- 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 2016 Toyota Avalon gets some minor fillips as it vies again for our top rating among large sedans.
The 2016 Toyota Avalon isn't the type of car that begs you to own it or drive it. It's not sexy or sporty. But it has luxury, comfort, and quiet down pat, it's as comfortable as a pillow-top bed, and it does a fair job of convincing us out of the lower-priced Lexus sedans.
The Avalon is also a satisfying car to drive in its latest form. In 2013 Toyota put the Avalon through a major design change, and it emerged better in nearly every way. Interior space was down slightly, but the Avalon now vies with the Chevy Impala as one of our top-rated large sedans. It's sleek and neatly styled, it feels more lively, and has a heady dose of safety equipment—and gets a little more of each of those for the 2016 model year, in a mild update.
In 2013, the Avalon stepped out of its rut and took a more shapely form, one with more visual distance from the Camry. The swoopy roofline, flared-out rear fenders, and the laid-back rear glass gave it presence where there was none to be had in previous generations. That all remains in place for 2016, with some tweaks and adjustments here and there. This year, the Avalon's grille grows larger, turning down the corners of its mouth to add some oomph to the front end. Slim running lights and turn signals don't change any metal—and barely change its appearance, truth be told. LED taillights are standard across all models.
Inside, the Avalon's contemporary layout and look still wears flush, touch-based dash switches for a clean, high-end-audio look. A central touchscreen is now standard on all models. Cabin materials are superb, with nice, matching grains and surfaces.
As it's been for a couple of years, the Avalon is offered with a choice between two powertrains. A strong and smooth 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is by far the more common choice, but it's the Avalon Hybrid that earns our attention, combining refinement and responsive performance. With a net of 200 hp from its combination of motors, batteries, and an inline-4, the Avalon Hybrid can get to 60 mph in (conservatively) 8.2 seconds while it sips fuel at a phenomenal 40 mpg combined rate, according to the EPA.
This latest Avalon feels more composed and refined, too. We wouldn't call it sporty, but it's struck us as supremely capable and controllable in a way that older models weren't. This year, the Touring model gets its own suspension tuning—we'll let you know if firmer and flatter suits its personality once we've taken one for a spin.
Nothing's been trimmed or altered in terms of cabin space, and that's fine. The Avalon is roomy, modern and thoughtfully composed. The front seats could use a little more lateral support, but the back seats are among the best you can find in large sedans. The 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 the lost space is a small sacrifice for the efficiency 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. All models come with a backup camera system, while blind-spot monitors are standard on Touring models. Limited sedans can be fitted with automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning system, and a lane-departure warning system.
All Avalons come well-equipped with plenty of comfort features, while the top-of-the-line Limited models are optioned up like a Lexus. For 2016, the V-6 Avalon will be offered in five trim levels—three grades of XLE, Limited, and Touring. For the Avalon Hybrid, the choices are limited to XLE and Touring. The suspension has been retuned for 2016 on all models, with the XLE and Limited versions getting a comfort-oriented setup and the Touring getting its own unique sporty calibration.
All models now have a seven-inch touchscreen to govern the audio system, and individual-wheel tire-pressure monitors. XLE and XLE Plus models get woodgrain trim, while XLE Premium models get navigation and Qi wireless smartphone charging.
Touring models get gray 18-inch wheels, a unique front-fascia design, and LED headlights and daytime running lights. Top Limited models pile on the premium tack, with 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.
The EPA rates the V-6 Avalon at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 24 combined. That's the same rating it received in 2015 and that's better than some models with this level of space, comfort, and power, and made possible by the Avalon's weight loss and slightly taller gearing for the 6-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon Hybrid's EPA ratings of 40/39/40 mpg make it one of the most fuel-efficient large sedans in any driving situation, and definitely the most efficient for city driving and stop-and-go traffic.