- Well-controlled ride
- Refined, responsive powertrains
- 40 mpg (Hybrid)
- Spacious interior
- Advanced safety tech
- Luxury-car price, without the lux badge
- Spongy brake-pedal feel
- Generic taillight look
The 2014 Toyota Avalon is far more youthful than it used to be, with a more responsive, sophisticated personality, an excellent interior, and a 40-mpg Hybrid version -- plus of course top-notch comfort all around.
Is the Toyota Avalon the modern-day Buick? If it is, we don't mind it at all. The Avalon has grown into its role as Toyota's flagship, and even if it doesn't have one iota of sporty intention in its handling or its looks, it's a very handsome sedan that's been reshaped in an imaginative way. It still excels at smooth, quiet comfort in a way that Buick itself has pushed into the background.To put it simply, the Avalon used to be an also-ran; now it duels with the Impala for our attention. And with strong competition from the likes of the Kia Cadenza, Hyundai Azera, and Ford Taurus—all redesigned or significantly refreshed in the past two years—there's plenty of choice here. The new Avalon looks interesting, and feels more lively, and steers into a more compelling direction with a visually dramatic interior and a full dose of high-tech safety equipment.
So much for the anonymous look of the current Camry; Toyota smartly pushed the Avalon in a new direction, styling-wise, and shows that, within bounds, a car can be practical and comfortable without towing such a relentlessly conservative line on styling. Taking a step back, the exterior of the new Avalon really lures you in; and considering the history of this model, that's saying a lot. There's a lot to like in the graceful, flowing roofline, and the way the beltline arcs, as well as the unexpected punch at the rear fenders. Nothing in the new Avalon says farewell to the status quo more than the thoroughly modern instrument-panel layout, and its flush, capacitive (touch-based) dash switches—a feature that cleans up the look, and does away with physical buttons. Up close, cabin materials are superb, with nice, matching grains and surfaces, and also a full league above those in the Camry.The way the 2014 Toyota Avalon drives is what will keep this model a standout for some time. V-6 models, with a strong, smooth 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter, are still expected to make up most sales; but it's the multiple Avalon Hybrid models in the lineup that seem the most compelling, not only for their surprisingly responsive performance, but for their level of refinement that might even fool some traditional Avalon shoppers. With a net of 200 horsepower, altogether, from its lean Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder, teamed with nickel-metal-hydride batteries and two motors tucked in the transaxle, the Avalon Hybrid can get to 60 mph in just (conservatively) 8.2 seconds. Take a look at the window sticker of the Hybrid, though—a phenomenal 40 mpg city, 39 highway (40 Combined)—and you might be willing to deal with a little less power.
And the rather shocking surprise here is that you get nearly the same driving experience with the Hybrid. Both models are quicker and more responsive, while feeling far more composed and refined compared to the outgoing model. We wouldn't call it sporty, but it's supremely capable and controllable in a way that the Avalon hasn't been in the past.
The Avalon feels extremely roomy, modern and luxurious, with top-notch materials, thoughtful details and comfortable seats. Front seats could use a little more lateral support, but they're supportive for the back and upholstered in impressive, supple leather, with real stitching—and ventilated premium leather in Limited models. The back seats are among the best we've sampled in a larger sedan—contoured well for adults and with relatively long lower cushions to provide thigh support. The new Avalon gets a 16-cubic-foot trunk, and with a flat floor and wide opening, you can fit a lot of grocery bags. Hybrid models have a slightly smaller 14-cubic-foot trunk, but it's a small sacrifice for that model's gains.
The Avalon offers a strong list of safety features, including separate rear side-thorax airbags and front knee bags, and crash-test ratings have been almost perfect across the board. A Rear Cross Traffic Alert system, which uses sensors in the rear quarter panels to help detect vehicles as they approach from the side and behind the vehicle, is very effective for those who need to back up with restricted views. And for 2014, all models come with a backup camera system while a Blind Spot Monitor is now optional equipment on the Avalon XLE Touring and Avalon Hybrid XLE Touring models.
With last year's redesign, Toyota gave the Avalon a wider focus, expanding its appeal (hopefully) to a somewhat younger (40 to 60 year old) crowd. So features no longer are limited to power accessories and finer materials; you can now get some of the most advanced in-car interfaces, too. The 2014 Toyota Avalon continues to be available in XLE, XLE Premium, XLE Touring, and XLE Limited models—with Hybrid counterparts to all but the base XLE trim.
Across the model line, you'll find a comfortable and very well-equipped large sedan; and top-of-the-line Limited models are full-fledged luxury sedans in all but badging.Top Limited models cost around $40k but are luxury vehicles by the equipment list, with a Blind Spot monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, perforated leather upholstery, heated-and-ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, three-zone automatic climate control, a rear sunshade, 785-watt JBL Audio, HID headlamps, and LED daytime running lamps. Add the Tech Package, with Adaptive Cruise Control, a Pre-Collision System, and Automatic High Beams.