DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: The Avalon is part of a dying breed -- the full-size sedan; it's kind of a shame, because some of the best mass-market examples of this traditional body style are on sale today, including the Avalon XLE Hybrid.
Setting aside what already makes the Avalon one of my favorite full-sizers -- interior refinement, space and build quality -- this may also be the first hybrid I've driven that made me wonder why anyone would buy the straight gasoline version. This powertrain is absolutely seamless, uses barely any fuel and, when needed, can deliver gobs of electric torque for a push the V6 Avalon can only dream of. Yes, the regenerative brakes take a bit of mental recalibration, but once you've got a feel for them the car is remarkably satisfying to drive.
This generation of Avalon is blessed with one of Toyota's best interior designs ever -- it's big, bright and airy, and manages to feel as though it belongs in a more expensive car. The touch-sensitive switchgear lives on a corrugated panel that doesn't show fingerprints, and little cutouts demarcate "buttons" to help guide your finger. The effect manages to look just as elegant as Cadillac's CUE or the previous upper trim ranges of MyFord Touch, but it's more intuitive.
Big, comfortable front thrones appear built for 'Murican butts and offer tons of adjustability; limo-like legroom exists for rear passengers even with a 6-foot-plus driver, and the trunk will undoubtedly swallow some focus-group-determined quantity of golf clubs. Basically, whatever you'd expect to be able to use a full-size sedan for, the Avalon will meet your needs and then some.
It's the poor man's Lexus LS, this Avalon XLE Premium. Though, given its luxury amenities, 40-mpg capability and under-$40K price tag, the Avalon hybrid might actually be the smart man's Lexus LS too.
EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR KEN ROSS: The Avalon is amazingly … OK. I don’t mean that in a bad way because there are lots of cars that aren’t good at anything. The exterior is what you would draw if you were asked to pen a semi-upscale midsized sedan. Everything is proportioned properly and there are a few hints of sport in the front fascia. That sharp line behind the running lights gives an impression of motion. It fades out and picks up again behind the front tire, continuing just above the door handles and ending at the point of the wrap-around taillights. On the other hand, my explanation of the line is probably more interesting than the line itself.
The interior continues to be adequate, with a hint of wood-like material along the bottom of the dashboard and a good mix of well-done leather. All of these materials look good together and make a great placeholder for the Toyota. Once again, there are no surprises or disappointments, just business as usual.
I walked away from this car thinking that the discussion in Toyota design was something like, “We can’t make it too upscale or they won’t buy Lexus; OK but we need to make it better than a Camry.”
That’s what the company did and it’s … OK.
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