Review: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is worth the premium
Toyota completely redesigned the Avalon Hybrid for the 2019 model year, giving it new bodywork, a new face, and a better interior. These cosmetic differences just get started, though, with the Avalon also seeing significant changes to its chassis and hybrid powertrain. Which prove the hybrid out.
The future of automotive is electrification, but today's battery-electric vehicles aren't for everyone. There are a lot of reasons for this, from cost to range anxiety to uncertainty about their lifespan. Whatever the reason given, the vast majority of those buying new vehicles aren't buying a BEV. There are significant numbers of them, however, who are buying hybrids. Many of those hybrids are Toyota models and the Avalon Hybrid remains one of the most popular hybrid sedans on the market.
Significantly, the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid has three things going for it: the Toyota nameplate, a huge real-world MPG return, and an easy to calculate return on investment (ROI).
The Toyota nameplate is synonymous with reliability to many of the buying public and the Avalon is one of the most recognizable Toyotas thanks to it being the flagship of the automaker's sedan lineup. The 2019 Avalon has a 43 mpg EPA rating for its combined fuel economy and our time with it in the real world showed it more than capable of getting that number on a daily basis. Finally, the Avalon Hybrid models are only about US$1,000 more than their gasoline-only Avalon siblings, making the ROI for them easy to figure.
That ROI, for those wondering, can be just a few months or so, but will likely be about a year for most people. The simple math works like so: $1,000 premium to get the hybrid with a 70 percent fuel economy gain for that investment. For the average driver going average distances at today's average fuel costs, fuel savings will require about a year to make that $1,000 back. After that, the Avalon Hybrid becomes cheaper to own than its gas-only brethren.
For the 2019 model year, Toyota made a lot of changes to the Avalon that help facilitate a better return in other ways. The basic drivetrain sees only generational upgrades from the previous-generation, keeping the same well-vetted and reliable Hybrid Synergy Drive components in place. Those consist of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) set for front-wheel drive. Combined output is 215 horsepower (160 kW), an increase of 15 hp over last year.
The 2019 model's batteries are still placed underneath the back seat ahead of the gas tank, creating balance for the car's weight distribution on its chassis. This has the added benefit of not infringing on the passenger cabin or trunk space. The rear seats still fold flat (split-fold) like in the gas models, keeping cargo space the same.
Speaking of its chassis, the vehicle now sits on the same stiffer, more modern chassis of the new-generation Camry. Stretched to fit the larger Avalon, the chassis offers better balance, a more predictable ride quality, and a less disconnected "floaty" feel on the road. The Avalon Hybrid is now even more nimble and engaging to drive thanks to both that chassis and the faster response of the electric drive. With seamless regenerative to physical braking and a drive quality now more in tune with sportier competitors, the Avalon Hybrid is a far better vehicle.
The new look for the 2019 Avalon is a mixed bag, though. Styling from the aggressive hood to the longer, sleeker, more elegant sides and the fastback-styled roofline are all good things. There's just enough curvature to reflect the light in an upscale way without creating a lot of edges where there don't need to be any. The balance of greenhouse versus bodywork and wheels versus overhang is well done. Sadly, Toyota opted to go Lexus-like for the grille, making the new Avalon with the same gaping maw and sharp-edged pinch. This largely ruins the otherwise very beautiful design.
Inside, the car features a well-done cabin with a lot of room. As a big car should have. One lament is the choice of using a fat, infringing center console to separate the driver and front passenger, pinching knee room and forcing words like "cozy" be used to describe the cockpit. Controls and other systems are well laid out and nicely done, though, and the rear seat offers a huge amount of space for passengers. The trunk is likewise accommodating.
As the smallest of the big full-sized sedans, the 2019 Avalon Hybrid offers both plenty of ergonomics for daily use and excellent fuel economy in an easy to justify proposition. For the market that's looking at large cars like the Avalon, the Hybrid hits the mark very well. More so, we think, than does the gasoline-only options in the Avalon lineup.
The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid starts at US$36,500 in the base XLE trim. Our test model, driven for a week courtesy of Toyota USA, rang in at about $44,500.
Product Page: 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid