The Toyota Avalon Hybrid has been with us virtually unchanged since it arrived as a 2013 model, offering a larger and more luxurious option above the Camry mid-size sedan. While they share a lot of bones underneath, they are entirely different when it comes to style.
The Avalon is longer and more bold in its design. It’s more upscale with a lot more chrome and decidedly more daring in its lines and shapes. The Hybrid comes in all trim grades like the V6 model, and ours is a top-of-the line Limited.
This gives it HID headlights with distinctive LED daytime running lights and fog lights for starters. The Hybrid has unique 17-inch alloy wheels which set it apart from V6 models, as well as Hybrid badges so they know you’re being kind to Mother Earth.
The interior is where Limited really brings a lot of style and creature comforts though. Much like a classic American sedan in its style, the design has wide sweeping lines, lots of wood grain, and chrome trims to brighten things up.
The seats up front are both power operated and have heating and ventilation, the latter which I used on this hot summer week. Ours had the Almond leather trim which was tastefully matched with a brown accent color. I think it looks richer than the all-black or grey interior colors myself.
Controls are laid out in good design fashion with lots of them on the steering wheel, and many more on the center stack area. Up high is the top-of-the line Entune JBL Audio touch-screen infotainment system with navigation.
It’s menus are easy enough to use, its functions are robust enough to be competitive. The sound quality is however well below what you would expect for a top-end system. And it sometimes can be hard to see with sun glare easily getting in the way.
While still better than some competitors, the technologies here could still use some improvement – especially at the near $45,000 price of our tester. Therefore we rate the technologies at four of five stars.
Rear seat passengers in the Avalon get the good stuff though. Because it has a much longer wheelbase than most, leg room is generous. Head room is good inside but you do need to watch the raked roof line when getting in and out. It’s a bit low.
The rear seats are heated and there are HVAC vents and controls for your passengers. Now, this rear seat doesn’t fold down because the hybrid battery is mounted just behind it. And as you can see it does take some space from the trunk area, but not too much.
Under the floor of the trunk is a spare tire, which is always a plus in my book as a can of fix-a-flat isn’t helpful at all when you are stranded road side with a badly damaged tire. All in this brings our interior score to four of five stars.
Under the hood is what gives this car its name, and its fuel economy. There’s a 2.5 liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, a combination of electric motors and a constantly variable transmission known as Hybrid Synergy Drive.
It produces an impressive 200 horsepower with a zero to sixty time of about eight seconds, yet has EPA ratings of 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined. It can operate in electric mode only up to about 20 mph too.
In my week with the Toyota Avalon Hybrid, I achieved 39 mpg combined, just slightly less than the EPA rating. But it was one more than the 38 mpg we achieved testing a 2014 model about a year ago. In both cases, the air-conditioning was on at all times.
While the powertrain does perform well in every day driving, I still really don’t warm up to its constantly variable transmission and the leaf blower sound effects it offers up. Additionally, it remains less refined than its newest competitors. Therefore it earns three of five stars in the powertrain department.
It has a generally quiet ride but can get unsettled and sloppy over rougher surfaces rather quickly. This made for a quiet and solid feeling car sometimes and a rougher edged one at others. Therefore we give its chassis four of five stars.
When it comes to safety, the IIHS awards the 2015 Toyota Avalon with a Top Safety Pick rating, due to good results on their entire battery of crash tests. It’s held back from the higher Top Safety Pick + honor only because it lacks available advanced crash prevention systems.
Quality and reliability has always been a high point for Toyota cars and trucks. This is why some of the glitches we experienced with this one were a bit of a surprise – especially the interior with all its cheap noisy trims. Thus overall quality feel just gets to four of five stars.
Value at about $45,000 is a tall order, but not un-competitive. It’s just at this price your options widen up to many other cars. Thus we give it four of five stars for value. When added in with the rest of the categories we have a total score of four out of five stars for the 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.