Great gas mileage. Luxury-class interior. Excellent infotainment system.
Clunky touch interface. No remote app. Occasional droning noise from CVT.
- Bottom Line
If you're looking for the exceptional fuel economy of a hybrid but want more room, a bit of luxury, and a little extra performance, Toyota has you covered with the 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.
By Doug Newcomb
Thanks to the uber-popular Prius, Toyota is now synonymous with hybrid cars. If you're looking for the exceptional fuel economy of a hybrid but want more room, a bit of lavishness, and a little more performance without busting your budget, Toyota has you covered with the new Avalon Hybrid. It's a full-size sedan that delivers better fuel economy (40 mpg combined) than Toyota's compact gas-powered Corolla, with a spacious, luxurious interior. The sharp exterior styling doesn't scream hybrid the way a Prius does, and even the base model is packed with plenty of features. For 2017, Toyota sweetens the deal on the Avalon Hybrid by adding the Safety Sense package, which includes a host of driver-assist systems, as standard equipment on all trim levels. This makes the car stand out even more in a segment in which it's already a standout, and our Editors' Choice.
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Pricing and Design
The 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid comes in three trim levels, all equipped with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a 105-kilowatt electric motor powered by a trunk-mounted battery pack. Together the engine and motor produce 200 horsepower that's sent to the front wheels by way of an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission (ECVT).
The base XLE Plus starts a $37,300 and comes standard with 17-inch painted alloy wheels, automatic halogen headlights, daytime running lights, smoked LED taillights, a hidden exhaust with chrome-accented cover, color-keyed and heated power mirrors with turn signal indicators, a power moonroof with sliding sunshade, intermittent windshield wipers, and acoustic noise-reducing windshield, driver, and front passenger side windows. It also has dual-zone automatic climate control with rear seat vents, a leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel, leather-trimmed and heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat, a four-way power front passenger seat, wood grain-style interior trim with smoked chrome interior accents and door handles, and a rear seat center armrest with cup holders and trunk pass-through.
On the tech side, there's a TFT instrument panel display with customizable settings, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and HomeLink garage door opener, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio, a rearview camera, and Toyota's eBin center console storage compartment with a sliding lid and device holder with a wire management system.
The XLE Plus also comes with the Entune Audio Plus infotainment that consists of an eight-speaker audio system with CD, AM/FM HD radio with traffic and weather info, satellite radio, and USB and aux-in jacks, all controlled by a 7-inch touch display and voice recognition (onboard, as well Siri Eye Free for Apple devices). Toyota Safety Sense adds forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control, and auto high beams.
The midrange XLE Premium starts at $38,750 and adds driver memory settings, fog lights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, wireless smartphone charging, and an Entune Premium infotainment system with in-dash navigation, smartphone app integration, and a nine-speaker audio system with HD Radio predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, broadcast caching capability, and Gracenote album cover art.
The flagship Limited trim we tested starts at $42,550 and adds chrome wheels, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors with puddle lamps, aluminum scuff plates, tri-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded gauge cluster, upgraded leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, an 8-way power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a rear power sunshade, ambient lighting, an 11-speaker JBL GreenEdge sound system, and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics system. Our test car also had a $224 carpeted floor and trunk mat option. With a $865 delivery, process, and handling fee, the total sticker price came to $43,639.
The recent redesign of the Toyota Avalon gave the car a sleek coupe-like outline and a more aggressive front grille, and the new Hybrid model is accented by special badging. The interior is a cut above most cars in the segment, with an upscale look and feel. The trunk has a generous 14 cubic feet of cargo capacity, just two cubic feet shy of the non-hybrid Avalon, and gave us ample room for bags on an extended trip.
Interface and Connectivity
The Toyota Entune system has consistently been one of our favorite car infotainment and connectivity platforms. The 7-inch touch screen can be set to show up to three main menu items, and icons within the Apps menu can be rearranged to your liking. You can read more about the system in our Toyota Entune review here.
A couple of small gripes: Common functions such as navigation and phone are all listed within the Apps menu, so they require an extra step to get to. We're also not fans of the low-profile capacitive touch controls that flank the display and control climate functions further below it. We prefer larger, tactile knobs you don't have to look at to find and operate. On the plus side, Toyota uses old-fashioned large volume and tuning knobs, which helps offset the high-tech feel and frustration of the capacitive controls for the other functions.
The Entune Apps feature is mostly what we look for in a smartphone-enabled infotainment system. It uses your smartphone and the Entune app to supply streaming music, local search, and other connected services via common platforms such as Pandora and Yelp—all without a subscription, using your device's data plan. The Avalon Hybrid also has other useful (and free) connected features such as weather and traffic info via HD Radio.
The Toyota Safety Connect telematics system is free for the first year of ownership and provides automatic collision notification, emergency and roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle location. It doesn't offer other features such as vehicles diag`nostics geofencing, and it's missing a remote app for features like locking or unlocking the car's doors or finding the vehicle's location using a smartphone. This is surprising, since its sister Lexus Enform app provides this capability.
Performance and Conclusions
We drove the 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid over the course of a week in Texas, starting with SXSW in Austin, then down to Corpus Christi and back. We had ample time to test the car in hectic city traffic and during long stretches of highway driving.
In both scenarios, the Avalon Hybrid was comfortable and confident. Despite 200 horsepower being on the low side for a car this size, we rarely felt that it didn't have the acceleration required. And even without babying the vehicle, we achieved an average fuel economy of 34.5 mpg. The ride was exceptionally smooth and quiet, although we did detect a slight droning noise from the continuously variable automatic transmission when we put our foot into the gas pedal.
The Avalon Hybrid's closest competitors include the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Honda Accord Hybrid, and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, but they're all midsize sedans. You'll have to step up to the Avalon's luxury cousin the Lexus ES 300h to get the same amount of space and even more amenities and refinement. This puts the Avalon Hybrid in a class of all by itself, and that easily makes it an Editor's Choice.
By Doug Newcomb Columnist
Doug Newcomb is a recognized expert on the subject of car technology within the auto industry and among the automotive and general media, and a frequent speaker at automotive and consumer electronics industry events. Doug began his career in 1988 at the car stereo trade publication Mobile Electronics, before serving as editor of the leading consumer magazines covering the topic, Car Audio and Electronics and Car Stereo Review/Mobile Entertainment/Road & Track Road Gear, from 1989 to 2005. In 2005 Doug started his own company, Newcomb Communications… More »
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