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    2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited



    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    September 25, 2013

    Can a vehicle have a midlife crisis?

    If your answer is the "Toyota Avalon', then the answer would be yes. For the past two generations, the Avalon was positioned for older buyers who wanted to stay in the Toyota family. This plan worked for sixteen years, but it also earned the Avalon the dubious honor of the Japanese Buick. Ouch.

    With the third-generation Avalon, Toyota had a quandary. Do they stick with the old person's car or do they go down a different road? They went with the latter option and made the Avalon younger. Toyota turned to their U.S. branch and gave them a mission; design and build an Avalon that attracts a younger audience. 'Younger' in this case is 40 to 60 year olds.

    Going younger to attract a younger audience? I decided to find out if that was possible and an Avalon Hybrid was dropped off for a week.

    The Avalon Hybrid is one of the more striking full-size sedans on the market today. A coupe-like roofline is the major styling point of the Avalon, helping the vehicle look much more youthful. The front end utilizes a two-tier grille layout. The bottom grille is large and wide, somehow reminding me of an Aston Martin. On top is a slim chrome bar the extends the length of the front end and features Toyota's emblem. The side features sculpturing along the doors and a distinctive line running from the front door to the trunk lid. There are also a fair number of hybrid badges throughout the Avalon Hybrid's body.

    gallery_10485_693_1346727.jpg

    Moving inside, the Avalon Hybrid is very well-appointed. In the Limited trim, you get leather throughout and stitching on the dashboard and door panels. The only item I wish Toyota would fix is the wood trim since you can tell it's plastic. Build quality is excellent.

    The Avalon Hybrid's center stack is one of the nicest stacks I have seen and used in awhile. You have a textured material surrounding the six or seven-inch touchscreen and climate control that feels very premium. There is also Toyota's IntelliTouch controls, which is what the brand calls the capacitive buttons throughout the center stack. Toyota deserves a lot credit with their IntelliTouch controls since they don't require someone to hit them about seventeen different times to have something happen. Touch it once and an action happens.

    gallery_10485_693_561687.jpg

    My Avalon Hybrid came equipped with the seven-inch touchscreen which brings forth the infotainment system from Lexus. I have to say this is much better than the infotainment system used on the six-inch screen since its much better to look at and use on a daily basis with a much newer interface that has larger touch points and a bit more color.

    Comfort is mostly excellent throughout the interior. Driver and passenger get a set of leather seats with power adjustments and the choice of either heat or ventilation. Backseat passengers get loads of legroom. Headroom can be tight for taller passengers due to the sloping roof. On the Limited trim, backseat passengers also get heated seats. Nice touch.

    Enough about the comfort and luxuries, lets dive into the powertrain.


    Under the Avalon Hybrid's hood is Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system which pairs a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle four cylinder (156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque) and an electric motor (105 kW and 199 pound-feet of torque). Total output stands at 200 horsepower. A continuously-variable transmission routes the power to the front wheels.

    gallery_10485_693_596573.jpg

    With a curb weight that's over 3,500 pounds, the hybrid's powertrain specs seem a bit low. However, the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is very much up to the job. It takes a few ticks longer to get up to speed when compared to the V6, but it offers the same smoothness and refinement. The CVT doesn't make itself known to everyone unless you floor the throttle and whine of the transmission appears.

    You have the choice of four different drive modes on the Avalon Hybrid to alter the behavior of the engine and other bits. They include;

    • EV Mode: Allows a vehicle to travel on electric power for a short distance
    • Eco Mode: Increases the resistance to push down on the pedal, adjusts engine and climate control for better fuel economy.
    • Sport Mode: Adjusts throttle and steering response
    • Normal Mode: Balance between Eco and Sport

    To change from one mode to another, there is a set of buttons just behind the gear selector.

    For the majority of the week, I left the vehicle in Eco and found it to be ok in normal driving. There were times when I switched it back to normal or to sport to get moving and keep up with traffic as the throttle response wasn't there.

    gallery_10485_693_1854118.jpg

    The 2013 Avalon Hybrid is rated ay 40 City/39 Highway/40 Combined. During the course of a week, I averaged 40.7 MPG in mixed driving. Very impressive.

    As I wrote in my first drive of the Toyota Avalon and Avalon Hybrid last November, I described the handling characteristics as being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde since it was smooth and comfortable when driven normally, but becomes surprisingly agile when pushed. I want to revisit that for a moment.

    Compared to the Chevrolet Impala and Kia Cadenza I recently drove, the Avalon Hybrid isn't as smooth or comfortable. I found that it would let more bumps and road imperfections into the interior. This is due to the Avalon's suspension tuning leaning more towards sport than comfort. As for driving fun, the Avalon is still tops in this class. The suspension keeps the Avalon Hybrid's body roll in check and the steering has the heft and feel that you'll find in sporty vehicles.

    Toyota has seemingly pulled off a fountain of youth trick with the Avalon Hybrid. A vehicle which was the equivalent of the couch you would find at your grandparent's house has undergone massive transformation into a well-done full-size sedan that offers a fine blend of fuel economy and a somewhat sporty drive.

    Sometimes a midlife crisis is a very good thing.

    gallery_10485_693_389300.jpg

    Disclaimer: Toyota provided the Avalon Hybrid, insurance, and one tank of gas.

    Year: 2013

    Make: Toyota

    Model: Avalon Hybrid

    Trim: Limited

    Engine: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i Atkinson-Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor

    Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Continuously-Variable Transmission

    Horsepower @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 5,700; (Electric) 105 kW @ 4,500; (Combined) 200 @ N/A

    Torque @ RPM: (Gas) 156 @ 4,500; (Electric) 199 @ 0 - 1,500 rpm; (Combined) N/A

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40

    Curb Weight: N/A lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, Kentucky

    Base Price: $41,400.00

    As Tested Price: $44,853.00* (Includes $795.00 destination charge)

    Options:

    Technology Package - $1,750.00

    Blizzard Pearl Paint - $395.00

    Floor and Trunk Mats - $225.00

    Wireless Charging Capability for eBin - $200.00

    Emergency Assistance Kit - $59.00

    First Aid Kit - $29.00

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    Nice write up Bill, enjoyed reading it and teh details.

    My pet peeves with this car:

    Jelly Bean shape, generic non emotional just like so many others out there.

    Coupe Roof Line, Lack of rear head room, not a fan, these are 4 door auto's for hauling people, not race cars or 2 door coupes where you loose the head room as the rear seats are rarely used.

    Dashboard, while it looks like nice materials were used, the layout and cut up flow just turn me off. UGLY!

    Final dislike is the Gapping BASS Mouth on the auto!

    For $45K dollars, they need to do a much better job and if you are already a lemming following Consumers reports love of everything Toyota, then this will work.

    IMHO, this is not a 40-60 year old persons car as these people expect room and comfort and the coupe style roof line will show them the lack of said space. This will probably go to those far younger than expected.

    On a scale of 0-10, I give it a 5.

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    It seems like Toyota is aiming for different buyers with the new Avalon. 60+ buyers of the previous generation will have to look at Buick or Lincoln instead.

    But the sales figures don't lie. So far, Toyota has sold more Avalons this year compared to last.

    Does anyone else see a slight resemblance to the Tesla Model S?

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    Toyota is doing a good job hacking up the Camry to create a market to sustain the Avalon. People who want a nice car will spend the money to upgrade. It also seems like that is a little like the Impala / Malibu setup, but the Malibu is even pretty decent compared to the Camry.

    Seen a lot of new Avalons, it is selling well. I do like the dashboard.

    I think we really are in the era where you will get similar size cars but if you want the nice car, it will be more than an option package upgrade, it will be a complete different model.

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    It seems like Toyota is aiming for different buyers with the new Avalon. 60+ buyers of the previous generation will have to look at Buick or Lincoln instead. But the sales figures don't lie. So far, Toyota has sold more Avalons this year compared to last. Does anyone else see a slight resemblance to the Tesla Model S?

    NOPE, No Tesla except a hint in the Bass Mouth Grill.

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    I just read a story on one of the big auto sites decrying the new Avalon but from your review it doesn't seem half bad. Still, Toyota's general confusion about where to position the Avalon guarantees it won't enjoy lasting success.

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    The Avalon has held a strong position in the market for what, like 20 years?

    This version only strengthens it.

    I can imagine the mentality of some Toyo intenders is that they would like a nice car and don't want any of the snobbery of the Lexus pit to deal with.

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    Personal friend/client of mine is on his 4th or 5th Avalon.. one of this generation. He isn't as happy with it as he was with the others. Many complaints about the interior design.

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    Does anyone else see a slight resemblance to the Tesla Model S?

    Now do you mention, I can see it.

    Personal friend/client of mine is on his 4th or 5th Avalon.. one of this generation. He isn't as happy with it as he was with the others. Many complaints about the interior design.

    What is he not happy with?

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    While driving, he says that the various chrome accents in the dash and center console end up reflecting into his eyes. It is especially bad at night when driving under street lights. He is unhappy with the keyless entry. He hangs his keys on a hook in his garage. Apparently it was close enough to the car that it kept the car "alert" and drained the battery. He moved the key hook into his kitchen... still no good.

    He found some of the ergonomics, reaching for buttons, to be uncomfortable. This is a guy who spends 25k - 30k miles a year in his car.

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    The Avalon is the polar opposite of an 80s Pontiac, no EXITEMENT!!!

    I have sat in this Avalon and the previous ones, I have to say the build quality of the interiors is pretty good, everything is a tight fit and the materials are near Lexus level. However, this car and the previous Avalons have awful layouts and the design of this interior is really bad.

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    While driving, he says that the various chrome accents in the dash and center console end up reflecting into his eyes. It is especially bad at night when driving under street lights. He is unhappy with the keyless entry. He hangs his keys on a hook in his garage. Apparently it was close enough to the car that it kept the car "alert" and drained the battery. He moved the key hook into his kitchen... still no good.

    He found some of the ergonomics, reaching for buttons, to be uncomfortable. This is a guy who spends 25k - 30k miles a year in his car.

    rather surprising to hear, it seems on the surface like the new one is actually improved over past ones. With Toyota's though, they are all so milquetoast. Maybe he should have got the LaCrosse!

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    While driving, he says that the various chrome accents in the dash and center console end up reflecting into his eyes. It is especially bad at night when driving under street lights. He is unhappy with the keyless entry. He hangs his keys on a hook in his garage. Apparently it was close enough to the car that it kept the car "alert" and drained the battery. He moved the key hook into his kitchen... still no good.

    He found some of the ergonomics, reaching for buttons, to be uncomfortable. This is a guy who spends 25k - 30k miles a year in his car.

    I will agree with him on the chrome accents. If the sun just hits it at the correct angle, you will be blinded.

    I'm not quite sure I agree on the ergonomics. But then again I only have a car for seven days and log around 250 to 350 miles per week. I don't do 25 to 30k miles in a car (though with certain vehicles, I wish I could).

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    Chrome accents on the Dash should just be banned as they reflect so baddly on the windshield and into your eyes that they are a safety concern to me. I hate them.

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    Thanks for the detailed review. It seems many of the manufacturers are in sort of a "split personality" marketing phase. The "old person" demographic is not as bad in terms of spending power but it seems no one wants the label. I am not a Toyota fan, but I like the look of this one. As to the hybrid offering, I am not sure what demographic group old, middle or young is really the one to focus on.

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    The side profile is very dull and plain and reminds me of a longer Dodge Dart. Why can't we have some accent lines or body trim back like they used to do the past 50-70 years? All this plain plain plain crap and gray/black depressing war time lack of color needs to be banished. The fact that 90% of the clientele driving these things is elderly tells me that Toyota is taking a big risk with this new car and it's crashing and banging over bumps that certain editors have complained about.

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    The Avalon has always seemed like a boondoggle to me and the comparison to Buick seems apt. We debuted a dash kit for the first gen Avalon way back and it sold maybe 3 times in as many years. Consider that next to the literally thousands of Corolla dash kits we sold. It seems to me to be a case of too little, too late for the Avalon.

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      How important is the China Market to GM? In the Month of January Cadillac sold 10,298 autos in the US. Cadillac sold 18,000 in China for the month of January. Clearly China will continue to take on a bigger and bigger role in GM’s ongoing growth.
      So where does that leave GM in regards to EVs, auto production, etc.? Reuters points to a story they did back in January 2016 where CEO Mary Barra stated that they could build the dies used to stamp the auto parts in china for 20 to 40 percent less than in Europe or the US. Dies will start to be built and shipped out worldwide from China. Clearly this would tend to show that GM will be affected by the China market more and more.
      So this brings me back to my original question of what is GMs plan for their EV strategy. We have seen and heard so much about the competition and yet with GM this seems to be a black hole. Knowing that GM sold about 1.5 million auto’s last year in China and now for next year 10 percent will have to be EV / Plugin Hybrids, that means 150,000 of these auto’s. For Volkswagen, this is an even bigger number since they are number 1 in the market and have no EV or hybrid that I am aware of.
      All Auto companies who do not have a specific plugin hybrid built in china or EV to import into China is going to find selling auto’s to be very difficult.
      References
      Reuters story
      AP story
      Fox Business Story
      CNN Money Story
      Motley Fool Story
      Reuters 2016 story
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