The Toyota Avalon is a full-size sedan with abundant interior space and leather-upholstered comfort. Sliding in and out of its seats is easy, and it’s smooth and quiet underway. Devoid of the latest in swoopy design, its near-classic appearance is aging well. With its modern safety features, the Avalon shows no significant change for the 2018 model year. Avalon was last redesigned for the 2013 model year.
Two distinct versions are available: one with a conventional V6 gasoline engine, and the other with a hybrid (gasoline/electric) powertrain. Both are fuel-efficient, and the Avalon Hybrid ranks among the most thrifty full-size family cruisers on the market.
In regular Avalons, a strong, smooth-running 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. With a 24-mpg Combined rating from the EPA, it’s right on track in terms of fuel efficiency with the large-sedan competition.
The Avalon Hybrid ties a 2.5-liter, 200-horsepower, four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor, coupled to a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) takes the place of the 6-speed automatic. Acceleration is passable; reaching 60 mph takes 8.2 seconds. The EPA estimates 40 mpg in Combined city and highway driving.
Gas-engine Avalons come in five trim levels. Hybrids are available in XLE Plus, Premium, and Touring trim.
For the 2017 model year, Toyota made its Safety Sense group of safety features standard on all models. Included are a lane-departure warning with steering assist, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.
Many automakers continue to limit modern active-safety equipment to top trim levels. Making them standard raises the status of Avalon against such full-size rivals as the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, and Hyundai Azera, helping to justify its higher price. In addition to a standard rearview camera, each Avalon has ten airbags.
A solid crash-test record also helps. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Avalon a five-star overall rating and five stars in side-impact testing, though its frontal-impact test earned only a four-star score. Naming Avalon a Top Safety Pick, with Good crash-test scores, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated it Superior for frontal crash protection.
In any trim level, the Avalon is abundantly equipped. Top models come across as veritable luxury sedans.
The 2018 Toyota Avalon XLE V6 ($33,500) is equipped with a V6 engine, 6-speed automatic, leather-trimmed seat upholstery, heated front seats, pushbutton start, rearview camera, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, 17-inch wheels, and the Safety Sense group. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $895 destination charge.)
Avalon XLE Plus V6 ($35,250) adds a moonroof and auto-dimming inside mirror. XLE Premium V6 ($36,700) comes with navigation, 9-speaker audio, driver’s memory, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and wireless charging.
Avalon Touring V6 ($37,900) gets a slightly revised suspension, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, and LED daytime running lights.
Avalon Limited V6 ($41,300) includes heated/cooled front seats, three-zone climate control, heated rear seats, HID headlights, power rear-window sunshade, JBL 11-speaker audio, and softer perforated leather.
Avalon Hybrid XLE Plus ($37,500), Hybrid XLE Premium ($38,950), and Hybrid Limited ($42,800) come with the gasoline/electric powertrain and CVT.
Avalons used to be related to the Toyota Camry, but those days of equivalence are long gone. Today’s Avalon benefits from a contemporary, refreshing appearance.
Little, if any, trace of Camry styling can be seen, especially since the Camry’s recent redesign. Avalons boast gracefully shaped sheetmetal, even if overall presence isn’t as stirring as some European-brand competitors.
Curiously, the wide, deep front end looks overly aggressive for a sedan that aims toward family motoring. Vertically oriented daytime running lights enhance that effect, looking a bit out of place.
Simple and straightforward, the Avalon cabin isn’t as enticing as its exterior, lacking the posh details of European luxury models. Price aside, though, the Avalon ranks among the quietest, most comfortable sedans to be found.
It’s also one of the few that offers space for five adults, along with a full load of luggage. Avalons offer 16 cubic feet of trunk space, but Hybrid trunks are smaller by 2 cubic feet.
Though comfortable, front seats lack the level of lateral support that some drivers prefer. Still, they’re wide and flat, easy to get in an out, and seem solidly built. Soft leather boasts commendable stitching.
Rear seats are suitably contoured. Three average-size adults can occupy the back bench without troublesome squeezing. Slight head-ducking is needed to enter, due to the low roofline. But once inside, expect plenty of clearance for heads and legs.
Interior fittings are carefully installed, down to the small details. Even the graining of the leather upholstery seems to match neatly.
A two-tone treatment helps separate the amply-sized dashboard. Climate controls are operated via an attractive screen, but touch-sensitive controls have done away with the tactile feel of traditional buttons and knobs. Also unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities are absent.
Avalon’s supple ride is accompanied by an admirable level of control. No hints remain of the floatiness that prevailed in early Avalons. Though the ride is firm, far removed from pillowy-soft, it’s rarely harsh.
Solid powertrains yield capable performance. Nothing about the gasoline V6 is overpowering, but it delivers plenty of passing power, while comparatively easy on fuel. All V6 versions include paddle shifters, and acceleration to 60 mph takes only 6.7 seconds. Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes can alter steering effort, throttle operation, and shifting feel.
As for quietness, the Avalon’s hushed ride compares favorably with that of any sedan, including far more costly models. Credit goes largely to use of acoustic glass in the windshield and side windows. Both versions are quiet while cruising, without observable engine sound. Only when accelerating hard can the Hybrid’s coarse engine sound be heard. Sport mode in the Hybrid reveals slight electric-motor whine.
Fuel economy in the regular Avalon is EPA-rated at 21/31 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined. The Hybrid scores near the top of the gas-mileage scale, EPA-rated at 40/39 mpg City/Highway, or 40 mpg Combined.
The Toyota Avalon is safe and comfortable, a premium model that’s roomy and easy to with. On the road, the Avalon is smooth yet controlled and quite quiet. The Limited trim is luxurious.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.