Road Test: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Avalon, much like its sibling the Camry, has been around for quite some time. They’ve always been quite predictable in what they offer and what they don’t. Yet like how the Camry was reimagined for the 2018 model year, Avalon was also redefined in what it should provide its owners.

Underpinned by Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, and powered by the Toyota Hybrid System (THS II) powertrain, the 2019 Toyota Avalon embodies the ride quality, technology, and design that sedan shoppers are looking for.

For its fifth generation, Avalon received a makeover by Toyota’s U.S.-based design, engineering, and manufacturing teams at Calty Design Research Inc., Toyota Motor North America Research and Development, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky.

According to Toyota, the teams kept two words in mind throughout development: Authenticity and Exhilaration. We felt both throughout our week with the 2019 Avalon Hybrid Limited.

The Calty team penned Avalon’s exterior to be longer, lower, and wider than before. Unique,  stamping methods also aided in the deep draw panels that express distinguishable sculpted forms. Complex surfaces were shaped, like at Avalon’s door handles that coincide with its profile’s bold character line.

The slim all-LED projector headlights speak to its sportiness and elegance of the 2019 Avalon. Each headlamp is made of thin lighting modules – one for low beam, another for high – plus, an Adaptive LED Cornering lamp and a Dynamic Auxiliary Turn Signal. The cornering lamps enhance visibility around corners and curves during low- and high-speed maneuvers, as well as when changing lanes or when reversing. The lamp fades in and out for seamless activations and transitions, and adds 60 percent more foreground width to the low beam’s pattern.

The hood is made of aluminum to reduce weight, and vents in the lower front fascia pass air across the front tires and along Avalon’s buff flanks.

At the rear, LED tail lamps with dynamic turn signals illuminate like something out of a futuristic movie. They provide added visibility by activating each light diode in sequential fashion, rather than all on, all off.

Inside, we immediately noticed the thin structural pillars and broad windshield, which offers incredible visibility and thus safety.

Soft-touch materials are noticeable throughout – around the flowing, low-profile center console decorated in piano black trim; on the slim, tiered instrument panel leading into the doors; in the rear compartment, where doors and console mirror the impressive craftsmanship seen in the front.

A rear cup and device holder, accented in piano black and satin chrome-finish, folds up and down in the armrest between passengers. Rear air vents, controls for the seat warmers, and USB charging ports are available in the back too.

We love the door armrests which are thickly padded and buttery soft. The real wood trim on Limited looks incredibly warm.

The thin floating center stack of the dash houses Avalon’s 9-inch infotainment system. Below the panel, there’s easy access to the slide-open eBin containing a 12-volt plug and the standard wireless Qi mobile device charger (which worked perfectly). A trio of USB power ports (making for five total) is located inside the center console. A part cup-holder, part phone cradle located atop the front console, sits adjacent to the gear selector.

Toyota went all out by offering a color 10-inch Head-Up Display (HUD) to project important info, such as vehicle and engine speeds, turn-by-turn directions, audio settings, and drive mode. It helped us stay focused on the road and is very clear.

Aside for all the create comforts and driving tech, the big news inside the Avalon is that it’s one of the few new Toyota’s available with Apple CarPlay. We love the interface and the fact that Toyota touchscreen is so responsive.

We’re excited to see Entune 3.0 Toyota Connected Service offered, which includes Safety Connect and Service Connect with a 3-year trial period, and Remote Connect with a 6-month trial.

Avalon also features Toyota’s first integration of smartwatch and Amazon Alexa-enabled connectivity, as part of Toyota Remote Connect. It allow drivers to lock/unlock their doors, start the engine, or check the fuel level. It’s voice controllable too, and compatible with select Android or Apple devices.

We’re happy to report that music lovers will be more than satisfied with the 1200 watt 14-speaker sound system. Toyota worked with JBL to optimize the cabin design for optimal acoustics and it can surely be heard.

Toyota first Quantum Logic Surround combines individual signal streams of music by using patented filter bank technology and psychoacoustic modeling to create an immersive multi-channel listening experience with exceptional clarity, detail, and image specificity. Clari-Fi analyzes audio streams in real time, rebuilds key details lost in processing, and restores high-fidelity.

The story continues under the hood, where Toyota made the possible, possible. EPA fuel economy is rated at 43 across the board, making it the most efficient Avalon ever. We averaged 44 mpg across our week of commuting and errands.

A new TNGA 2.5-liter four-cylinder is more fuel efficient, runs cleaner, and is more powerful than previous iterations. Doing it all took the implementation of Toyota’s vast catalog of advanced engine technologie.

Instead of oil pressure, its Dual VVT-i with VVT-iE variable valve system employs an electric motor to control variable valve timing, which aids fuel efficiency and promotes cleaner exhaust emissions (this is especially helpful in cold climates).

The hybrid system’s net power output is an impressive 215 horsepower – up 15 horsepower versus the outgoing version. THS II uses two electric motors – MG1 and MG2 – to supplement the charging of the hybrid system’s Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack, while MG2 assists the engine.

The compact battery sits under the rear passenger seat (instead of the trunk), thus providing a little over 16 cubic feet of cargo room.

Auto Glide Control (AGC), yet another of Avalon’s fuel-saving technologies, automatically calculates efficient coasting. When driving normally, engine braking will slow the vehicle down when the driver lifts off from the accelerator pedal. However, to avoid aggressive engine braking, AGC limits the loss of vehicle speed through an automatic drive setting that acts more like a neutral gear, allowing the vehicle to coast to the stoplight.

“AGC” is illuminated on the Multi-Information Display when AGC is active to alert the driver that less deceleration torque than normal is currently being used.  AGC can only be activated when the vehicle is being operated in the ECO drive mode setting. We really liked how this worked.

Avalon rides so smoothly and quietly. An entirely new suspension really makes this car feel like a Lexus in terms of comfort, but it handles better than any Avalon before it. The steering provides a lot of feedback and feels secure.

The cabin allows for a pin drop to be heard thanks to additional seals where front fenders meet front doors and where the doors merge at the B-Pillar. Sound absorption material is found in the engine bay, within the carpet pad, under the floor, and in the wheel well liners.

Standard Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) bundles active safety technologies including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA); and Automatic High Beams (AHB). Additional standard safety technology includes Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Back Guide Monitor (BGM).

The Panoramic View Monitor on our tester makes parking a breeze, and Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) ensures accidents are avoided when backing up too.

For over two decades, Avalon’s sole manufacturing home has been Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky in Georgetown, KY. All Avalons sold in America and around the globe are assembled in Georgetown by about 8,000 proud American team members.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 9
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 9
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 8
Infotainment 10
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score 95

Make: Toyota
Model: Avalon
Trim Level: Hybrid Limited
Engine: 2.5L 4-Cylinder
Transmission: CVT
Options: Advanced Safety Pkg

Base Price: $42,800
As-Tested Price: $45,118

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