The Toyota Avalon was a unique midsize offering when it debuted more than two decades ago. It brought class-above roominess and comfort to the segment, as it was positioned between the Camry and models from Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division. The Avalon remains unique in its segment for 2018 with its choice of powertrains. This time around, I’m testing the 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid in Limited trim.
Before we get there, however, it’s worth mentioning the non-hybrid option. The standard Avalon’s 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. Teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the V6 impresses with both its acceleration and its EPA-rated 24 MPG combined fuel economy (21 city/30 highway). That being said, the hybrid naturally does even better. Even though its less powerful, it manages an impressive 40 MPG in the city and 39 on the highway.
The steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and choice of Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes make the Avalon a bit more exciting than its powertrain might suggest. The Sport mode selection yields quicker throttle response and boosted electric power steering feel, while also raising transmission shift points. On downshifts, it “blips” the throttle, as the driver of a stick-shift sports car would.
The Eco Mode selection prioritizes fuel efficiency by balancing driving performance, air conditioning function and fuel efficiency, and the Normal mode setting serves up the best balance of everyday performance and comfort.
With two decades of global hybrid leadership under its belt, it was only natural that Toyota would make this high-efficiency technology available in its flagship sedan. In the 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, the company’s renowned Hybrid Synergy Drive system combines output from a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and a high-torque electric motor. The resulting combined 200 horsepower moves the Avalon Hybrid with spirit, but in a decidedly seamless and quiet fashion.
The hybrid system is able to switch between the gas engine and electric motor, or combine the output from both, channeling torque through a unique planetary gear-type continuously variable transmission. An EV Drive mode enables the Avalon Hybrid to drive solely on the electric motor for a short distance at speeds of 20 mph or less.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
Augmenting the conventional brake system, regenerative braking produced by the electric motor/generator in the transaxle captures the kinetic energy of the wheels, storing it in the hybrid battery. That kind of hybrid intelligence, pioneered by Toyota, permeates the vehicle. For example, because the air conditioning and power steering systems are driven electrically, both continue to operate normally when the car is operating under electric power alone or when the auto start/stop system shuts off the gas engine.
A 3.5-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) display includes a Hybrid System Indicator that shows power output and regeneration. Even with the compact nickel-metal-hydride battery located in the trunk, the Avalon Hybrid maintains a generous 14 cu.-ft. of trunk space, only two cu.ft. less than the gasoline Avalon models.
The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid presents a platform for luxury with its coupe-like profile, discrete chrome trim and ample cabin room. Interior design and appointments underscore that premise. The Avalon’s cabin, one of the roomiest in the segment, comes in a choice of three interior color themes including almond, light gray and black.
A quiet and peaceful cabin is an Avalon hallmark. Serenity abounds by way of strategically placed sound-insulating materials. That includes acoustic-type windshield glass and side glass and foam injected into the A, B and C-pillars, as well as the rocker panels.
Premium amenities and design touches define the Avalon’s interior, giving it a high quality feel. The power windows, for example, slow down as they approach the top of the window frames, and the coin box features a damper for smooth opening and closing. The steering column tilts and telescopes. Elegant smoke-toned chrome trim surrounds the center panel, while glossy trim frames the shifter.
The instrument panel utilizes Optitron-type gauges and the aforementioned TFT display. The leather-trimmed steering wheel features all the usual controls, including stereo, phone, and information functions. The steering wheel also includes buttons for voice recognition and a distance switch for the standard Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid’s eBin electronics storage tray can store two devices out of sight. It’s even illuminated by LEDs at night. Both the XLE Premium and Limited feature wireless charging for compatible smartphones.
A power rear window shade provides some added comfort for passengers. However, Toyota’s devised a clever way to keep that shade from hampering visibility when you’re backing up. Shift into reverse, and the shade lowers, and then rises again with the shift into drive. A standard backup camera improves rearward visibility for all Avalon models. In the Limited, dynamic guidelines superimposed on the display show approximate distances from objects in the camera’s field of view.
Music may be played from nearly every digital source including CDs.
Safety fare includes ten standard airbags and the Toyota’s Star Safety System Vehicle Stability Control. ?Also on offer are Traction Control, ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop brake-override technology.
The Avalon Hybrid has available Blind Spot Monitoring, as well as Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The latter is designed to detect low-speed cross traffic behind the vehicle when in reverse.
My test 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited sported a Parisian Night Pearl metallic exterior along with a Dark Blue and Black interior. The base price was set at $42,550, while the final tally rose to $43,639 after factoring in the optional carpet and trunk mat set and delivery fees.
The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited makes for an ideal choice for those who appreciate the value and savings over a similar Lexus Hybrid. Granted, it’s not as powerful as the V6. However, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and hybrid system deliver more than enough power, with the advantage of greater fuel economy. The ride quality is extremely stable and the handling characteristics lean to the sporty side of the equation.
TFLCAR’S TAKE: The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid reflects the incorporation of customer input, resulting in a vastly improved vehicle over the original with the enhanced efficiency of a Hybrid system. It is a jewel among Toyota’s sedan offerings and is positioned nicely between the Camry and upmarket Lexus models.
Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. There’s also a 60-month/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and an unlimited mileage corrosion warranty. Hybrid-related components, including the battery pack and control modules, are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.
All Toyota Avalon Hybrid models also come standard with Toyota Care, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles.
In the overall scheme of things, the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited is certainly worthy of consideration if you’re considering the purchase of a hybrid sedan.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited
|Price as Tested:||$43,639|
|Engine:||2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 with dual VVT-i and permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor|
|Horsepower:||Engine: 156 hp @ 5,700 RPM
Electric Motor: 105 kW @ 4,500 RPM (50 kW instantaneous)
Combined: 200 hp
|Torque:||Engine: 156 lbs.-ft. @ 4,500 RPM
Electric Motor: 199 lbs.-ft.
|Hybrid Battery Pack:||Sealed nickel-metal hydride|
|Nominal Voltage:||244.8 V (204 1.2 V cells), 6.5 amp-hour capacity, 650 V max. system voltage|
|Transmission:||Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)|
|Suspension:||Front: Independent MacPherson strut w/ torsion bar & 25mm stabilizer bar
Rear: Dual-link independent MacPherson strut w/ torsion bar & 25mm stabilizer bar
|Brakes:||Electronically-controlled four-wheel discs w/ ABS, BA and integrated regenerative braking system|
|Tires:||Michelin Primacy MXMV4 215/55 R17 93V|
|Fuel capacity:||17.0 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||40 MPG City/39 MPG Highway|
|Width:||72.2 inches (including mirrors)|
|Turning Circle:||40 feet|
|Curb Weight:||3,638 pounds|