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  1. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 26, 2012 Toyota is in the midst of a sea change. The company who is currently known as the brand who builds bland, boring, and reliable vehicles has been issued an edict by CEO Akio Toyoda to design and build vehicles with passion. We’re beginning to see some of the fruits of this edict bear out with the Scion FR-S and Lexus GS. Now, Toyota has introduced the next vehicle to follow this in the form of the 2013 Avalon. You might be wondering, the Avalon?! Well yes, Toyota wants break the adage that Avalon is for old people by giving the new Avalon a very sleek look, new interior, and a sporty ride. Does the change from couch on wheels to sport-infused big sedan work? The big thing Toyota hammered into our heads during the regional press preview in Ann Arbor, MI besides 'the new Avalon isn’t your grandfather’s car', was that the new Avalon was built with America in mind. Bill Fay, Group Vice President & General Manager, Toyota Division said during the Detroit launch, the new Avalon is “designed, engineered, manufactured, sold and serviced in America, the 2013 Avalon marks the beginning of a new era for Toyota… with the company developing more vehicles here specifically for the U.S. market.” Toyota's CALTY Design Research group was in charge of the new Avalon’s design and they did an excellent job. The overall look chucks the plain box look of past Avalons and goes for something that is very sleek and muscular. Up front, the most prominent design touch is a two-tiered grille layout. The bottom features a large chrome grille that makes a reference to new Aston Martin models. Above the chrome grille is a wide chrome strip with the Toyota emblem sitting in the middle. The side profile features a lot of deep contours, a coupe-like roofline, and a raked c-pillar. The back end gets two-tiered taillights and dual exhaust outlets. Inside the Avalon, Toyota put a lot of emphasis on making the Avalon look and feel very special. Materials range from soft-touch plastics, stitched door and dash panels, and leather seats. The only ding I’ll give the Avalon’s interior is the use of ‘plood’, it really doesn’t belong in this very handsome interior. The center stack features either a 6.1 or 7-inch touchscreen (depends on model), climate control, and what Toyota calls IntelliTouch controls, which are capacitive buttons. The capacitive buttons responded very quickly when pressed. Also appearing inside the new Avalon is Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Entune uses your smartphone to provide applications like Bing, OpenTable, iHeartRadio, and Pandora in the vehicle. Entune also provides traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks info. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to play around with Entune during the event. Hopefully when I do get a vehicle equipped with Entune, I can go deeper into it. While the outgoing and new Avalon share the same wheelbase length, the new model is actually smaller in all exterior dimensions. Interior dimensions are largely unchanged from the outgoing model, meaning there is a load of head and legroom through out the new model. For safety, the new Avalon comes equipped a Rear Cross Traffic Warning system which warns the driver of vehicles in the way when reversing. There is also a Blind Spot Monitoring system, ten airbags, radar cruise-control, and optionally, a Pre-Collision System. Next: Shall We Drive? The new Avalon uses the same 3.5L V6 engine from the last-generation Avalon. The engine is rated at 268 HP and 248 lb-ft of torque going through a six speed automatic. The engine has got the oomph to move car at a very rapid pace, something that cannot be said of the previous Avalon. This is mostly due to weight loss of the new Avalon, dropping around 110 lbs from the outgoing model. The engine is also very smooth and quiet when you decide to drive it at a normal pace. The six-speed automatic provides is well-suited for this application providing some very smooth shifts. Toyota also fitted paddle shifters and ‘Dynamic Rev Management’, which blips the throttle on a downshift. On paper this sounds completely ridiculous for a big sedan like the Avalon, but when you actually try it, it works beautifully. I do wonder though if the age group that the new Avalon is targeted at (40 to 60 year olds) will actually use this feature. For those who are looking for some greenness in their big sedan will lean towards the new for this generation Avalon Hybrid. The Hybrid comes equipped with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive which in this uses a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle four cylinder producing 156 HP and 156 lb-ft of torque, a electric motor with 105 kW and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a nickel-metal hydride battery. Total system output is 200 HP going through a CVT. Performance is adequate with the run to 60 MPH taking about 8.2 seconds, about 1.5 seconds slower than the V6. Otherwise, the powertrain is very quiet and smooth whenever you’re in electric or hybrid mode. The CVT is a does a good job of keeping you moving and doesn’t make its presence known unless you push the pedal further down and the engine noise is abundant. The handling characteristics of the new Avalon and Avalon Hybrid can be described as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When driven normally, the Avalon provides a very luxurious and gentle ride. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. It’s only when you take the Avalon onto a curvy road and show it some aggression that Mr. Hyde appears. Despite being a large sedan, the Avalon shows a surprising amount of agility when driven through a corner. The suspension keeps the Avalon planted while the steering has the right amount of weight and firm feel that you would want in a sporty vehicle. This is a one-eighty from the last-generation Avalon which had all the steering feel of a used-and-abused arcade racing game. Plus, the old Avalon felt like it going to tip over when driven enthusiastically due to its marshmallow-fluff suspension. So how was Toyota able to pull this coup off with the new Avalon? For one, Toyota added a number of welds to the new Avalon’s body giving it more rigidity. Toyota also fitted Dual link MacPherson struts in the back, stabilizer bars, and a new electric rack-and-pinion steering system. Finally, there is drive mode select which offers three different modes (four in the Avalon Hybrid) which modifies throttle response and steering effort. The modes are as followed, EV Mode (Only on Avalon Hybrid): 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 The new Avalon goes on sale next month with a base price around $31,750 (includes the $760 destination charge) for the XLE V6. If you want the Avalon Hybrid, be prepared to shell out $36,315 for the XLE Premium. Toyota expects to sell around 70,000 Avalons within the first year, a huge increase from 23,078 Avalons sold through October this year. Toyota expects 80% of the new 2013 Avalon to be the V6 while the rest will be the hybrid. Toyota has taken their couch on wheels and has made the new Avalon into a big sedan that is able to balance comfort and sport pretty well. Will the Avalon's new balancing act bring in the younger generation of buyers that Toyota is aiming for? Author's Note: Special thanks to Toyota and Toyota’s Midwest PR office for inviting Cheers & Gears to check out the new Avalon, and providing breakfast and lunch at the Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. -WM Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Avalon Engine – 3.5L DOHC 24-valve dual VVT-i V6 Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 268 HP (@ 6,200 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 248 lb-ft (@ 4,700 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/25 w/17-inch wheels, 21/31/24 w/18-inch wheels Curb Weight – 3,461 lbs Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Avalon Hybrid Engine – Hybrid Synergy Drive: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i Atkinson cycle 4-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, CVT, Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Battery Pack Horsepower @ RPM – 2.5L: 156 HP (@ 5,700 RPM); Electric: 105 kW (@ 4,500); Combined: 200 HP Torque @ RPM – 2.5L: 156 lb-ft (@ 4,500 RPM); Electric: 199 lb-ft (@ 0-1,500 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40 Curb Weight – 3,585 lbs - 2013 Avalon Pricing: XLE: $31,750 XLE Premium: $33,955 XLE Touring: $36,260 Limited: $40,410 - 2013 Avalon Hybrid Pricing: XLE Premium: $36,315 XLE Touring: $38,010 Limited: $42,160 *Note: All prices include a $760 destination charge. William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
  3. William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 26, 2012 Toyota is in the midst of a sea change. The company who is currently known as the brand who builds bland, boring, and reliable vehicles has been issued an edict by CEO Akio Toyoda to design and build vehicles with passion. We’re beginning to see some of the fruits of this edict bear out with the Scion FR-S and Lexus GS. Now, Toyota has introduced the next vehicle to follow this in the form of the 2013 Avalon. You might be wondering, the Avalon?! Well yes, Toyota wants break the adage that Avalon is for old people by giving the new Avalon a very sleek look, new interior, and a sporty ride. Does the change from couch on wheels to sport-infused big sedan work? The big thing Toyota hammered into our heads during the regional press preview in Ann Arbor, MI besides 'the new Avalon isn’t your grandfather’s car', was that the new Avalon was built with America in mind. Bill Fay, Group Vice President & General Manager, Toyota Division said during the Detroit launch, the new Avalon is “designed, engineered, manufactured, sold and serviced in America, the 2013 Avalon marks the beginning of a new era for Toyota… with the company developing more vehicles here specifically for the U.S. market.” Toyota's CALTY Design Research group was in charge of the new Avalon’s design and they did an excellent job. The overall look chucks the plain box look of past Avalons and goes for something that is very sleek and muscular. Up front, the most prominent design touch is a two-tiered grille layout. The bottom features a large chrome grille that makes a reference to new Aston Martin models. Above the chrome grille is a wide chrome strip with the Toyota emblem sitting in the middle. The side profile features a lot of deep contours, a coupe-like roofline, and a raked c-pillar. The back end gets two-tiered taillights and dual exhaust outlets. Inside the Avalon, Toyota put a lot of emphasis on making the Avalon look and feel very special. Materials range from soft-touch plastics, stitched door and dash panels, and leather seats. The only ding I’ll give the Avalon’s interior is the use of ‘plood’, it really doesn’t belong in this very handsome interior. The center stack features either a 6.1 or 7-inch touchscreen (depends on model), climate control, and what Toyota calls IntelliTouch controls, which are capacitive buttons. The capacitive buttons responded very quickly when pressed. Also appearing inside the new Avalon is Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Entune uses your smartphone to provide applications like Bing, OpenTable, iHeartRadio, and Pandora in the vehicle. Entune also provides traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks info. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to play around with Entune during the event. Hopefully when I do get a vehicle equipped with Entune, I can go deeper into it. While the outgoing and new Avalon share the same wheelbase length, the new model is actually smaller in all exterior dimensions. Interior dimensions are largely unchanged from the outgoing model, meaning there is a load of head and legroom through out the new model. For safety, the new Avalon comes equipped a Rear Cross Traffic Warning system which warns the driver of vehicles in the way when reversing. There is also a Blind Spot Monitoring system, ten airbags, radar cruise-control, and optionally, a Pre-Collision System. Next: Shall We Drive? The new Avalon uses the same 3.5L V6 engine from the last-generation Avalon. The engine is rated at 268 HP and 248 lb-ft of torque going through a six speed automatic. The engine has got the oomph to move car at a very rapid pace, something that cannot be said of the previous Avalon. This is mostly due to weight loss of the new Avalon, dropping around 110 lbs from the outgoing model. The engine is also very smooth and quiet when you decide to drive it at a normal pace. The six-speed automatic provides is well-suited for this application providing some very smooth shifts. Toyota also fitted paddle shifters and ‘Dynamic Rev Management’, which blips the throttle on a downshift. On paper this sounds completely ridiculous for a big sedan like the Avalon, but when you actually try it, it works beautifully. I do wonder though if the age group that the new Avalon is targeted at (40 to 60 year olds) will actually use this feature. For those who are looking for some greenness in their big sedan will lean towards the new for this generation Avalon Hybrid. The Hybrid comes equipped with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive which in this uses a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle four cylinder producing 156 HP and 156 lb-ft of torque, a electric motor with 105 kW and 199 lb-ft of torque, and a nickel-metal hydride battery. Total system output is 200 HP going through a CVT. Performance is adequate with the run to 60 MPH taking about 8.2 seconds, about 1.5 seconds slower than the V6. Otherwise, the powertrain is very quiet and smooth whenever you’re in electric or hybrid mode. The CVT is a does a good job of keeping you moving and doesn’t make its presence known unless you push the pedal further down and the engine noise is abundant. The handling characteristics of the new Avalon and Avalon Hybrid can be described as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When driven normally, the Avalon provides a very luxurious and gentle ride. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum. It’s only when you take the Avalon onto a curvy road and show it some aggression that Mr. Hyde appears. Despite being a large sedan, the Avalon shows a surprising amount of agility when driven through a corner. The suspension keeps the Avalon planted while the steering has the right amount of weight and firm feel that you would want in a sporty vehicle. This is a one-eighty from the last-generation Avalon which had all the steering feel of a used-and-abused arcade racing game. Plus, the old Avalon felt like it going to tip over when driven enthusiastically due to its marshmallow-fluff suspension. So how was Toyota able to pull this coup off with the new Avalon? For one, Toyota added a number of welds to the new Avalon’s body giving it more rigidity. Toyota also fitted Dual link MacPherson struts in the back, stabilizer bars, and a new electric rack-and-pinion steering system. Finally, there is drive mode select which offers three different modes (four in the Avalon Hybrid) which modifies throttle response and steering effort. The modes are as followed, EV Mode (Only on Avalon Hybrid): 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 The new Avalon goes on sale next month with a base price around $31,750 (includes the $760 destination charge) for the XLE V6. If you want the Avalon Hybrid, be prepared to shell out $36,315 for the XLE Premium. Toyota expects to sell around 70,000 Avalons within the first year, a huge increase from 23,078 Avalons sold through October this year. Toyota expects 80% of the new 2013 Avalon to be the V6 while the rest will be the hybrid. Toyota has taken their couch on wheels and has made the new Avalon into a big sedan that is able to balance comfort and sport pretty well. Will the Avalon's new balancing act bring in the younger generation of buyers that Toyota is aiming for? Author's Note: Special thanks to Toyota and Toyota’s Midwest PR office for inviting Cheers & Gears to check out the new Avalon, and providing breakfast and lunch at the Weber’s Boutique Hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. -WM Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Avalon Engine – 3.5L DOHC 24-valve dual VVT-i V6 Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM – 268 HP (@ 6,200 RPM) Torque @ RPM – 248 lb-ft (@ 4,700 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/25 w/17-inch wheels, 21/31/24 w/18-inch wheels Curb Weight – 3,461 lbs Year - 2013 Make – Toyota Model – Avalon Hybrid Engine – Hybrid Synergy Drive: 2.5L 16-valve DOHC with VVT-i Atkinson cycle 4-Cylinder, Electric Motor Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, CVT, Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Battery Pack Horsepower @ RPM – 2.5L: 156 HP (@ 5,700 RPM); Electric: 105 kW (@ 4,500); Combined: 200 HP Torque @ RPM – 2.5L: 156 lb-ft (@ 4,500 RPM); Electric: 199 lb-ft (@ 0-1,500 RPM) Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 40/39/40 Curb Weight – 3,585 lbs - 2013 Avalon Pricing: XLE: $31,750 XLE Premium: $33,955 XLE Touring: $36,260 Limited: $40,410 - 2013 Avalon Hybrid Pricing: XLE Premium: $36,315 XLE Touring: $38,010 Limited: $42,160 *Note: All prices include a $760 destination charge. William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster. View full article
  4. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. View full article

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