2014 Toyota Avalon Limited Hybrid First Test
We burn a lot of gas here at Motor Trend, and sometimes we don't do it in the most efficient way possible. That leaves me feeling somewhat guilty every Earth Day. But Earth Day 2014 was different, because I was behind the wheel of a 2014 Toyota Avalon hybrid that allowed me to do my job while making Mother Nature's day a little easier. And I couldn't help but feel a bit smug every time I cruised by a gas station in zero-emissions, all-electric mode, especially since the price for regular unleaded has been stubbornly stuck at well more than $4 a gallon here in Southern California.
The fourth-gen Avalon is the first time a hybrid powertrain has been offered in Toyota's flagship sedan. Yes, a six-cylinder is still available, but the hybrid drives just as well and isn't much slower than the V-6. Unfortunately, 18-inch rims are available for the V-6, but not the hybrid, which means the latter is stuck with 17s that dull a bit of the sedan's otherwise sharp-looking exterior. Overall, though, the Avalon is one of the most handsome – or at least interesting -- sedans in its class.
The Avalon doesn't have much company when it comes to full-sized hybrid sedans that cost less than $40,000. In fact, the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist is pretty much it. The Buick, however, is powered by a mild hybrid powertrain that's thirstier at 25/36 mpg city/highway versus 40/39 for the Avalon. (Combined EPA mileage is 29 and 40 mpg for the Buick and Toyota, respectively.) The V-6-powered Avalon, by the way, returns 21/31 mpg. On Motor Trend's Real MPG cycle, the Avalon hybrid returned 39/38/38 mpg city/highway/combined. The LaCrosse eAssist and six-cylinder-powered Avalon have not been through Real MPG testing yet.
Driving the Avalon in all-electric mode is quite satisfying, whether it's in stop-and-go traffic or hunting for a spot in a packed parking lot. The 140-hp electric motor will propel the sedan to residential speeds of about 30 mph on its own, as long as the battery has enough juice and the driver is gentle with the right pedal. Otherwise the 156-hp 2.5-liter gas engine steps in to help, though it's more than eager to shut off and hand the baton back to the electric motor even at higher speeds, as long as the Avalon is cruising on a flat or declined road.
Thanks to its large 17-gallon fuel tank the Avalon can travel more than 600 miles between fill-ups, which means nature will likely call you before the Toyota needs to stop for gas. When you need to find a rest area in a hurry, the Avalon will help by scooting from 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds. That's 1.2 seconds behind the V-6-powered Avalon, but 1.2 seconds quicker than the last LaCrosse eAssist we tested. Our Avalon was equipped with the optional sport mode, which sharpens throttle response. It also feels quicker off the line and the CVT is more eager to leave the engine in the middle of its powerband. Sport mode also adds a bit more weight to the steering feel.
Previous iterations of the Avalon have been crucified for their soft and lazy ride, but we've praised Toyota's efforts for making this current generation a bit more engaging behind the wheel. While far from being our first pick to carve canyons, the Avalon is surprisingly stable and composed for a large sedan.
Generous amounts of sound-deadening material and acoustic-improvement glass keep things quiet inside. The dash is modern and highlighted by capacitive-style touch buttons that work well. Two big knobs for the audio system add an old-school feel and remind me of my dad's vintage Marantz home receiver. Accenting the dash are numerous bits of smoked chrome that unfortunately add an excessive amount of glare during the day. During a road trip I debated covering the chrome with painters tape. Perhaps something less reflective like brushed metal would be a better choice.
Otherwise, the Avalon is a nice place to spend time. Our top-of-the-line Limited model was packed with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, ambient lighting, navigation, and premium sound. There's plenty of room, too. In fact, the only sacrifice made for the hybrid hardware is reduced trunk space. With 14 cubic feet of cargo space, the Avalon hybrid's trunk is just 2.1 cubic feet smaller than the V-6 model. Meanwhile, the Buick can only fit 10.8 cubic feet of stuff in its trunk. Roomy, quiet, comfortable, and efficient, the Avalon hybrid is a sedan fit for anybody's mother. Including nature's.
|2014 Toyota Avalon Limited Hybrid|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$44,385|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.5L/156-hp/156-lb-ft Atkinson Cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 140-hp/199 lb-ft electric motor|
|TRANSMISSION||cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3647 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||195.2 x 72.2 x 57.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.7 sec @ 89.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.1 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||40/39/40 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||84/86 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.49 lb/mile|