Toyota Avalon is among the best of the large sedans, competing closely with the highly ranked Chevrolet Impala. The current-generation was launched as a 2013 model, but it has been updated for 2016.
For 2016, Toyota Avalon is distinguished by a new, larger grille, new taillights, slimmer parking lights and turn signal lights, a new chrome accent on the rear bumper, and new wheel designs. The suspension on the 2016 Avalon XLE and Limited has been retuned for comfort, while the 2016 Avalon Touring model gets sportier settings.
Avalon is a satisfying car to drive and offers lively response. It’s quiet and comfortable underway. It’s an attractive car, sleek and neatly styled.
All models are equipped well and Avalon Limited models offer Lexus levels of luxury. The cabins are roomy, attractively designed and trimmed well with superb materials.
The standard 3.5-liter V6 is rated at 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque and comes with a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Toyota claims 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, quite quick. It’s EPA-rated 21/31 mpg City/Highway.
Avalon Hybrid boasts an EPA-estimated 40/39 mpg City/Highway. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, according to Toyota, which is respectable performance.
Avalon looks upscale with its flowing lines. It’s intended to look both elegant and athletic and we think it succeeds. The styling revisions for 2016 give the front of the car a more angular look, though not to the extent of other Toyota models.
Touring models are distinguished by a unique front fascia and gray wheels.
The Avalon cabin is modern and thoughtfully composed. Inside, it has a premium look and feels like a luxury car. Interior materials are excellent, with matching wood grains, metallic trim and attractive striated surfaces.
It’s roomy and open-feeling, with plenty of headroom, and the sunroof design takes up little space.
Seven-inch touchscreen is used to control audio and to monitor vehicle systems. The climate and audio controls are relatively close to the driver.
The front seats are comfortable. They don’t have a lot of lateral support, but they’re supportive enough for the back on longer trips. The seats are upholstered in supple leather with real stitching.
The back seats may be the best in the class. They’re contoured well for adults and have relatively long lower cushions for thigh support. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom, even for tall adults. You’ll need to tuck your feet and duck your head a little bit when getting in and out, though.
Cargo space is 16 cubic feet. The trunk has a flat floor and the opening is wide, important for large items. The Hybrid has a smaller trunk, 14 cubic feet.
Cubby storage includes door bins front and rear, a roomy center console, and a leather-lidded bin for smartphone stowage. A small, hinged, felt-lined bin ahead of the driver’s left knee is perfect for holding the key fob.
The standard 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and strong. It’s the most popular choice.
Avalon Hybrid uses a combination of motors, batteries and a four-cylinder engine to produce 200 horsepower.
Underway, Avalon feels composed, capable and controllable. The ride quality feels refined, sorted, firm but not harsh, with the just enough compliance to filter most road roughness.
It’s also very quiet inside. It’s quiet while cruising, with no noticeable engine noise. Only during hard acceleration does the Hybrid model reveal itself with a more coarse engine note. The only other exception is a bit of motor whine that makes its way inside in the Hybrid, when in Sport mode or making quicker takeoffs.
The 3.5-liter V6 puts out 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The 6-speed automatic offers a sport-shift mode, and incorporates throttle blipping for smoother downshifts. Paddle shifters are standard. Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes adjust steering, throttle, and shift feel. Toyota says the V6 versions hit 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, which is fairly quick.
The Hybrid uses a four-cylinder engine, a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle, teamed with two motors tucked into the transaxle, which are fed by nickel-metal hydride batteries. Power is routed through a planetary power-split continuously variable transmission. The system combines for 200 horsepower and coaxes 0–60 mph times of 8.2 seconds out of the Hybrid four-door, which is competent performance but not quick. Three driving modes are offered: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode allows running on battery power alone at speeds of up to 25 mph, while Eco mode cuts down on throttle response and HVAC output. Sport mode sharpens the Avalon Hybrid’s throttle and transmission responses to feel quicker, even if it’s not actually much quicker.
The efficiency of the Hybrid works well in stop-and-go traffic, and it can go 680 miles on a tank of Regular gas.
Avalon drives like a smaller car than it is, with a precise, natural feel even on curvy, imperfect surfaces. Sport mode firms up the steering somewhat on V6 models, more dramatically in the Hybrid.
Special shock absorbers and large anti-roll bars result in supremely capable and controllable handling. The suspension has been retuned for 2016 on all models, with the XLE and Limited versions getting a comfort-oriented setup and the Touring getting its own unique sporty calibration.
The brakes provide strong stops, but the pedal felt spongy on the V6 in particular.
Toyota Avalon is an excellent choice among large sedans and a good alternative to the Chevrolet Impala. It’s quiet, has a well-controlled ride. The V6 is refined and responsive and the Hybrid is an excellent choice for commuting through heavy traffic.
Marty Padgett filed this report.