On The Road

Toyota Avalon: A hybrid worth the hype

Photo courtesy of Toyota
The new Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited sells for just under $45,000. The car gets 43 mpg in mixed driving conditions.

Last month we discussed the eventual prospect of sedans and hybrid cars becoming extinct – like dinosaurs and passenger pigeons.

Realistically, however, that future won’t come quickly or all at once. So for that next automobile, for those of you who think that a car should be down-to-earth and comfortable while still being earth-friendly and practical, the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited could be your next car.

On the comfortable side of the equation, this model is the latest in a long line of well-priced Toyota sedans. This version comes with a lovely interior, 39 inches of rear legroom and excellent trunk space – and it offers a comfortable ride.

On the environmental side, it’s engineered by the company that brought the Prius – the first practical hybrid automobile – to market. Together, the Avalon Hybrid’s 227-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine and 118-horsepower electric motor provide 215 combined horsepower and 43 mpg in mixed driving conditions.

While we’re looking at the data, the suggested retail price of the 2018 Limited – the nicest trim level – we drove was $44,870 out the showroom door. That price includes the advanced-safety package (and why the company chooses to make safety an extra-cost option, even if it is only 2 percent of the purchase price, is beyond us).

State-of-the-art features

But what is it like to drive? In the terms that we think will matter to the target audience of people who want to sustain long distances on the highway without feeling fatigued or want their passengers to feel as if they’re wrapped in luxury, the car is perfect.

For those of us who still like to sit down into a car rather than climb up into an SUV, and prefer to feel as if we’re riding on a feather pillow rather than on a carnival ride, we like this sedan. For us, the Avalon Hybrid is by far the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient luxury sedan on the market.

Granted, the individual who likes the response and performance of a Mercedes-Benz or BMW would probably quibble with the relative lack of acceleration potential and road feel, but we doubt that prospective customer is likely to give this vehicle a second glance.

We are pleased that the folks in the new Toyota Research facility that recently moved into Los Altos have been working on improvements to the information and entertainment systems. The large screen in the center console does look a little like some other cars designed nearby, but it’s hard to differentiate the look of a large screen on a center console. We’re pleased that, to the extent we were able to explore its features, the new design and system introduced for 2019 seems to be state of the art.

As for the individual who wants to be at the cutting edge of new technologies and is prepared to plug his or her car in every time it’s sitting still – while paying for the privilege of driving the second-generation battery-electrics – we thank you for continuing to support the development of the new technologies that are required.

But for now, and for those of us for whom costs, efficiency and convenience matter when we look for a comfortable sedan, the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited is a good choice for the next three to five years as we wait for the future generations of battery-electrics that everyone will be driving.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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