There’s so much to like about the latest generation of Toyota’s flagship luxury car, the Avalon, that I don’t know where to start. Maybe I’ll start with the fact that not only does it have seat warmers for both front and back passengers, but it also has seat cooling tech for the front seats on those days when it’s really hot outside and you’d prefer not to stick to the seat. Or that the hybrid not only gives you great gas mileage but its continuously variable transmission makes the car remarkably fun to drive, peppy and fast.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? With a photo of this four-door sedan, the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited:
Quite honestly, you could pop off the Toyota badge on the front and replace it with a BMW or Mercedes logo and no-one would think twice about the brand association on this luxurious vehicle. Toyota has its Acura brand too, of course, and the Avalon could also fit into that lineup quite easily.
The Avalon Hybrid also has a nice, heavy, solid feel to it, where the doors close smoothly, the car holds onto the road in a way that makes it really a delightful drive (for once I enjoyed merging onto the highway as I zipped from 40mph to 70mph in just a few seconds) and with its tight steering, it handled the mountains in my area of Colorado with aplomb.
As a long-time Toyota owner, the dashboard and controls were very intuitive too:
A closer look reveals one control that did baffle me for the first day or two, the front car seat warmer / temperature controls:
What frankly took me longer than it should have to realize is that while it had a push-to-raise/push-to-lower dial, the off position was when it was centered and not pointing to blue (cool) or red (heat). You can see that the right unit is off because its indicator light is off. Let’s just say that I was driving with my seat cooler on for more hours than I initially anticipated until I realized how the control was designed.
Contrast that with the seat warmer controls for the back seats:
On/off. Easy to understand. And rear passengers are in control of their own temperature zone too, as you can see. Elegant and easy to understand.
Let’s go back to the dashboard for a minute too:
I really like seeing the gas mileage of vehicles as I’m driving and overall. Helps teach the driver how to maximize fuel economy, as desired, and is a good reinforcement of the remarkable mileage of the hybrid version of the 2016 Toyota Avalon at just under 40mpg. Not bad at all, and particularly so for a car with such excellent performance and comfort.
Modern vehicles are full of safety features as we continue our slow march towards completely autonomous vehicles, and the Avalon had the “usual” adaptive cruise control (how did we ever not have this in cars with cruise control?) and sensors to warn you if you were getting too close to obstacles while parking, etc. What I liked the most, however, and what I most miss on my older 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the Blind Spot Monitor that pops up a little warning light on the side view mirror if someone’s in your blind spot:
I’ve gotten used to actually turning my head to check my blind spot before changing lanes, but having a technological assist is a huge win and as you can see in the photo above, there’s otherwise no indication at all that a car is just off my left side, but back a few feet.
There was also an oddity in the navigational system when I tried to enter an address on East 6th in Denver. The manual entry system simply didn’t understand that there were east and west variants in the address, as you can see here:
I couldn’t enter the address to have it help me find the location. Except when I used the voice based address entry system, it worked perfectly:
I have no explanation for why I could tell the nav system to go to 603 E 6th Ave, but couldn’t get it to take me there if I simply tapped in the address directly.
But that’s about the only hiccup I experienced in my week of really enjoying the luxury of the 2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid. It’s a beautiful car and has a price tag to match: as configured, this had a base price of $43,285, though perhaps you could get a break if you know the dealer or are a savvy negotiator. Still, the same level of luxury and features with a different brand logo on the hood might be $10k-$20k more, so it’s still a honey of a car and one I would be happy to own if I didn’t need the space of my SUV.
And a few specs before I wrap up: The car I drove is Parisian Night Pearl and has a 2.5L 4-Cyl DOHC 16v engine with 17″ aolly wheels and power assisted front and back brakes, 10 airbags, safety connect, HID Quadrabeam headlights, a moonroof, and premium JBL sound system with 7″ touchscreen.
Learn more: 2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.
Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the Avalon Hybrid for a week for the purpose of this review and writeup.