Thursday, November 21, 2019


Not Your Father’s Toyota

For 2019 Toyota has revamped its 5th generation Avalon in every way.  A full-sized vehicle optimized and built for the North American market, it scores highly in every category.  It’s a big vehicle, built for today’s American, with a range of trims for just about every need and pocketbook.  Available in either a V6 or a four-cylinder Hybrid model, Smarticd picked the hybrid model for this review.

It’s big and now beautiful, too

At first glance, the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid can be confused with its cousin, the Camry. The Avalon is based on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) that underpins the Camry and the current Prius, and is built on the same assembly line as the Camry in Toyota’s massive assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.  Despite those similarities, on closer examination, it’s wider and longer than the Camry and is crammed with the latest and best technology that Toyota has to offer.

A Styling Tour de Force

The Avalon is a very striking vehicle and a real eye-catcher.  For 2019, it has a two-inch longer overall length at 195.9-inchs, with shortened front and rear overhangs.  Combined with a sweeping roofline and lowered trunk line, its proportions are gorgeous.  Our tester was painted in Parisian Night Pearl Blue, which made it easy to mistake for a high-end luxury sedan.

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
The Avalon can proudly stand next to luxury competition

The most contentious part of the car is the front grill; it stretches across the entire front of the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, suggesting faux cooling intakes. In many ways, it is not much different from the current Audi A6 and A8 noses.  Put the A6 and the Avalon side-by-side, and it is hard to tell them apart. Tasteful application of LED lighting and accents defines the Avalon’s eyes.  In the upscale Touring and Limited trims, adaptive cornering lights help illuminate the curves by lighting the turns.

The Avalon is a true large four-door sedan, which is refreshing in today’s world where just about every vehicle today has to have some crossover or SUV pretensions.  The Avalon isn’t that heavy of a car, tipping the scales at between 3,560 for the V6 models; our Limited Hybrid weighing in at 3,715 pounds. The trunk space is SUV-sized with a total of 16.09 cubic feet, which can be expanded with the rear seats down.

State of the Art Drivetrain

As the leader in hybrid powertrains, Toyota has not skimped with the Avalon.  For 2019, the Avalon gets a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels that runs cleaner, is more efficient and more powerful than previous versions. 

A smooth, tech-filled powertrain motivates the Avalon

The drivetrain features a whole cornucopia of acronyms and technology including variable valve timing (VVT-iE) that uses an electric motor rather than oil pressure for timing adjustment, direct fuel injection (DFI) with multi-hole injectors along with low-pressure port fuel injectors (PFI) that allow for optimum fuel delivery depending on driving parameters.  The engine has very high compression, running at 14:1, while only requiring 87-octane fuel. 

But wait, there’s more!  The engine is married to an all-new hybrid system that provides a seamless powertrain, which is more than adequate for spirited driving while returning fantastic fuel economy for such a large vehicle.  The net power of the combined hybrid system is 215 horsepower, up 15 hp from previous versions.  There are two electric motors in the Avalon, one to boost the engine performance, and the other to supplement charging the hybrid system’s nickel-metal hydride battery pack located under the rear seat (that doesn’t compromise trunk space).  

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Subtlety is gone

Regular Avalon powertrains use an eight-speed transmission, but the hybrid version uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) front-wheel-drive transaxle.  The powertrain components are tightly integrated with increased fuel efficiency in mind.  No stone has been left unturned to maximize efficiency with enhanced integration of the electric motors and CVT, which has gained 20 percent in energy conversion efficiency, and 10 percent in cooling enhancements.  The Avalon also takes advantage of Auto Glide Control (AGC) that allows the car to be powered solely by its electric motors, or acting as if the vehicle is in neutral, depending on the driving conditions.  This system is seamless, allowing both city and highway driving under electric power only.  AGC positively affected our fuel economy.  For the time we had the Avalon we averaged 43.6 mpg in combined city and highway driving (compared to the EPA numbers of 43 city./44 highway/44 combined)

A Functional and Comfortable Cockpit

In keeping with the touring flavor of the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, the interior is exceptionally comfortable and spacious.  Borrowing from sports car design where “everything falls easily to hand,” the instruments, center console, and infotainment stack are right where they need to be.  Rear seating is limousine quality with more than two inches more rear seat and floor space than in previous generations.  The interior is conservative in style with tasteful accents of aluminum and real wood. The seats have large cushions and seatbacks that cradle, but aren’t confining.  Depending on the trim, seats and doors are adorned in either in Ultrasuede or leather. 

Apple CarPlay finally, but still no Android Auto

In the driver’s command center, the three-spoke steering wheel with enlarged hand grips contains multifunction controls allowing for smooth operation of the cruise, multimedia and safety systems.  The 7.0-inch information display provides turn-by-turn navigation, safety alerts, engine performance and hybrid systems operation.  Our Limited trim version also included a 10-inch color head-up display (HUD).  The HUD clearly projects essential info, such as vehicle and engine speeds, turn-by-turn directions, audio settings, and drive mode, onto the lower portion of the windshield. It helps drivers stay focused on the road ahead and was one of the best HUDs we have experienced.

The gauges are clear and HUD keeps eyes where they belong

Between the front seats is Avalon’s slim center stack. The thin panel houses Avalon’s 9.0-inch multimedia system (MMS) displaying audio and navigation as well as integrating the automotive climate control system. Satin chrome-finish decoration surrounds the center cluster panel that “floats” above the instrument panel, further emphasizing the balanced aura of the modern atmosphere. Below the MMS, passengers have easy access to the slide-open eBin containing a 12-volt plug and the standard wireless Qi mobile device charger. Located inside the center console are a trio of USB power ports (making for five total). A part cupholder, part phone cradle is located atop the front console, sitting adjacent to the gear selector. Supple padding lines either side of the console’s lower tunnel at knee height.  Toyota has finally added Apple CarPlay to the MMS, but sadly Android Auto was nowhere to be found.  In the Avalon Limited, a JBL performance audio system with 7.1 surround sound, 14 speakers and more than 1,200 watts of power is standard.  The JBL system sounded great with a rich, deep sound that complimented the quiet and well-insulated cockpit. Road and wind noise are almost non-existent at speed.

Top Safety Tech

The Avalon is configured with the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) safety systems and technologies. TSS-P includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection (PCS w/PD), full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control (DRCC), lane departure alert with steering assist (LDA w/SA) and automatic high beams (AHB). Additional standard safety technology includes blind spot monitor (BSM) with rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) and back guide monitor (BGM).
Our Avalon was also configured with a panoramic view monitor with alert (PVMA) and Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS), with a rear cross traffic braking (RCTB) system. Avalons have ten standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, an anti-lock braking system, Smart Stop Technology and a standard backup camera.

A Top Value for a Full-sized Sedan

2019 is a big step up for the Avalon–and its Hybrid model stands alone in its class

The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is an outstanding value as an alternative to the “Me Too” run of the mill SUVs today.  It’s a large four-door sedan that is high in technology, deep in sophistication, a leader in efficiency and exceptionally enjoyable to drive. 

Avalon pricing is a relative bargain because the content and quality of the car place it in competition with luxury vehicles’ marques.  It’s understated while being stylistically bold and sophisticated.  It has all of the most advanced tech available and has trim for every need and pocketbook.


  V-6 Hybrid
Touring $42,200  
Limited $41,800 $42,800
XSE $38,000 $39,000
XLE $35,500 $36,500

*MSRPs exclude the delivery, processing and handling fee of $895.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].


Gary Lieber is a Road Test & Technology editor at Smarticd. Gary is a Silicon Valley technology veteran, having spent more than 20 years as an executive at Apple and Microsoft. He is a life-long technologist, club racer and gearhead. He has written about cars for the last 10 years, focusing on battery electric cars, autonomous vehicles and the technologies behind them. He is an organizer of Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel, founder of the San Francisco Bay Leaf Owners Association, former Concours Chairman for the Porsche Club of America and currently serves as Vice President of Communications for the Western Automotive Journalists.

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