Vera Eubank’s Toyota Avalon’s are full of memories that include Vera being honored at Palomar College for her business community leadership in building the college; Jim, her deceased husband of 59 years, being honored for his World War II heroism in an elite OSS team that evolved into today’s Navy Seals; taking grandkids to their swim meets, piano lessons, and school events. Twelve years of memories.
One Avalon has been problem free since Jim bought it in 2000. The other has been problem free since Jim gave it to Vera as a surprise birthday gift in 2004. She plans to keep both for a number of years. She drives one and lets family members drive the other. She likes the Avalon’s safety, easy of getting in and out, and room for family and everyone’s perennial projects.
Vera’s son and daughter-in-law are also loyal to Toyota, driving a Prius and Highlander Hybrid AWD. For the family, Toyota represents quality, premium electronics, and best-in-class mileage for their cars.
If Vera were buying a new car today, I’m sure that the new Avalon Hybrid would be a top candidate with its safety, full-sized interior comfort, and classic looks. At 40 miles per gallon, fewer trips to the gas station would certainly appeal to her practical side. The new Avalon Hybrid uses about half the gasoline of that 2004 model. The 2013 Avalon Hybrid is rated at 40 MPG city, 39 highway, 40 MPG overall.
Sideways Country Test Drive of 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
As I approached the new Avalon Hybrid for my test drive, I noticed that Toyota had preserved the subdued elegance of the exterior while making it more aerodynamic with a .28 coefficient of drag. I sat behind the leather steering wheel in the 10-way power driver leather seat to insure my comfort even on a long drive.
I touched Power to start the car, touched the EV button and drove away barely hearing the two electric motors, while the 2.5L gasoline engine was off. As I approached 25 miles per hour, the engine engaged and Toyota’s hybrid drive system made all decisions for the next 75 miles about when to engage the engine and two motors.
On the seven-inch display, I selected Pandora and listen to Vivaldi. This Limited edition featured JBL synthesis and 11 speakers, doing the symphony justice. The display supports USB integration and display management of the iPhone/iPad. Bluetooth hands-free phone can be used. Music can be played thru the speakers from other devices. Vivaldi is all that I could hear. This new Avalon is quiet due to efficient motors, solid insulation and acoustic windshield.
My driving partner was Del Coates, a design and automotive expert. I agree with his assessment of competent handling and compliant drive as I steered down winding Santa Barbara roads shaded with Live Oak. Officially, the Avalon is a premium midsized, yet three large people can comfortably sit in the back seat with the feeling that this is a full-sized four-door sedan.
As we entered the Santa Ynez foothills, the Avalon Hybrid climbed hills with ease even in Eco mode and showed strong passing power in Sport mode. With one touch, I opened the sunroof. I felt an easy control at the wheel.
Safety considerations were apparent including 10 airbags, good visibility through all mirrors. This Limited edition used radar cruise that reduced my cruise control speed when I approached the car in front of me. Impressive.
On steep mountain road descents, I used manual shifting in hopes of capturing maximum regenerative braking energy, and not needing to use the brake pedal. We passed wineries with their famous Pinots, but resisted the temptation to stop. Other journalists were waiting to drive this model. In Solvang, the EV mode allowed us to silently glide through the town made famous by the movie Sideways. Back in Eco mode, the Avalon Hybrid easily accelerated into the flow of traffic on Highway 101, where the cruise control kept us in the good graces of the Highway Patrol.
On this 75-mile drive, we average 48 miles per hour. The display indicated a range of 425 miles for our kind of driving. We only average 27.3 miles per gallon, which was disappointing given the EPA rating of 40 mpg. The many hills, Sport mode, and manual shifting apparently took its toll on mileage.
Real Value Starting at $35,555
The Hybrid at 40 mpg only costs $2,360 more than the similarly equipped XLE Premium, and $4,565 more than the XLE without backup camera, moonroof, and some premium appointments. The Limited Hybrid that we drove was $41,400 with sunroof; premium audio; individually controlled driver, passenger, and rear HVAC; and radar cruise.
The new Avalon Hybrid is made in Kentucky. Toyota has made over 25 million cars and trucks in North America and employees over 20,000 people. Toyota has about 60 percent of total hybrid market share. The Avalon Hybrid is one of 21 hybrids that Toyota will have on the roads by 2015, with the most famous being in the Prius family.
The Avalon Hybrid Toyota’s proven Hybrid Drive System proven in millions of Prius and other Toyota hybrids. The efficient Atkinson cycle four-cylinder is attached to a hybrid application transaxle that acts as a power-split device between the gasoline engine and the two high output electric motors housed in the transaxle. The transmission operates similarly to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), but it houses a planetary gear arrangement that allows for switching between, and even combining propulsion sources (power split device).
One of the motor/generators (MG1) is driven by the engine and functions as a starter and generates electrical power to operate the second electric motor/generator (MG2) and charge the hybrid battery. The second motor (MG2) operates independently to help the gasoline engine and deliver smooth application of electric power from a standing start and when accelerating. The regenerative braking supplied by MG1 helps slow the vehicle while recovering lost energy and converting it to electricity that is returned to the battery. The electric motors are rated at 105 kW total, and the total system output for the Hybrid Synergy Drive is 200 horsepower. The Avalon Hybrid will accelerate from 0 to 60 in about 8.0 seconds.
Avalon Livery goes after Lincoln Town Car
There are more than 12,000 livery operators nationwide with an average fleet size ranging from 12 to 18 vehicles. On average, livery operators keep their cars in service for about five years, driving between 40 and 50 thousand miles a year, giving a 40 MPG hybrid a fast payback.
The Lincoln Town Car has accounted for roughly 80 percent of livery sedan sales. With that car discontinued, livery fleets are looking for alternatives, including Lincoln MKT, Cadillac XTS and Chrysler 300. The new Avalon, with its mix of styling, comfort, performance, and Hybrid fuel economy can offer a compelling sedan to livery operators.
The base Avalon Hybrid livery model adds rear HVAC, rear seat heater, and two-door smart key to the Hybrid XLE Premium grade, but deletes back-up camera, moonroof, heated front seats, and the inside mirror that includes a garage door opener. The Avalon Hybrid Livery model in XLE Premium grade starts at $33,750.
Premium Midsized Hybrid Alternatives
The new Avalon Hybrid is a premium midsized sedan that feels full-sized, especially for adults in the back seat. Yet, it has impressive midsized hybrid competition that offers adequate back seat comfort for five. Premium interiors, advanced electronics and safety features are available on these alternatives.
Toyota Camry Hybrid is about $8,000 less than the slightly larger and premium appointed Avalon Hybrid. The Camry uses essentially the same hybrid drive system yet delivers 41 mpg, has good backseat room, and premium options.
Ford Fusion Hybrid is about $8,000 less than the Avalon Hybrid, yet offers more advanced telematics/safety options such as lane drift protection and automatic parallel parking options than the slightly larger and premium appointed Avalon. The Fusion hybrid system uses lithium batteries, a smaller 2L gasoline engine, and software control advancements deliver 47 MPG. The Fusion Hybrid has more trunk room flexibility than the Avalon Hybrid including the ability the lower the back seat for golf clubs, school and work projects, although lacking the flat floor and access of hatchbacks.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid has more of a distinctive exterior and luxury interior yet costs no more than the Avalon Hybrid. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid still delivers 45 mpg with an advanced hybrid system, a smaller 2L gasoline engine, and lithium batteries. The MKZ Hybrid has 3 cubic feet less in the trunk than the Avalon.
Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against corrosion with no mileage limitation. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles. The new Avalon Hybrid goes on sale in December.
Yes, $35,555 is a lot of money for this new 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, but you get a lot of value in this Toyota premium hybrid. As Vera reminded me, this is a car built to last 12 years and more. With a hybrid, that’s a lot of fuel and maintenance savings in 12 years. For many, the Hybrid premium will pay for itself in three years by using less gas. Classic looks, full-size comfort, and hybrid mileage is a winning combination.