Avalon Hybrid

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2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Overview

The tech-savvy amongst us will rejoice at the upgrade of the Avalon Hybrid’s battery pack from nickel-metal hydride to lithium-ion chemistry, but what’s more likely to woo consumers is the long-awaited inclusion of standard Android Auto and some USB-C ports for the 2021 model year. Not that the Avalon had to work hard to stand out. With no other direct competitors in the full-size hybrid sedan market outside of luxury options, it’s literally in a class all its own.

In theory, this lithium-ion battery pack should provide better efficiency in a smaller package, though strangely neither the EPA-estimated 43 mpg combined (44 mpg for XLE models) fuel-economy rating nor rear seat room have been noted to improve this year. That’s right, the battery pack in the Avalon Hybrid is located beneath the rear seats, which means there’s no sacrifice with regard to the 16.09 cubic feet of trunk capacity, regardless of whether or not you choose standard gasoline or hybrid power. There’s also a new (federally-mandated) anti-stealth low-speed vehicle noise system that’ll prevent you from sneaking up on passengers when driving on battery power alone.

Available in XLE, XSE, and Limited trim levels, buyers have to choose just how much comfort and luxury they want in their full-size sedan. XLE trims come standard with heated power front seats, keyless entry and ignition, LED headlights, WiFi hotspot, and satellite radio. Safety is covered as well, with adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and auto high beams.

That’s a nice package, but it’s the Limited that really delivers everything the Avalon promises. Here you’ll enjoy leather and ventilation for the front seats, heat for the rear seats, a heated steering wheel, sunroof, wireless charging, head-up display, and an upgraded 14-speaker JBL stereo. The Limited is also the only trim where you can add the optional rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera system.

The XSE aims to add a bit of sportiness to the Avalon Hybrid, but the bottom line is that the Avalon Hybrid will never be sporty. While it looks great with the XSE’s sunroof, aluminum interior trim, and suede-trimmed seats, the larger wheels you get with this trim hurt the ride–which is the Avalon’s strong suit.

Combined output from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors comes in at 215 horsepower, sent to the front wheels via what Toyota calls an “electronically controlled continuously variable transmission” (ECVT). It’s certainly slower than the standard V6 Avalon, though not enough to matter here. The electric power provides stout motivation from a stop and keeps pushing all the way to highway speeds with little effort.

While pricing on the Avalon Hybrid brings it dangerously close to more upscale luxury options, it remains the go-to choice for a full-size, hybrid sedan. The one big drawback is the omission of an all-wheel-drive (AWD) option, something the rest of the Avalon lineup got for the 2021 model year. While front-wheel drive (FWD) should be more than adequate in most conditions, when the snow really starts to blow, AWD is the way to go.

Updated

A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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