The Avalon has been a quiet stalwart of the Toyota lineup, providing a plush ride for those not interesting in owning a luxury brand (i.e. Lexus), but want all the bells and whistles normally associated with one. Equipped in the Limited trim, the Avalon offers just as many luxuries as say, the Lexus ES or even GS sedans, but without the hubbub. Add to that a fantastic hybrid system, and the result is a surprising package that affirms its halo role in the Toyota lineup.

I recently spent a week and a generous road trip getting to know the Avalon Hybrid. In fact, I took the car on an eight-hour adventure to my hometown for my 10-year high school reunion. The Avalon might not garner the same attention as the Lexus RC F from late 20-somethings, but I didn’t go with the mindset of impressing.

My wife and I made the quiet journey from central Florida north to I-10, then due west to the sleepy little town of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Save for a few high-profile tobacco attorneys, many of the town’s 22,000 residents are blue-collar, with folks working in the fishing, shipbuilding, or oil industries. Still, Southern charm runs deep here, with wrap-around porches on antebellum homes, sprawling live oak trees covered in Spanish moss, and thick, twangy drawls coming from gents and belles alike.

In other words, it was the perfect place for such a subtle luxury car to fit in.

Continue reading for the full review

  • 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    200 @ 5700
  • MPG(Cty):
  • MPG(Hwy):
  • Torque @ RPM:
    156 @ 4500
  • Energy:
    Gasoline/Electric Hybrid
  • Displacement:
    2.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    112 mph
  • Layout:
    front engine, FWD
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Exterior
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2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Exterior
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2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Exterior
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Topping the list of its reserved qualities is the Avalon’s understated exterior. Sure, it packs chrome accents up front with a large grille down low with alloy wheels, and a few bright trim pieces out back, but overall, the Avalon keeps to itself.

Sure, it packs chrome accents up front with a large grille down low with alloy wheels, and a few bright trim pieces out back, but overall, the Avalon keeps to itself.

Again, that’s not a bad thing in this car’s case. It almost seems Toyota wants it to fly under the radar. Those chrome accents are small and the alloy wheels aren’t 20-inchers or flashy.

My tester came coated in what Toyota calls “Sizzling Crimson.” The dark color sparked a few conversations between my wife and I on whether it was deep red or purple. Either way, the hue is inoffensive.

If you find yourself in love with this body style, you’d better grab a 2015 model. Toyota has already announced the 2016 Avalon will have updated looks.

Aside from the color, the Avalon seemed right at home in southern Mississippi. There are plenty of other ‘Yotas in the area and you’ll likely never find a more concentrated population of first-generation Tundras.


2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Interior
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2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Interior
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2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Interior
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Putting 1,500 miles on a car in a week reveals an extraordinary amount about its interior. Little annoyances grow into big issues and flashy convenience items become indispensable necessities.

Besides features, the Avalon’s cabin is a rich environment full of padded leathers held together by French stitching and wood accents.

Thankfully for my sanity, there were no glaring annoyances that prevented me from enjoying the car. The HVAC system did, however, provide a slight problem as it likes to change settings after I’ve reached for the radio. Though I never caught myself doing it, it had to be my hand brushing against the sensitive touch controls.

On the other hand, the cooler function in the heated and cooled seats proved a godsend for battling the muggy gulf air. Mine remained on for nearly the entire trip.

Besides features, the Avalon’s cabin is a rich environment full of padded leathers held together by French stitching and wood accents. The power driver’s seat with memory provided plenty of adjustments for getting comfortable. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel added to the ease of finding the right driving position.

Speaking of ease of use, the center stack features two real knobs for radio volume and tuning – something I miss in many cars today. Toyota’s Entune system works well and is easy to navigate, but is showing its age. The system provides a handy split screen view for quickly eying important information. I generally had it showing SiriusXM alongside the map.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Interior
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Ergonomics behind the wheel are good. Buttons are in predictable places and each depress with a familiar Toyota feel. The gauge cluster is easy to read, with two main analog gauges for speed and the hybrid system. Between them lies the driver information screen with multiple display options, including a digital speedometer.

Rear passengers are treated to copious amounts of legroom and shoulder room. The seats are big and wide enough to stretch out, while a folding center armrest with two cup holders provides plenty of padded leather to lean on. A power-folding sunshade keeps necks from getting red while underway and interior temperatures from getting excessive when parked.

Overall, the Avalon provides all the creature comforts any Lexus buyer would happily pay more for, but without the extra cost.


2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Drivetrain
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My tester’s main feature beyond its Limited trim level was its hybrid powertrain. The system works like any other Toyota hybrid; by powering the car with the batteries up to a certain speed or point of acceleration, with the gasoline engine coming online to help the cause.

The electric motor’s instant torque provides plenty of pep off the line, and the four-cylinder winds up with intense vigor.

In the Avalon’s case, the gas powerplant is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder running the fuel-sipping Atkinson cycle, just like the Prius. It’s connected to a CVT and feeds power to the front wheels. Combined with the electric motor, the system generates 200 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque.

Despite those unimpressive numbers, the Avalon Hybrid performs like it has more under the hood. The electric motor’s instant torque provides plenty of pep off the line and the four-cylinder winds up with intense vigor. The sprint to 60 mph takes only 7.4 seconds. The car feels its most agile when in Sport mode. Throttle response is quick and the CVT doesn’t hinder acceleration.

However, speed and performance aren’t what this car is about. In fact, the Avalon Hybrid is all about fuel savings. The EPA rates the car at an impressive 40 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, with a combined average of 40 mpg. That’s not too shabby for a 3,682-pound car with power everything.

Driving Impressions

As I mentioned in the interior section, the Avalon is an immensely comfortable sedan. The seats are nicely padded and the controls are placed within easy reach. The systems are intuitive to use and add to the driving experience. Setting out on an all-day roadtrip put its comforts and driving attributes to the test.

Like a proper luxury sedan, driving it feels like sitting in a comfortable living room recliner while watching the highway slip past.

Like a proper luxury sedan, driving it feels like sitting in a comfortable living room recliner while watching the highway slip past. Steering is nicely weighted and on-center feel is slack-free, yet it’s easy to maneuver. Outward visibility is good, though the side mirrors are a bit small. The Blind Spot Monitoring system helps overcome the quibble.

My tester came equipped with radar cruise control, which proved its worth on the long stretches of I-75 and I-10. Simply set the desired speed with the cruise control and then select one of three following distances by cycling through the options via a single steering-wheel-mounted button. The Avalon then keeps its distance from the car in front, slowing down or speeding up with traffic.

During my time with the Avalon Hybrid, I averaged a grand total of 36 mpg. That includes several hundred miles of 70-plus mph driving and several jaunts around town. Traveling down rural highways at 55 to 65 mph results in 40 mpg without trouble.


2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Emblems and Logo
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The Avalon has plenty of trim levels and option packages, but the base model starts at $32,285 and still comes with a respectable amount of equipment. Opt for the Hybrid drive, and the price jumps to $36,470 before options. My top-trim Limited example posts a base price of $41,700.

The options my tester featured included the Technology package ($1,950), the remote engine starter ($499), carpeted floor mats and truck mat ($225), and illuminated doorsills ($379). Add to that the $825 destination fee, and the grand total came to $45,578.


Buick LaCrosse

2015 Buick LaCrosse - Driven Exterior
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The LaCrosse is GM’s answer to reasonably priced luxury. The Buick fits well under the Cadillac brand, but is more posh than most Chevrolet sedans. What’s more, the Buick name is synonymous with old money and tradition – an audience the Avalon is partially marketing to.

The LaCrosse offers two choices of powertrain: the 2.4-liter four-cylinder and the 3.6-liter V-6. Backing both engines is a six-speed automatic with manual shifting capabilities. Though it’s not as hybrid-y as the Avalon Hybrid, the LaCrosse’s four-cylinder comes with GM’s e-Assist, which produces some additional juice to the drive wheels. The EPA rates it at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway – nowhere close to the Toyota.

Prices start at $31,990 and top out in the lower $40,000 range.

You can read our driven review of the LaCrosse here.

Lincoln MKZ

2013 Lincoln MKZ High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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In the opposing corner to the Buick is Lincoln’s MKZ – the dolled up version of the Ford Fusion. It features several interesting points, like its full glass roof that retracts rearward and the availability of an EcoBoost engine. However, Ford’s attempt at the entry-level luxury market has been met with much resistance. The Lincoln fails to impress many who try it, especially in the area of interior refinement and technology.

Power comes from the standard 2.0-liter EcoBoost making 240 horsepower and 231 pound-feet of torque. The range-topping engine is the 3.7-liter V-6 similar to the one found in the Ford Mustang. In this application, it makes 300 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. The MKZ also offers a hybrid version, powered by an Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The EPA rates the hybrid at 41mpg city, 39 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined.

Prices for the Lincoln start at $35,190 and rise into the lower $40,000s.

Read our full review here.


2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Driven Exterior
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The Toyota Avalon Hybrid proved to be one heck of a road trip machine. Its comfortable interior came packed with amenities and its hybrid powertrain offered surprising fuel economy and surprising performance. And while the Avalon might not be the obvious choice for showing up to a 10-year high school reunion, it proved to be the perfect vehicle for the trip. Even if I had shown up in a Lexus RC F, no one would have cared – at no point did anyone venture into the parking lot to scope out how successful the reunion’s attendees had become. Thankfully I went to high school with folks who (mostly) grew into Southern gentlemen and ladies.

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    • HVAC controls can be unknowingly hit when using infotainment screen
    • Doesn’t look like a $45k car
Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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