2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited road test: Handsome, roomy and frugal

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Spacious luxury sedans generally put the emphasis on effortless power, roominess, comfort and high-tech features, with only a secondary regard to fuel efficiency. The 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited is a major exception to that rule.

The gasoline/electric powered Avalon recently was my traveling companion on a 1,500-mile journey and it returned an excellent 40.1 miles per gallon of regular grade gasoline in a variety of conditions that included the flooded flatlands of South Carolina; truck-clogged, congested Route 95 from Richmond, VA, to eastern Pennsylvania; the beautiful but ponderously winding two-lane macadam along Virginia’s Skyline Drive; and the rolling hills around Charlottesville, VA.

Through it all, the front-wheel-drive Toyota Avalon mostly cruised along smoothly and quietly, often up to speeds approaching 80 mph. Power was adequate, if not exceptional, in all situations.

Toyota Avalon instruments

Toyota Avalon instruments

I couldn’t help but marvel, once again, at the genius required to set up a powerplant that seamlessly mixes power from a battery pack and a gasoline engine to achieve maximum efficiency.

I also remain impressed, and noticed that others did, too, with the standout styling, Gone since the redesign in 2013 is the frumpiness of prior models that practically identified the Avalon as a car for senior citizens.

The coupe-like roof and edgy lines should not only appeal to a younger demographic, it puts the Avalon on a par with more expensive luxury sedans. While it has the roominess of a full-size sedan, it is listed officially only as a premium mid-sized sedan.

All of this is not to say that the Avalon will appeal to everyone. Driving enthusiasts no doubt will find the hybrid driving experience dull and appliance-like.

This is mostly because of the steering, which feels as if it were given a shot of Novocain; the brakes, which are grabby because of their dual role as stopping force and battery regenerator; and the continuously variable transmission which, under heavy acceleration, causes the engine to drone at fever pitch until the automatic shifter settles on the best gear ratio.

Toyota Avalon front seats

Toyota Avalon front seats

Those complaints aside, the hybrid Avalon is exceptionally quiet most of the time, easy to drive sensibly and an overall excellent automobile for owners whose driving needs include comfortable seating for five, economical city driving and long commutes and/or occasional long trips.

For me, the Avalon was at it best on the long stretches of four-lane highway, and at its least enjoyable on the narrow and winding two-lane roads in Virginia.

Power for The 2015 Avalon Hybrid comes from a 2-5-liter, 156-horsepower four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that gets its juice from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack that is in the trunk. While the batteries take up some room, the trunk still has 14 cubic feet of space for luggage.

Together they produce 200 horsepower, enough to vault the 3,682-pound Avalon from a stop to 60 mph in about 8 seconds —- if you can stand the noise.

Toyota Avalon rear bench

Toyota Avalon rear bench

The EPA rates fuel efficiency at 40 mpg city/ 39 highway. The combined figure is estimated to be 40 mpg, almost exactly the number I achieved in driving that placed no particular emphasis on fuel efficiency.

Those with a particularly light accelerator foot will be able under limited conditions to drive the Avalon on the electric motor alone up to speeds of about 20 mph.

As one would expect, the Hybrid Limited comes with a full complement of safety features, In addition to seat bags and side curtains, the standard equipment list includes antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, emergency brake assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and Smart Stop brake-override technology.
Safety equipment Included in the $1,950 technology package are adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and a frontal pre-collision warning system.

As for the luxury component, the passengers will be particularly impressed with the leather seating (heated and ventilated front buckets and heated rear bench), the cabin’s upscale fit and finish, the excellent 11-speaker sound system, the tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless lock and ignition and automatic LED headlights.

Toyota Avalon trunk

Toyota Avalon trunk

The Entune infotainment system includes navigation, audio system, Bluetooth hands-free phone access and music streaming, trip computer, driver information system, satellite radio and more. all operated on a 7-inch touch screen.

I found operation of the touch screen to be distracting when driving at highway speeds and hard to see when wearing polarized sun glasses. I prefer other systems which work with a rotary controller and accompanying switches.

In addition to the optional Technology Package, the 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited came with a remote starter ($499), carpeted floor mats and trunk ($225)
and illuminated door sills ($379).

Add all of that and the $825 delivery charge to the $41,7600 base price and the total manufacturer’s suggested price comes to $45,578.

If your needs include a roomy sedan and your desires crave superb fuel economy, the Toyota Avalon Hybrid is one of very few vehicles on the market to offer that combination of virtues.

To read Buzzard boss John Matras review of the hybrid Avalon, click here.

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