Review: 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited front 34

Toyota made a name for itself in the 1980s when it offered affordable vehicles which were reliable, efficient, and long lasting. In the 1990s they stepped that up by adding interesting styling and features to their vehicles, making several great sports cars and increasing participation is motorsports overall. After the turn of the century things were not as rosy. Like the rest of the Japanese automotive industry, Toyota has lost its touch; lower part quality, bigger vehicles, rust issues on trucks, infamous recalls, loss of innovation.

Akio Toyoda confronted these issues some time ago and results can be seen in various new Toyota and Lexus models of the last few years. The fourth generation of the Avalon is one such example; it’s nice looking, the interior is made of high quality products, it drives well, it includes latest technologies, and seems screwed together as good as ever.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited dash

The exterior of the Avalon is modern, yet conservative. The Avalon does not try to pretend to be anything else than a large sedan and its styling cues tell that it cannot be anything else than a Toyota or a Lexus. Surprisingly many people asked me about this vehicle in my few days with it, with a curious yet positive outlook. The hybrid badge had a lot to do with that curiously, as everyone seems to be tired of paying for gas.

The interior offers the same kind of modern-yet-conservative styling as the exterior. The two front seats are wide and comfortable, and on the Limited model they’re heated and ventilated, although that ventilation is not the best in the business, as it seem to be a bit inadequate. The roomy rear bench has plenty of space for three butts, with plenty of legroom too. It should be noted that the rear doors open to almost ninety degrees, allowing easy access.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited interior details

Due to the hybrid’s batteries the rear seat does not fold down and there is no pass-through. The trunk itself sacrifices space for the batteries, shrinking from 16 cu. ft. in the conventional Avalon to 14 cu. ft. in the hybrid. While that number does not seem that drastic, all of that space it lost in the bulkhead of the trunk making the cargo area wide but lacking depth. The designers of the Avalon did, however, manage to find room for a temporary spare tire.

The dash layout is clean, with both the climate and infotainment controls easily accessible. Like most new cars the Avalon is short on knobs and long on buttons, but most common controls are easily accessible. It is the secondary controls, such as selecting a route that avoids tolls in the navigational system, which require a bit of searching.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited  bin charging tray

The Avalon was also the first vehicle which I have seen with wireless inductive phone charging, a $200 option. The charging pad is part of a nifty lower center console that also includes two 12v receptacles, auxiliary and USB inputs. The charging pad is located in the magnetic lid, which allows for your phone to be conveniently located whether or not it is being charged. Unfortunately my iPhone is not capable of wireless charging solution and I could not test that system out.

Historically, hybrids were not known for smoothness; the change over from battery power the gasoline engine was very noticeable and most hybrids were downright anemic in their power delivery. Things have improved in the Avalon; in the conventional driving mode the car does feel a bit sluggish, but depressing the sport button makes it feel more like a conventional car. With the transmission in sport mode, a tachometer appears on the dash and the internal combustion engine hangs in upper rpm range where it makes the most power. My ideal spot for this car was with the transmission on normal drive mode and engine in sport.

Highway ride, as expected from a large sedan, is superbly smooth. The combined 200hp from a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor seems totally adequate to smoothly pull beyond any legal U.S. speed limits with four passengers and air-conditioning on; passing power is not lacking either. Around town the power-train changeover is noticeable but with 199 torques available from the electric motor at 0rpm, the large sedan does get up and go.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited engine

The biggest reason to buy a hybrid vehicle is of course the fuel economy. The Avalon Hybrid is rated at 40mpg in the city and 39mpg on the highway. Driving the Avalon in south Florida for a few days, mostly with passengers, and always with air-conditioning, I got very close to those EPA numbers, which is to say quite impressive. The more impressive number was eight, however, as in the amount of gallons of regular gasoline I used in my three hundred miles of driving – that’s not even half a tank!

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the conventional Avalon XLE is $31,340. The Avalon Hybrid starts at $35,555. The fully loaded Hybrid Limited model shown here was $44,485 and included a technology package, wireless charging, and other minor options. Given how nice and comfortable this vehicle is, how efficient it is, and all the techy toys it offers, that’s an excellent value.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited rear 34

Disclaimer: Toyota provided this vehicle for the purpose of this review. I returned it washed and with a full tank of gas.

[Images Copyright Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski and Toyota 2014]


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