2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Still Smooth, No Longer Soft

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited Fast Facts

2.5-liter four-cylinder/electric generator motor/electric drive motor (215 net system horsepower; 176 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 163 lb-ft @ 3,600-5,200 rpm)
Continuously-variable automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
43 city / 43 highway / 43 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
N/A (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$42,800 (U.S) / N/A (Canada)
As Tested
$45,118 (U.S.) / N/A (Canada)
Prices include $920 destination charge in the United States. The hybrid version of the Avalon is not available in Canada.
2019 toyota avalon hybrid still smooth no longer soft

Time was, you couldn’t pay me to drive a Toyota Avalon.

Okay, that’s not true – part of this job I’m paid to do requires me to drive cars and review them. Including many vehicles that would never be on my wish list.

Allow me to rephrase, then: There was a time I wouldn’t have driven an Avalon unless I was being paid.

Times change.

The current Avalon, and the hybrid model featured here, are worlds different from what came before. Once known as a snoozer meant for old men who couldn’t afford a Lexus and didn’t want a Buick, the Avalon did take a strong leap forward with the previous generation. For the first time, I found myself saying, “Hey, this isn’t too bad.” But it wasn’t until the fifth-gen car launched that I could say, with a straight face, that I’d not kick the car out of my driveway (if I had a driveway, that is).

[Get new and used car Toyota Avalon Hybrid pricing here!]

Avalon has always occupied a weird place in the Toyota/Lexus family – it sits in that space between the Camry and the Lexus ES, using parts of both. Yet it’s a bit more than just a larger, more expensive Camry or a cheaper ES.

The near-luxury mid-size sedan segment is an odd one, and a bit anachronistic in this day and age of crossovers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t solid offerings, and the Avalon presents a case for itself.

For one, the looks are meaner and sportier – less Sansabelt, more leather jacket. Styled less aggressively than the Camry or ES, the Avalon nonetheless fits in the family photo. It looks like it means business – which is something I never thought I’d type about an Avalon.

I also never thought I’d praise an Avalon for its on-road behavior, but here we are. Toyota has injected life into the steering, at least relative to what’s expected from a mid-size entry-lux sedan. It’s no sports sedan, and I doubt it would do well on a Southern California canyon road, but for urban driving it’s firm enough to remind you that you’re actually engaged in the act of driving.

Yes, there’s some plow and body roll if you attack an off-ramp too aggressively, reminding you you’re driving a large FWD sedan, but it’s muted well enough to be livable.

The ride is firmed up but still comfy for a multi-state freeway cruise, and while the car is far from a blazer – it’s a heavy sedan with only 163 lb-ft of torque on tap – you can at least merge with confidence.

Smooth without being soft is the name of the game here. Even the hybrid system is mostly seamless in operation – although its machinations are somewhat noticeable at lower speeds. Similarly, the continuously variable automatic transmission is generally well behaved.

That hybrid system mates the four-cylinder gas engine to two electric motors. One is a generator motor used for charging the battery and starting the engine, the other drives the front wheels and provides regeneration during braking.

Inside, comfort remains a priority, and the seats are suited for the long haul. I did find the vertical center stack looked like a tacky afterthought, with materials that seemed a bit low rent. As befits a big car, interior room and cargo room are cavernous. The Avalon swallowed a load of large signs made up for a media event with ease.

My Limited-trim test unit started at close to $43K, and most features, save carpeted floor mats and one equipment package, were standard.

Those features included 18-inch wheels, Toyota’s SafetySense suite of driver’s aids (includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, and radar cruise control), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cornering LED headlamps, power tilt and slide moonroof, dual-zone climate control, premium audio, Bluetooth, navigation, USB port, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, head-up display, heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, wireless cell-phone charging, and keyless entry and starting.

The $1,150 Advanced Safety Package includes sonar, bird’s-eye-view camera, and rear cross-traffic alert with braking. The carpeted floor mats ran $248.

With the $920 destination fee, the total came to $45,118.

That price kind of creeps into Lexus territory, which is a bit of a problem. In a vacuum, however, the Avalon has shed its early-dinner transport roots and made a mostly successful transition into being a mid-luxury car that isn’t boring.

It’s the kind of car that knows what it is and what it isn’t, and how to perform its mission well. That, in this case, is more than enough.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

More by Tim Healey

Join the conversation
2 of 35 comments
  • Gtem Gtem on Apr 03, 2020

    So: brutally ugly inside and out, needlessly firm suspension, low-pro tires that will get chewed up by crumbling infrastructure. No thanks, the 1st and 2ns gen Avalons are still where it's at.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 04, 2020

    Sedans for the most part have been replaced by crossovers. At the right price and with low mileage used Avalons make a good vehicle especially if they are bought from older 1 owners.

  • SaulTigh I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you really cared about the environment you'd be encouraging everyone to drive a standard hybrid. Mature and reliable technology that uses less resources yet can still be conveniently driven cross country and use existing infrastructure.These young people have no concept of how far we've come. Cars were dirty, stinking things when I was a kid. They've never been cleaner. You hardly ever see a car smoking out the tail pipe or smell it running rich these days, even the most clapped out 20 year old POS. Hybrids are even cleaner.
  • Inside Looking Out Just put ICE there. Real thing is always better that simulation.
  • Inside Looking Out It still cannot oversimulate Telluride.
  • Jeff Doesn't appear to need much and it would be worth the asking price. Keep the straight 6 and keep it all original it is hard to find an almost 70 year old survivor like this. You are not going to race in this car it is meant for cruising and for smaller car shows. Just fix the mechanics including the brakes give it a good wax job and detailing.
  • VoGhost Hmmm. Odd that exactly zero Tesla dealers signed this lobbying letter.