2018 Avalon New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Avalon is a large, comfortable sedan that's smooth and quiet underway, a car that's easy to live with.
Safety is the foremost news for Toyota's sizable sedan. The 2017 Toyota Avalon gets a group of active-safety features standard: adaptive cruise, forward-collision warning (with automatic emergency braking), lane-departure warnings, and automatic high-beam headlights.
Prior to its 2013 redesign, Toyota's full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan had a strong visual connection to the less-costly Camry. Since then, despite shared running gear, kinship is nearly nonexistent.
Refreshed for 2016, Avalons can have either a gasoline V6 engine or a Hybrid (gasoline/electric) powertrain. Gas-engine Avalons come in five trim levels: XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Limited, and Touring. Hybrids are offered only in three versions.
Smooth-running and strong, the familiar 3.5-liter V6 develops 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission incorporates a sport-shift mode and paddle shifters. Throttle blipping helps to smooth the downshifts. Eco, Sport, and Normal modes alter the Avalon's throttle, shift feel, and steering.
In the Avalon Hybrid, total output from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine and twin electric motors is 200 horsepower. The system works with nickel-metal hydride batteries. Hybrids use a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Three driving modes are available: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode lets the sedan run on battery power alone, no faster than 25 mph. Eco mode reduces throttle response, whereas the Sport setting sharpens responses from the throttle and transmission. Though Sport mode feels quicker, actual performance changes only a little.
Full-size competitors include the Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza, along with Chevrolet's Impala and Ford's Taurus.
Basic safety features start with rear outboard-seat airbags and dual front knee airbags. A standard rearview camera is especially helpful, because the rear end isn't easy to judge. All Avalons get new active-safety features for 2017. Touring models add blind-spot monitoring. Rear cross-traffic alert is available for upper trim levels.
Crash-testing has gone well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Avalon five stars overall, but only four for frontal impact and rollover resistance (a calculated score rather than an actual test).
Good scores in each crash-test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made Avalon a Top Safety Pick. With automatic emergency braking, the rating rose to Superior. Headlights scored either Marginal or Poor.
Avalon XLE V6 ($33,300) has the 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seat upholstery, power heated front seats 17-inch alloy wheels, and a rearview camera. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.) Avalon XLE Plus V6 ($35,050) adds a moonroof, pushbutton start, auto-dimming mirror, and universal garage-door opener. Avalon XLE Premium V6 ($36,500) comes with navigation, driver's seat/mirror memory, and Qi wireless charging.
Avalon Touring V6 ($37,700) gets 18-inch wheels, sporty suspension tuning, a unique front end, plus LED headlights and daytime running lights.
Avalon Limited V6 ($41,100) includes perforated leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, three-zone climate control, rear sunshade, JBL audio, HID headlights, and LED daytime running lights.
Avalon Hybrid XLE Plus ($37,300), Hybrid XLE Premium ($38,750), and Hybrid Limited ($42,600) are equipped similarly and feature the gas-electric powertrain.