Of all the different cars I’ve driven over the last few years, my younger daughter’s favorite was the Toyota Avalon. Because of the comfort? Because of the smooth drive? Nope, she fell in love with the sound system and would sit in the driveway listening to her music for hours. [You can read my reviews of the 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, and 2016 Toyota Avalon]. When Toyota offered to send the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited, we were both enthused to see the latest upgrades to what was already a flagship vehicle for the Toyota brand.
Turns out that the dashboard is entirely redesigned and the whole car is gorgeous. Very luxurious, to the point where I felt I could almost be driving an Uber Black (my daughter was convinced I was her chauffeur the entire week!). The exterior is Opulent Amber and you can see, the vehicle has the lines of a small executive towncar-style limo:
You’d think “amber” would be a brown and you’d be right, but it’s a very dark brown, so dark that without the light at just the right angle, it looks black.
The interior color scheme is just as striking:
I detect more than a whisper of inspiration from the interior of the Tesla in the entertainment interface, but overall, a very comfortable car with a lovely fit and finish. Now, while we’re talking about the interior design, notice the two cup holders. Why is one flattened on one side? I’m convinced it’s so you can drop your phone into it, while using the other as a cup holder. Smart. The back storage shelf, however, which you can see behind the shifter (my sunglasses are there) has a rather dumb design: The sides are open so anything you’d put in this space is at risk of flying out on a turn. Not a good alternative for your phone, as it happens.
The seat has a wonderful lumbar support known in Toyota terms as the “4-Way Power Lumbar Support”. Adjusted correctly, it’s surprisingly comfortable, one of the most comfortable car seats I’ve ever experienced. Add a massage feature and I’d spend a few hours in the driveway too!
As with all Toyota hybrid engines, the Avalon Hybrid is great fun to drive. It features a 2.5L 175HP DOHC 16-V with the electronic continuously variable transmission (as do all hybrids) with “sequential shift” and “auto glide”. Lots of industry jargon but the long and short of it is that the Avalon has so much oomph on acceleration that I looked forward to every time I was merging onto the highway. It also produced excellent fuel efficiency, averaging about 44mpg with a wide variety of city and highway driving. This is displayed in the main gauge area quite attractively too:
The meaning of the various acronyms along the top were a bit of a puzzle to me, but I finally figured out that BSM is blind spot monitor and RCTA is rear cross traffic alert. It also shows that I mostly drove in Eco Mode (I mean, it’s a hybrid, wouldn’t you be trying to maximize fuel efficiency too?). But check out that bar graph. My average was 44.0 mpg here, and the most recent trip I actually exceeded that to almost 50mpg. I drove hundreds of miles and never had to do anything other than wave as I drove past the gas station. Very much fulfilling the dream of hybrids!
Speaking of Eco Mode, however, the car features three different drive modes, all easily accessible from the center console:
Lots to pay attention to if you’re enthused because not only can you switch into Eco Mode, but you can engage the EV Mode that’s just using the battery. Of course you can only do that if your batteries are charged up and you’re traveling at a slow speed. Think parking lots. All in all, it’s not actually hugely useful and more often than not I’d push the button just to have the car warn me that it was unavailable (and without explanation like “speed too high” or “battery low”). Do people find EV Mode actually beneficial? If you have one, let me know in the comments!
Let’s jump back to the entertainment console, however. As you can see in this shot, it’s very well designed and quite different from previous years with the flush, hard to understand buttons. This one’s as clear as you could want:
Basically everything you want to do while in the vehicle is managed from this center console, from seat heaters and environmental controls to radio, GPS, CarPlay, and apps. Powered by JBL speakers throughout the vehicle, it also sounds fantastic. Whether you’re listening to classical streaming from your phone via bluetooth, the latest podcast with CarPlay or Sirius XM Radio, you’ll really enjoy the audio reproduction. It’s no wonder my daughter again hung out in the car enjoying her music!
The main entertainment screen doubles as a neat backup camera system, stitching together imagery from front, back, and both sides (the side cameras are tucked under the side view mirrors, if you’re curious). It makes backing up and parallel parking pretty fun:
With a system like this, you’ll never lean out of your door to see if you’re parallel to the lines and centered in your spot. Very nice. Could be a good video game too – particularly to help teach people better parallel parking skills! – but that’s another story.
Finally, rear legroom. Even with a tall driver, this was quite acceptable:
Don’t you expect to see me standing by the door, inviting you to slip in? It’s that luxurious.
I really enjoyed my week with the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid 4-Door Limited. If I was a sedan sort of person (I prefer SUVs) this would be on my short list for its zippy and responsive drive, opulent comfort and great sound system, no question.
AS DRIVEN: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid 4-Door Ltd, in Opulent Amber / LA43, with Advanced Safety Package as the only optional package. MSRP: $42,800.00 AS DRIVEN: $44,870.00.
Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the Avalon Hybrid to drive for a week in exchange for this writeup. Thanks again, Toyota!