There was a time when the Toyota Avalon was jocularly known as the Japanese Buick. I was at an Avalon introduction in Arizona a few years ago, and a Toyota engineer told us they took that as a compliment. They had a lot of respect for the venerable, GM brand. And like Buick, the folks at Toyota want to erase the image of their luxurious top-of-the-line model as qualified for the last time buyers program. In short, the Avalon has found the fountain of youth.
A complete redesign in 2013 transformed the car into a sleek, almost exotic beast. A 3.5-liter V6 borrowed from the Lexus ES-350 transformed its performance. And what could be more modern than adding a hybrid to the mix?
But, there are pluses and minuses. One minus is you lose those delicious 268 ponies in that V6 engine. In its place, a 156-horsepower, 2.5-liter four cylinder mill with an added 141-horsepower electric motor. This is the same combo that powers the Camry hybrid and actually, it works pretty well.
OK, it will take you about 8 and a half seconds to get to 60 miles per hour, and that’s almost 3 seconds slower than the regular Avalon. But the tradeoff is mileage. Very good mileage. For example, the V6 Avalon will return 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. That’s right in the ballpark with its competition, but the hybrid will give you 40/city and 39/highway, and you don’t lose anything important in the bargain, except a race with any of your gas engine competition.
The shape, as we said, is just plain lovely, and the Limited model we drove was swathed in leather and very convincing plastic wood-grain along with HID headlights, a power sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, a seven-inch Entune infotainment screen, a backup camera, a 10-way power driver’s seat, an eight-way passenger seat, perforated leather seating surfaces (heated and ventilated in front; heated in back), pushbutton start, and a power rear sunshade. Our tester also had the $1750 Tech package (adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, and a pre-collision system) and a $200 wireless phone charger.
That’s quite a list, even if it does come to a bit over $43,000. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid has come a long way from its origins as part of the AARP motor pool. Our test car appealed to everyone from this aging baby-boomer to my 18-year-old daughter. I hope she enjoyed the back seat, because I wouldn’t let go of the keys.