- 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 2015 Toyota Avalon is no longer just for retirees, although they'll appreciate the attractive design, available fuel-sipping Hybrid, and rejuvenated driving dynamics as much as anyone.
The 2015 Toyota Avalon has comfort down. While it's not sporty looking, it's a surprisingly satisfying car to drive—in some ways mimicking a Lexus for less money.
The Avalon now duels with the equally impressive Chevy Impala for our attention. And with strong competition from the likes of the Kia Cadenza, Hyundai Azera, and Ford Taurus, there's plenty of choice here. It looks interesting, and it feels more lively, steering it in a more compelling direction with a visually dramatic interior and a full dose of high-tech safety equipment. With its 2013 redesign, the Avalon was given a wider focus, with the intention of expanding its appeal 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.
Toyota took the latest Avalon's design in a new direction, away from the ubiquitous Camry and even the company's more luxurious but staid Lexus designs. Instead, it has a look all its own, with a swoopy roofline, flared-out rear fenders, and an almost hatchback look to the rear glass that all give it presence where there was none to be had in previous generations.
Inside is another surprise, a 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. Cabin materials are superb, with nice, matching grains and surfaces, and also a full league above those in the smaller Camry.
The 2015 Avalon is offered with two different powertrains. V-6 models, with a strong, smooth 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter, are still expected to make up most sales; but it's the Avalon Hybrid that seems the most compelling, not only for its surprisingly responsive performance, but for a level of refinement that might even fool some traditional Avalon shoppers. With a net of 200 horsepower 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.
The surprise is that you get nearly the same driving experience with the Hybrid. Both powertrains are quicker and more responsive than the outgoing model's lone V-6, and this latest Avalon feels more composed and refined. 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. There's power hen you need it, and a nice ride all the time.
The Avalon feels extremely roomy, modern and luxurious, with top-notch materials, thoughtful details and comfortable seats. The 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 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. 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. All models come with a backup camera system, while a Blind Spot Monitor is now standard on the Avalon XLE Touring and Avalon Hybrid XLE Touring models as of 2015.
All Avalons come well-equipped with plenty of comfort features, while the top-of-the-line Limited models are optioned up like a Lexus. Top Limited models cost around $40k but are luxury vehicles by the equipment list, with all the safety systems, 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.
As mentioned above, the Hybrid model is the fuel-economy leader of the lineup. The V-6 is no slouch itself, returning 21 mpg in city driving and 31 on the highway. Which one is right for you will depend on the amount and type of driving you do, of course, but the Hybrid isn't much of an extra charge, and we think you can live with its modest power pretty easily.
Other changes for 2015 include the addition of a Touring Sport Edition—basically an appearance package with a black interior and blue interior, 18-inch wheels, HID headlights—thinned out chrome trim for the interior, and paddle shifters and the different drive modes (Sport, Normal, Eco) are now standard on all V-6 models.
2015 Toyota Avalon
The 2015 Toyota Avalon impresses as a nicely detailed, visually appealing luxury car.
Although the latest Avalon is a lot like a good Buick and an inexpensive Lexus, the styling is all its own. No longer a boring big car, the Avalon now takes its large-car status and owns it with flowing sheetmetal and a rich interior, both of which seem like they could come from cars costing much more.
The Avalon has never been known for flair or extroversion. Now it has a design that might actually pull in shoppers based on its looks. Penned entirely in California, and finished and developed in Michigan, the Avalon was conceived with American tastes in mind—especially older-middle-age empty-nesters. "Elegant Athletic" is Toyota's way of describing the look of the exterior, and it's not far from what we'd call it. Overall this design is a brisk lane-change—and a game-changer, to the degree that it almost warrants a new badge. It's not an Audi A7—one of the most beautiful models on the market now to our eyes—but there's no Camry vapor trail left here in these handsome lines.
While most of the Avalon's look is all its own, there is one spot that reminds us of other Toyota models, particularly the Camry. The Avalon's face mimics the brand's ubiquitous front-end more than perhaps it should; although the more aggressive lower airdam and squared-off projector lamps, with a 'double-eyed' look, point more to a luxury-car identity. In back, the design is a slight bit disappointing, with the somewhat generic lux-sedan taillights drooping a bit into anonymity.
From the side, the Avalon looks at ease and neither trying too hard to appear as a hunkered-back rear-wheel-drive sport sedan nor as a cab-forward front-driver. The roofline arc sits nicely above the more subtle arc in the beltline, and a rear pillar arc fits right in with it, tapering gradually to the back (Toyota tried to keep it as far back as possible without infringing rear headroom and the trunk opening).
If we had to point to a single attribute that gives the design punch, it's the rear fender, and the way the sheetmetal so gracefully flows from the roofline and the doors, meeting in a way that looks sculpted with French curves, not on a set of computer monitors.
Inside, the Avalon also got some special attention, and it's not at all a Camry knockoff. Toyota wanted the new Avalon to have a premium feel and look, and it shows. The climate and audio controls sit on a plane closer to the driver, above a layer that's trimmed with wood grain and an attractive striated surface, which itself is stacked over a dash zone framed in metallic trim. The cabin's theme is one that's been styled into most of the current generation of Toyotas, but rises above the usual swipe of differently textured plastics.
Design changes for 2015 are limited to thinner chrome trim on the instrument panel.
2015 Toyota Avalon
Even in Hybrid form, the 2015 Avalon is confident, even nimble compared to other big, comfort-oriented sedans.
New for 2013, the Avalon brought with it a pair of powertrains, with a Hybrid available for the first time on Toyota's big sedan. The rest of the driving experience was fully remade then, as well, resulting in an Avalon that goes beyond coddling and is also pleasant to pilot. Compared to the former car, and to many entries in this now very competitive class, it's quicker and more responsive while also feeling very composed and refined.
V-6 models come with Toyota's familiar 3.5-liter V-6, putting out 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The six-speed automatic adopts a sport-shift mode, and incorporates throttle blipping for smoother gear changes. As of 2015, all V-6 models get paddle controls for shifting, as well as Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes that adjust steering, throttle, and shift feel. The V-6 versions hit 60 in just 6.7 seconds.
The Avalon Hybrid has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, running with a lean Atkinson cycle, that's teamed with two motors tucked into the transaxle, fed by nickel-metal hydride batteriesThe transmission is continuously variable, using Toyota's tried-and-true planetary power-split setup. A net 200 horsepower coaxes 0-60 mph times of 8.2 seconds out of the Hybrid four-door, and three driving modes are offered: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode allows running on battery power alone up to 25 mph, while Eco mode cuts down on throttle response and HVAC output. Sport mode adapts the Avalon Hybrid's throttle and transmission to feel quicker, even if it's not ultimately much faster.
Thanks to a stronger, stiffer, lighter-weight structure, the V-6 Avalon weighs less than before. But with the V-6 Avalon weighing less than 3,500 pounds and the Avalon Hybrid weighing less than 3,600 pounds, the Hybrid isn't hefty and overweight as is often the case. In real-world driving, even ignoring fuel economy, the Avalon Hybrid emerges as the unlikely winner factor in the 40-mpg city and 39-mpg highway ratings and it's easily the best bet. Press Sport mode for the Hybrid, and the electric-motor system and quick tip-in give you the confidence to pass briskly or power out of a corner. What's more, we think that the Hybrid even feels better-balanced at times in corners near when approaching the limit—perhaps because the battery pack in back gives it better weight distribution.
With either powertrain, the Avalon drives like a smaller car than it is, with a precise, natural feel even on curvy, imperfect surfaces. And Sport mode firms up the steering somewhat on V-6 models, or more dramatically in the Hybrid. Disc brakes provide strong stops, with 11.6-inch rotors in front and 11.0-inchers in back, but a spongy pedal feel was one of our few disappointments (on the V-6 in particular).
And no matter which Avalon powertrain you get, engineers borrowed from the Lexus playbook in order to get that better responsiveness and control without inviting harshness. They've added rebound springs within the shocks, increased the spring rate somewhat, and went to digressive damper valving—with larger stabilizer bars all around. What they achieved we wouldn't call sporty, but it's supremely capable and controllable in a way that the Avalon hasn't been in the past—essentially muting the almost cartoonish queasiness, bounciness, and excessive body motion of the former model.
2015 Toyota Avalon
Comfort & Quality
Excellent seats, a spacious cabin, and superb detailing add up to a cabin ambiance that's Lexus-level.
In its most recent redesign, the Avalon actually shrank a bit in exterior dimensions. Thankfully, this size change isn't at all noticeable in the interior, where clever packaging has allowed the cabin to stay as airy and comfortable as ever.
The cabin can easily fit four large/tall adults, and feels much more modern and luxurious than the Avalon of a couple years ago. Top-notch materials, thoughtful details, comfortable seats, and futuristic capacitive dash controls abound in the Avalon, and throughout there's really nothing to keep you from thinking that this is a luxury vehicle—nothing but the badge, that is. Up close, cabin materials are superb, and also a full league above those in the Camry. The dash and upper door trim are covered in soft-touch material, and the grains actually match throughout the area in the driver's sight.
The redesign lowered the seating position a bit, yielding more headroom and a more open feel to the cabin. In front, the seats done have a lot of lateral support, but they're supportive enough for the back on longer trips, and upholstered in impressive, supple leather, with real stitching—plus, in the Limited, ventilated premium leather. Also of note is that Toyota made an extra effort with the sunroof installation, so that it doesn't rob so much headroom throughout.
The back seats in the 2015 Avalon are among the best of any large sedan. They're contoured well for adults and have relatively long lower cushions to provide thigh support. There's not only plenty of legroom but also headroom; this editor, at 6'-6,” could effectively fit behind another person his same height, with the front seat back all the way. You'll need to tuck your feet and duck your head a little bit when getting in and out, but with today's swoopy rooflines, that's the norm.
There are plenty of thoughtful storage spaces in the Avalon, with front and back doors offering storage bins built in—in addition to a roomy center console and a leather-lidded bin for smarphone stowage up toward the front, between the seats where it should be. The keyfob, or other smaller items, fits neatly in a small, hinged, felt-lined bin ahead of the driver's left knee.
The 16-cubic-foot trunk, with its flat floor and wide opening, seems plenty big, and you can fit a lot of grocery bags. Meanwhile, the Hybrid's 14-cubic-foot trunk obviously compromises a bit, but it should be plenty spacious for most needs.
Initially, people might find Toyota's interface choices a bit odd in the Avalon; yet they work quite well. All models in the new lineup get capacitive dash switches, although the screen is merely a touch screen. And the way that they were implemented is somehow far more intuitive than in many Ford, Lincoln, and Cadillac vehicles over the past couple of model years. Instead of a tab that protrudes like a button, below the area you're supposed to press, Toyota frames the button area with a recessed rim. Sound-system volume sliders also work in a more precise, intuitive way.
The Avalon's ride quality is completely sorted. There's no longer a lot of body motion, or a super-pillowy, almost queasy ride. Instead it's more of a modern luxury-car ride: firm but not harsh, and just absorbent and yielding enough to completely filter out most road roughness.
Considering the tremendous gains made in the Avalon's handling—with a suspension tune that's quite a bit firmer—it's still very quiet inside. The hush comes thanks to acoustic glass used for the windshield and side windows; the windshield wipers tuck inside the cowl for better isolation of wind noise. Both the Hybrid and the V-6 are quiet during cruising, with no noticeable engine noise; only during hard acceleration does the Hybrid model reveal itself with more coarse engine sounds. The only exception is a bit of motor whine that makes its way inside in the Hybrid, when in Sport mode or making quicker takeoffs.
2015 Toyota Avalon
The 2015 Avalon is one of the safer large sedans on the market, with an impressive set of active-safety features.
The 2015 Toyota Avalon does well in crash testing and also carries an extensive list of standard and available safety items.
Crash-test ratings for the Avalon have been top-tier overall. Its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings are all 'good'—including in the tough small overlap category—although its optional Pre-Collision system only meets IIHS 'basic' qualifications so it misses the highest Top Safety Pick+ accolade.
The Avalon gets a five-star overall rating from the feds, although there too it has minor blemishes—four-star frontal and rollover ratings--that prevent it from being a five-star sweep.
Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, a Smart Stop brake-override system, and ten airbags in all are included in all Avalon models. Driver and front passenger knee bags and rear outboard seat-mounted bags are included in that safety set, which goes beyond what's usually included in large mainstream-brand sedans. And Toyota includes a backup camera on all models, which is good compensation for the sometimes difficult-to-judge rear end.
The Blind Spot Monitor (now standard on XLE Touring models as of 2015) is tuned to detect vehicles larger than 125-cc motorcycles at speeds over 10 mph, and with a speed differential less than 27 mph, to help reduce false signals, and it warns you with a beep and screen warning.
Look to the options list for the Avalon—on top XLE Touring and Limited models—and you'll find several especially innovative features, based on radar systems that are usually reserved for true luxury-brand cars. Of these the true standout is the 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—especially helpful if you're backing out of a driveway with an obstructed view, or out of a tight space in a busy parking structure, for instance.
Adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision system are also offered on the top Limited model as part of a Tech Package.
2015 Toyota Avalon
You get a good feature set and lots for the money with the 2015 Toyota Avalon, although it's priced in alignment with luxury cars.
With its most recent redesign, the Avalon was given a broader target, with the intention of expanding its appeal to a somewhat younger (40- to 60-year-old), more tech-savvy crowd that wants the luxury in concept but is happy keeping it a little bit on the down low and skipping the Lexus badge. AS a result, 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 2015 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. For 2016, Toyota has added a Touring Sport Edition to the roster. 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.
On the base XLE you get power heated (in front) leather seats, a Smart Key system, steering-wheel paddle-shifters (which carry through the lineup for V-6 models only), a backup camera, and heated outer mirrors with turn-signal markers. XLE Premium models are a step above that, adding a universal garage-door opener and a moonroof.
At the base end, the Avalon also makes the strong argument on value, but it's tempting to, for several thousand more, add the Tech Package with goodies like Adaptive Cruise Control, a Pre-Collision System, and Automatic High Beams.
At the middle of the lineup is the Avalon XLE Touring, which adds a Blind Spot monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, navigation, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Limited models get perforated leather upholstery, heated-and-ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, three-zone automatic climate control, a rear sunshade, HID headlamps, and LED daytime running lights. With the Avalon Limited model, you're essentially getting a Lexus-caliber set of features—and for the most part, Lexus ambiance—all at a price that's a few grand less than the Avalon's Lexus ES cousin would be with some of the same items.
The new-for-2015 Touring Sport model gets a black exterior over a blue leather interior, with HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, its own 18-inch wheel design, and a few other niceties.
Between the models you can essentially get three different audio/infotainment systems. A 140-watt touch-screen Display Audio system is standard on the XLE, while XLE Touring and XLE Premium models step up to a 490-watt system with navigation as well as the Entune App Suite, allowing you to run a series of apps on the touch screen, using the data connection through a paired smartphone. At the top—and only in the Limited—there's a seven-inch higher-resolution screen system and 785-watt JBL premium audio with hard-drive storage.
2015 Toyota Avalon
The EPA 40 mpg Combined that the Avalon Hybrid achieves is astounding -- especially considering it can carry five in comfort.
With the addition of a Hybrid model in this generation, the Avalon has become a true large-car economy leader. While its V-6 powertrain remains as efficient as ever, it's the Hybrid we're most interested in, especially since it can cost only $1,750 more than a comparable gas-only car.
The V-6 Avalon is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city, 31 highway—still relatively good for such a large sedan. 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 six-speed automatic transmission.
The Avalon Hybrid's EPA rating of 40 mpg city and 39 highway makes it one of the most fuel-efficient large sedans in any condition, and most definitely the most efficient large sedan for city driving and stop-and-go. Its driving range is bladder-bursting impressive, too—680 miles on a single tank of 87-octane gasoline.
What makes the Hybrid especially noteworthy is that the Hybrid approaches the same standards of responsiveness and refinement as the V-6 version. And although trunk space is limited slightly by the battery pack for the hybrid system, there are few other compromises.
All Hybrid models get a three-button Eco Switch system with normal, Eco, and Sport modes, as well as an EV Mode for covering very short distances with electric power alone. A comparable system is offered in V-6 models, but of course does without the EV setting. With either powertrain, Eco Mode yields a smoothed throttle response and more conservative A/C operation, and in the Hybrid it may yield extended EV operation. Toyota notes that the Eco mode isn't figured into EPA ratings, so those who use it might be able to top those numbers in some conditions.