Review: 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Toyota Avalon has generally been known as a vehicle for the older driver. When we started telling people how much we enjoyed driving it, they would get a look on their faces almost in disbelief. The 2015 Avalon isn’t your grandmother’s Avalon.

300AvalonHybridX5108Under the Hood

The Avalon Hybrid comes standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine good for 156 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. A105 kW electric motor works with the engine to make a net 200 horsepower, all of which runs through Toyota’s electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

Exterior

Toyota uses “coupe-like silhouette and chiseled lines” to describe the Avalon’s exterior styling. Those words bring to mind a host of ideas and concepts we didn’t really see played out. The sloping back glass may be a tad reminiscent of a fastback or a shooting brake design however it doesn’t strike us quite as coupe-like as Toyota claims.

That’s not to say the Avalon is a bad looking car. Both of our testers like the look of the Avalon as a solid, not too flashy entry into the luxury market. The look is in the same styling vein as the Camry and Corolla with similar lines and the same large grille insert Toyota sedans have been sporting lately. The grille opening was a styling cue we didn’t find attractive in the Camry. The Avalon’s designers did us a favor though and wrapped the opening with some clearly visible trim completing the look the Camry guy didn’t.

300US-AV13-20-DSmooth, clean lines along the sides of the vehicle contribute to a sophisticated look that gives the Avalon a mature appearance. A spot of chrome here and there as well as silver painted alloy wheels unique to the hybrid models contribute to the aesthetic. The look is just rich enough to make you want to experience the luxury without making the chance to do so look out of reach.

Interior

The Avalon is marketed as a mid-size, entry level luxury sedan. The interior indicates otherwise. The inside of the Avalon feels full-size with plenty of elbow room, knee room, hip room, and headroom while still managing to feel and ride like a mid-size.

Entry-level luxury vehicles often give the feeling the designers were not convinced owners would believe the luxury tag and went overboard with details. The Avalon is not that way. Premium materials are soft to the touch any place you might need to come in contact with them during your drive. Fit and finish are Toyota solid.

Everything inside the Avalon is where it needs to be. The design, the placement of knobs, and buttons, and switches makes sense. Everything inside the Avalon looks good. Materials are mixed so there is not too much of anything. One of the quieter elements that communicated the most was negative space on the console and center stack. There were empty spaces on both between sets of controls that gave a clean appearance while the combination of materials avoided sterility. Swaths of leather across both ends of the dash were divided by  simply elegant row of stitching. The Avalon doesn’t loudly try to convince you it is a premium vehicle, it quietly shows you in and lets you figure it out.

300US-AV13-4-AWhile the instrument cluster does feel a little bit like the parts bin was raided to fill a hole in the dash, it doesn’t take away from the overall aesthetic. Classic white numbers on a black background are accompanied by a soft blue light that seems to fill the space from out of nowhere.

While not anything spectacular or out of the ordinary, the Avalon’s seating was comfortable and roomy while still supportive. The 10-way adjustable driver seat and 8-way passenger seat allowed for a 6 hour road trip without any complaining from our back and legs afterward.

Infotainment

A 7″ touchscreen is front-and-center in the Avalon’s center stack. It was easily readable and accessible from both front seats and featured Toyota’s Entune App Suite. The system was easy to use as it seems to be in every Toyota. Navigation, audio, and HVAC could be controlled via the touch screen or knobs and buttons surrounding the screen.

Simplicity was the name of the game in the infotainment realm as well. As we’ve grown accustomed to with the brand, the most commonly used controls are easily identified and just as easily used. Good sized volume and tuning knobs flank the touchscreen and HVAC controls were mounted just below with simple up-down switches for the dual-zone climate control.

A small driver information screen in the instrument cluster allows the driver access to a trip computer, diagnostics, and fuel economy among other information. This screen is controlled via steering wheel mounted controls that are not quite intuitive as the other knobs and buttons in the Avalon, but have a short learning curve if you take a few minutes to look over the manual.

300US-AV13-440-BThe Drive

Comfortable. Smooth. Easy to drive. We took a spur-of-the-moment day trip to Music City in the Avalon which saw us spending 10-12 hours of a 20 or so hour day in the car. While that might be long time to sit in any car, it was just the right amount of time for us to become fans.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system worked brilliantly and seamlessly. Toyota is proud of the 200 ft-lb of torque the system produces. They should be. We were impressed with every element of the drive. Acceleration was unexpectedly good and we never felt it lacking even on mountain roads we encountered.

Cruise control around town was good. It suffered a little bit and had trouble maintaining speed on some mountain downhills, but did ok on the uphills. This is of course with the caveat that roads with runaway truck ramps really aren’t a fair testing ground.

Important Numbers for Families

  • 8 – While it won’t be setting any land speed records, the Toyota Avalon’s 0-60 time is a smooth 8.0 seconds which, for a hybrid, is great.
  • 17 – In addition to  Hybrid Synergy Drive system, Toyota gives the 2015 Avalon a 17 gallon tank making it seem like forever until your next fill-up.
  • 600 – We got almost 600 miles to a tank in a mix of highway and city, mountain and medium grade driving. We almost couldn’t believe it.

Family 5 Test

  1. Car Seats –  Though commonly thought of as a vehicle for four adults, the Avalon has plenty of room in the backseat for three kids or two adults.
  2. Coffee Cups – For the driver and passenger, the two cupholders next to the gearshift were perfectly placed. Even when you fill them with large containers, you don’t get them encroaching on the center armrest.
  3. Luggage –  Whether you’re going for a day or a road trip with family, the Avalon Hybrid’s battery-limited trunk space is still deep though you may have to pack light if you intend on brining home more than a few souvenirs with you.
  4. Golf Clubs – Again, the battery limits how much you can fit in the trunk so you’re probably only getting two sets of clubs in the trunk but if you need more room, you can put a few across the backseat (assuming there’s no one back there).
  5. Groceries – It’s not as deep as a trunk as the Mazda6 but the Avalon’s truck has plenty of space as long as you’re not intent on catering a wedding.

Bottom Line

We admittedly spent the first couple of decades of the Avalon’s 20 year life pigeonholing the Avalon as an old person’s car. We won’t make that mistake again. It looks good inside and out. It has full-size space with a mid-size feel and drive. The trunk is cavernous. It feels rich inside. And with the 40MPG the hybrid allows, it’s practical. If the Avalon is indeed an old person’s car, it’s because old people are wise and should be listened to.

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To see more pictures and video from this vehicle test and future tests, follow Drive My Family on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Vine (@DriveMyFamily).

images courtesy of Toyota
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