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Vanilla No More: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Test Drive

The automotive world is a lot like high school, it’s never easy to change a reputation. But Toyota is quickly changing its reputation by ditching safe, “vanilla” vehicle designs with bolder, more polarizing new models. This trend started with the current Camry, Prius and Corolla Hatchback, and it has been joined by the all-new 2019 Toyota Avalon.

Since it was first introduced in 1994, the Avalon has always been a middle child between the Camry and Lexus ES, and it was perhaps overshadowed by both with a higher price than the Toyota and not quite as much as luxury as the Lexus. This mid-size ‘tweener segment also includes cars like the Kia Cadenza, Chevrolet Impala and Nissan Maxima. One advantage that Toyota has over its rivals in this segment is the availability of a hybrid powertrain, and that’s exactly what we got to sample for this road test review of the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited.

2019 Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Exterior

The styling of the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited isn’t as sporty as the Avalon Touring we tested over the summer, but the overall design is easily the edgiest design we’ve seen on this car since it launched 25 years ago. Avalon designers obviously have an affection for oversized grilles as the gaping maw of the previous (2012-2018) design is easily eclipsed by the wider and taller grille of the 2019 Avalon. While most of the center part of the grille is blocked off, the vertical side air vents are functional.

As bold as the new Avalon’s face is, the rear view is even more engaging. The lower portion of the taillights is sunk in and the trunk is concave to create a thin, pronounced horizontal light strip joined with the Avalon lettering in the middle. Speaking of the Avalon’s lighting, the Limited gets the Avalon’s coolest feature – LED headlights and taillights with laser ablation and dynamic turn signals, which is a fancy way of saying sequential turn signals. Click HERE to see these cool lights in action!

Despite keeping a similar profile, the styling of the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited is very cohesive, and it should age well. This tester was finished in Ruby Flare Pearl, which is one of two available premium colors costing an extra $395.

2019 Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Interior

From the outside, the proportions of the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid are practically identical to the outgoing model, but Toyota stretched the wheelbase by a full two inches to add even more passenger space to an already-roomy sedan. There’s an extra 1.2 inches of legroom as well as a little bit more shoulder and hip room, although the most surprising part of the spec sheet is that the Avalon Hybrid actually has more rear legroom (0.1 inch) than the standard Avalon and the same amount of trunk space. What you get is a cavernous interior with plenty of room for five adults and generous trunk space, too.

While Toyota took some risks with the exterior design, the cabin has more of the conservative look that we’ve come to expect from the Avalon. The biggest improvement was to the center stack where the infotainment screen and HVAC controls are now arranged with a cleaner layout and Toyota has done away with the faux center stack buttons of the previous Avalon. Being the top Limited trim level, this Avalon Hybrid was a fully loaded affair trimmed with a stylish mix of perforated leather, matte-finish wood trim, two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel and quilted accents on the seats and door panels. This trim also comes with wireless smartphone charger (cleverly hidden under the center stack), full color head-up display, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats, five USB ports (including four 2.1-amp intended for charging mobile devices), JBL Premium Audio and navigation. Toyota’s Entune 3.0 infotainment is standard on all 2019 Avalon Hybrids as is Apple CarPlay – sorry Android users, Android Auto is not offered.

2019 Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Powertrain

Under the hood, the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid uses a similar setup as the previous model, but the engine and drive motor have been upgraded for better performance and efficiency. While the Avalon Hybrid still uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, this engine has added Toyota’s D-4S dual (direct and port) injection improving engine output to 176 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. Likewise, the drive motor gets more output as well with a maximum rating of 118 horsepower, which is a bump of 13 horsepower over last year’s model.

This increased output gives the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid a total hybrid power output of 215 horsepower (compared to the previous Avalon Hybrid’s 200-horsepower rating), and while that might not be the oomph you get from the non-hybrid Avalon with its 301 horsepower, you’re also not going to get this car’s impressive fuel economy. In Limited trim, the 2019 Avalon Hybrid has EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 43 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway**, that’s almost double the 22-mpg city rating of the standard 2019 Avalon! Unlike the Camry Hybrid, the Avalon Hybrid only uses a nickel-metal hydride battery – no lithium-ion battery option. Despite the improved fuel economy, overall driving range has been reduced because of the smaller, 13.2-gallon gas tank (down from 17 gallons on the previous model).

In terms of ride quality, the Avalon has always been one of the smoothest, non-luxury sedans on the market, and the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid gets even better thanks to the use of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). This advanced platform is shared with the Camry and Prius, and it gives the big Avalon a smooth and quiet ride, which is made even quieter thanks to the noise-reducing glass used on the windshield and front doors.

2019 Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Safety

The 2019 Toyota Avalon has not yet been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but this Hybrid sedan comes standard with ten airbags, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and Toyota’s latest suites of advanced safety features including Star Safety System (enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology) and Toyota Safety Sense P (Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, automatic high beams and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control). This tester was also equipped with the $1,150 Advanced Safety Package which adds the Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert with auto braking and Intelligent Clearance Sonar.

2019 Toyota Avalon

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Overall

If the Camry is too mainstream for your tastes and the Lexus ES is too posh, then the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is definitely worth a look. This mid-size sedan hits all the right notes when it comes to luxury, fuel economy, comfort and even style. The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is offered in three trim levels (XLE, XSE and Limited) with a starting price of $36,500, which is only $1,000 more than a non-Hybrid Avalon. Moving up to the top Limited trim level increases the price to $42,800*, while this tester had a bottom-line price of $45,513 – not bad considering the amount of content you get.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Toyota dealership and test drive the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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