2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Review
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE AVALON HYBRID VEHICLE
Redesigned just last year, the Avalon is targeted to the younger, more tech-oriented sedan buyer that yearns for a sleeker interior and a more athletic feel behind the wheel – with these performance enhancements extending to the hybrid powertrain that also has the added benefit of retaining a combined 40 miles-per-gallon.
I drove a 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid featuring Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with two electric motor generators and a net system horsepower of 200. Standard features at this grade include: leather upholstery and interior trim; power and heated ventilated front and rear seats; three-zone climate control; premium navigation and JBL audio system with XM radio and Entune; backup camera; push-button start; seventeen-inch wheels; puddle lamps; HID headlamps; and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic alert. Total vehicle price as described comes to $41,400.
The Avalon proves to have a custom-fit approach just by the fact Toyota had to invent new factory machinery to build it – it is also designed, engineered and manufactured entirely in North America. Main competitors are other sleek mid-size sedan eco-options like the Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Hybrid and Volkswagen Passat TDI.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: The bold and more aggressive design of the Avalon features the same wheelbase dimensions but with shorter overhangs, reducing the height by an inch. The thinner taillamps intersect the design lines perfectly for a look the feels unified. Plushier than previous models, the Avalon now boasts soft-touch materials at the dash and door with the Limited grade featuring the highest quality upholstery. The avant-garde center stack is contoured to the driver and refuses to soak up unnecessary space, blending touch-sensitive IntelliTouch switches with more traditional dials and button controls. Two oversights do exist: no heated steering wheel and it needs a dual moonroof along the lines of what is found on the Kia Cadenza mid-size sedan.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2014 Toyota Avalon has crash-test ratings of “Good” in all areas with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall 5-Star rating. My test drive also featured the optional $1,750 Technology Package that included dynamic radar cruise control and a pre-collision system where the drive can set a safe cruising distance and be forewarned with a flash and beep when coming too close to a vehicle in front.
Cost Issues: On sale this winter, the Avalon Hybrid is priced as follows: Hybrid XLE $35,555; XLE Premium $33,195; XLE Touring $35,500; Limited $39,650; Hybrid XLE Premium $35,555; Hybrid Touring $36,750; Hybrid Limited $41,400. There is about a $5k premium on the Avalon hybrids in comparison to their traditional gas-based engines.
Activity & Performance Ability: Some of the more interesting performance components for the Avalon are the new square quadrabeam headlights, driving modes for all engines (Sport, ECO and EV), and Blind Spot Monitoring. The hybrid powertrain displays swift acceleration during deep inclines with transferring from Sport to ECO mode on high-speed stretches not an experience in abrupt throttle change – basically, it doesn’t perform anything like a hybrid not four-cylinder but rather a sporty sedan housing a V6. There are no paddle shifters on the Hybrid trims. The new electric power steering did enhance straight-line stability.
The Green Concern: The Avalon Hybrid gets 40-city and 39-highway for a combined 40 miles-per-gallon. And because the Avalon shed 121 pounds, EPA-estimated fuel economy takes the 3.5-liter V6 engine from 19-city and 28-highway to 21-city and 31-highway.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2014 Toyota Avalon sedan continues to leave a positive impression on the younger and mobility upward shopper by capturing the best of what connectivity technology, elegance and green-minded performance has to offer.
©2014 Katrina Ramser