Toyota Avalon gets hybrid boost for ‘19

The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is rated at 43 miles per gallon. (Bud Wells photo)

Pleasant drives were the norm for a week in late October aboard the redesigned 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.

Performance-wise, it won’t match the gasoline-powered version, but the big sedan has the same cushy ride, and it’s the quietest one I’ve driven in quite some time. With its newly advanced hybrid powertrain, it delivers 43 to 44 miles per gallon, seemingly regardless of how it’s driven – in town, out on the highway, up the hill, down the hill, around the corner.

Toyota says the hybrid will cost only $1,000 above the price of the traditional Avalon.

The fifth-generation Avalon’s improved platform (longer and lower) is the Toyota New Global Architecture, powered by a 2.5-liter Dynamic Force, 4-cylinder engine, two electric motors and continuously variable transmission, with combined horsepower of 215. The battery pack of nickel-metal hydride battery cells now rests under the rear seat, rather than in the trunk. The back-and-forth switch between the two power sources maintains excellent economy. The Avalon Limited Hybrid averaged 44.3 mpg for approximately 300 miles.

Early release of the ’19 Avalon has spurred a 58 percent jump in sales in the U.S. Through the first nine months of this year, sales of Avalon hybrids total 6,095, compared with 3,840 a year ago.

Jan and I one evening drove the Avalon to Cheddars Scratch Kitchen in Thornton, where we shared a table with friends Ted and Shirley King. The Kings had driven their Chrysler 300, a strong competitor of the Avalon, and after dinner they took a short ride with us. The Avalon and 300 are two of the three top-rated large cars by U.S. News & World Report. King liked the ride and quietness in the Avalon and said the high fuel mileage compares with about 25 in his gasoline-powered Chrysler.

Even with the CVT, by opting for the Sport mode button over the comfortable Normal mode, the throttle is more responsive, suspension stiffens for better handling and steering-wheel paddles can be used for six simulated gears. Its acceleration is adequate, except on steep climbs, and it rides very smoothly.

Quilted leather with two-tone stitching and an Entune 3.0 premium audio system are interior highlights.

Pricing begins at $42,800 for the Avalon Hybrid Limited, with cooled/heated front seats and heated rear seats/steering wheel, a head-up display, JBL audio with 14 speakers and navigation. Sticker price was $44,870. Other standard items include Bluetooth, satellite radio, Entune infotainment, five USB ports and Apple CarPlay for improved iPhone functions. Android Auto, which allows stowing of the phone in a pocket while making or taking calls, isn’t yet available in the Avalon.

Among safety advances are adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

Interestingly, the Avalon review model most often appeared black in color until bright light shines and turns it brown; its color description on its window sticker, though, is “opulent amber,” (isn’t that gold or orange?).

The Avalon, sized very similar to the Buick LaCrosse, is on a wheelbase of 113 inches, is 195.9 inches in overall length, 72.8 wide and stands 56.5 tall, with a roomy 16 cubic-feet trunk and turn circle of 37.7 feet. It rides on Hankook 235/45R18 tires. It is built in Georgetown, Ky.