophisticated appearance that won't look dated anytime soon.

Front: The wide and simple grille looks good with the tapered headlights, but the lower fascia's grille is way too large with too much chrome trim. Makes it look a bit like a catfish.

Rear: Clean and uncluttered. The sandwich-style taillights look great with the simple chrome bar in between.

Profile: No floating roof, no crazy creases and its own unique alloy wheels make the profile crisp and handsome. Next to the rear view, this is its best angle.

Cabin: We're not huge fans of Toyota interiors, but this one's pretty good. Nothing is unattractive except for the weird cowl over the instrument binnacle that's bisected by a dash trim piece.




In terms of driver and passenger comfort, the Avalon Hybrid Limited isn't really lacking for anything. The reason it has no options listed is because it's packed with great features like cooled and heated front seats, upgraded leather, heated rear seats and a power rear sunshade. Even the base model comes in leather. You won't find many full-sized competitors at this price point with this much. It's a car for long haul driving because it's truly comfortable versus just being fuel efficient.

Front Seats: Great cushioning but could use a bit more bolstering for our likes. It's no sports car, so most folks will be very happy with the seats.

Rear Seats: Also very comfortable. Even the middle passenger won't complain for space.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): A solidly built car that had no rattles or creaks. High speed road noise was minimal, as was wind noise.

Visibility: Excellent visibility all around and a good driving position.

Climate: Great A/C with easy triple-zone automatic climate control. The ventilated seats worked very well in the hot Chicago summer. No word on heat.




Though Avalon models don't have every high-tech safety feature available, they have a robust set of safety measures, especially at the Limited trim level. For a capable highway cruiser, we would've loved smart cruise control, but to no avail. Not even the top trim Buick LaCrosse offers that, so no biggie. Aside from that, we found that the Avalon Hybrid Limited had pretty much everything we expect at this price.

IIHS Rating: All Avalon models are a Top Safety Pick+.

Standard Safety Tech: The Limited comes fully packed with features such as 10 airbags, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, plus Toyota's Safety Connect service, which includes roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location and automatic collision notification. Unfortunately, there's no automatic braking or intelligent cruise control, which we would've scored higher for.

Optional Tech: Nothing additional at this trim level.




The Avalon Hybrid is littered with good usage of storage space. Unlike many other sedans than don't provide ample gear storage because of design constraints, we found the Avalon Hybrid near perfect. It's no pickup truck when it comes to big pockets and compartments, but it has more than enough for the everyday commuter. We loved the big center armrest compartment and the charging and power options.

Storage Space: The front "eBin" allows power cord pass through with a neat sliding panel for phones. It also provides wireless Qi charging in our Limited trim model. Door pockets and cupholders work very well with plenty of depth.

Cargo Room: 14 cubic feet of trunk space isn't massive (the Honda Accord Sedan has 15.8), but it's more than sufficient for weekend trips.

Fuel Economy



Considering that the gas-powered V6 in the standard Avalon gets 21 city/31 highway, the Hybrid's 40/39 rating is astounding for a car this big. It pays huge dividends in terms of range, too, about 700 miles on one tank if you're not too heavy on the gas pedal. This is a solid reason to pay the extra money for the Hybrid trim, considering that you can go for long periods of time before refueling.

Observed: Our tester returned an average of 32.5 mpg over the course of seven days of daily driving.

Driving Factors: We drove in both city and highway environments and kept the car in Sport mode most of the time. We also pushed the car fairly hard to see what we could extract under more aggressive driving. Owners will easily see better mileage, especially in Eco mode.




The base Avalon already has a good 8-speaker audio system, but our our Hybrid Limited amps things up with a premium JBL 11-speaker audio system that's simply fantastic. From rock to jazz to classical, the system proved to be worth it on our daily drives. Clarity, base, volume and lack of distortion made listening to music and talk radio a pleasure.

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