Family economy – the 2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
It’s been more than 25 years since Toyota first introduced the Avalon – a true American car built in the United States at Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. That first Avalon was merely a Toyota Camry with a slightly longer wheelbase and optional seating for six. A car perfect for the grandparents. Not a bad idea, just nothing to get too excited about. After a few redesigns, the Avalon was creating its own identity, making it the car that it is today – Toyota’s flagship sedan and its largest front-wheel drive car it has ever made.
This week, I’m sampling a unique Avalon. It is a hybrid, but before you can mutter “boring”, I must add that it is decked out in the sporty XSE trim level.
The current Avalon dates back to 2018, when the fifth-generation Avalon debuted. No longer Camry-based, today’s Avalon now shares the same platform as the Lexus ES and is easily the most aggressively designed Avalon ever.
As a hybrid, the Avalon trades in its standard 3.5-liter V6 for a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with two electric motors. Total output is 215 horsepower that goes through a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission to drive the front wheels. It’s available in three different trim levels: the base XLE, the luxurious Limited, and the sporty XSE.
The interior of the Avalon, like most Toyotas, is a nice place to spend time. The front seats are some of the best in the business that are soft and comfortable – perfect for long trips. Cabin materials are done well – using high quality materials, along with a 9-inch touchscreen that provides excellent graphics and is simple to use. Overall, the cabin is very Lexus-like, and some may even like it better than its luxurious cousin as it doesn’t use the controversial touchpad to navigate the infotainment screen.
As expected, the Avalon Hybrid’s quiet ride and smoothness make it a nice drive. But what wasn’t expected is that it’s actually quite fun to drive. The steering is nicely weighted, so there is a good feel of the road. And while the XSE’s Sport-Tuned Suspension doesn’t convert the Avalon Hybrid into a sports sedan, it does add to the enjoyment of the drive. There is a loss in performance when compared to the V6 powered Avalon, but that is made up at the fuel pump where the Avalon Hybrid gets an EPA rated 43 mpg in both city and highway driving.
For 2021, the Avalon Hybrid switches to a lithium-ion battery pack, from its previous nickel-metal hydride pack. Also, it now makes external sounds at low speeds to alert pedestrians that it is in motion. All Avalons now have Android Auto smartphone compatibility, along with Apple CarPlay.
The Avalon Hybrid is, for the most part, in a class of its own. There are few full-size sedans made today, and add in the hybrid feature, and the Avalon’s closest competitor is literally right in the family – the Lexus ES300h. Going with the Lexus, you get the fancier badge, but get a worse entertainment system along with a higher price tag. All of which makes the Avalon Hybrid a smarter choice.
– Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE
Base Price: $39,500.00
Price as Tested: $43,278.00
Layout: front-engine / front-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter four-cylinder and 2 electric motors
Transmission: CVT automatic
Horsepower: 215 hp
Torque: 185 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 43 city / 43 highway mpg
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