2017 Toyota Avalon

Consumer Reviews
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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
June 14, 2017

Buying tip

We'd recommend the Avalon Hybrid over the standard version. Equipment levels are similar, and what's given up in handling and acceleration, is

The 2017 Toyota Avalon gives the full-size sedan a good name, with its exceptional space and style.

The Toyota Avalon doesn't beg you to own it or drive it. It puts comfort to the fore: it's comfortable like a pillow-top bed, and no longer rides or handles like one.

This year, it's offered as an Avalon XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Limited, or as an Avalon Touring. Avalon Hybrid sedans come in XLE and sporty Touring trims.

The big news for 2017, though, is that Toyota has made a suite of safety gear standard, including forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control; automatic high beams; and lane-departure warnings.

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The main rivals for the Avalon include the Chevy Impala, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza, and the Ford Taurus.

We give the Avalon a very good score of 7.8 out of 10, with big points for its safety and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Toyota Avalon styling and performance

Toyota redesigned the Avalon in 2013, and gave it more visual distance from the Camry that shares its running gear. It now has real presence, thanks to a swoopy roofline, flared-out rear fenders, and laid-back rear glass. Inside, the Avalon's contemporary layout and look still wears flush, touch-based dash switches for a clean, high-end-audio look. Cabin materials are superb, and fit and finish is up to Lexus standards.

Avalons come in gas or gas-electric form. A strong and smooth 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 is the stock powerplant, but the Avalon Hybrid drivetrain gets our attention. With 200 hp from its combination of motors, batteries, and an inline-4, the Avalon Hybrid is reasonably quick and astonishingly efficient, at 40 mpg on the EPA combined scale.

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. It has completely abandoned the floaty ride and senseless steering of the past for a direct but not firm road feel.

The EPA hasn't compiled numbers for 2017 yet, but it put the V-6 Avalon at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 24 combined last year. 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.

Avalon comfort, safety, and features

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 rearview camera, while blind-spot monitors are standard on Touring models.

The Avalon is plushly outfitted, with power features, leather, and a 7-inch touchscreen that governs the audio system. Avalon 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 end, and LED headlights. 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 headlights, and LED daytime running lamps.

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2017 Toyota Avalon

Styling

There's no longer any Camry in the Avalon's shape; it's a refreshing, contemporary look for Toyota.

The Avalon is no longer boring, either to drive or to look at. It has flowing sheet metal and a rich interior that could come from the Lexus side of the house. We give it a 7 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Stylists in California and Michigan drew latest Avalon with the well-to-do tastes of older-middle-age empty-nester America in mind. It's a brisk lane-change from the previous Avalon, not quite up to the effortless panache of an Audi A7, but completely removed from the Camry's wake.

From the side, the Avalon's roofline 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. In back, last year's new taillights advanced the rear end toward a Lexus feel. If we had to point to a single touch that gives the design punch, it's the rear fender, and the way the sheet metal so gracefully flows from the roofline and the doors.

Toyota updated the look in 2016 with a wider grille and LED headlights on the Touring model.

Inside, the latest Avalon is no Camry knockoff. Toyota wanted the new Avalon to have a premium feel and look, and it shows. The climate and audio have capacitive 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.

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2017 Toyota Avalon

Performance

The Avalon long ago gave up on pillowy ride and mediocre power; now the performance is as silky as the style.

When the Avalon was remade for 2013, the lineup showed up with two powertrains including a powerful V-6 and a very efficient and responsive Hybrid model, the first gas-electric version of Toyota's biggest sedan. Handling was also greatly improved then, and the 2016 refresh brought with it two newly calibrated suspension setups.

The comfortable and nice-driving Avalon remains at the head of what is now a competitive class. We think it's worth a couple of points for performance above the norm, for its powerplants and its ride. We give it a 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Avalon ride and handling

Engineers borrowed from the Lexus playbook to give the Avalon more driving personality, and tweaked the setup last year. The sedan now has a capable, controlled feel that isn't quite sporty—but it's a far cry from the Avalon of the past, where queasy body motions and excessive ride motion were the order of the day.

Now, the Avalon's ride quality is completely sorted. The pillowy motions are gone, and body motion is quelled. It has more of a modern luxury-car ride: firm but not harsh, and just absorbent and yielding enough to completely filter out most road roughness.

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-inchers in back, but a spongy pedal feel was one of our few disappointments (on the V-6 in particular).

The Hybrid is notably good. Thanks to a stronger, stiffer, lighter-weight structure, the V-6 Avalon weighs less than before, for a total of about 3,500 pounds. Hybrid models are only about 100 pounds heavier, meaning they avoid the overweight feeling that often accompanies battery-laden vehicles. 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 when approaching the limit—perhaps because the battery pack in back gives it better weight distribution.

Avalon power

The standard Avalon powertrain is Toyota's familiar 3.5-liter V-6, putting out 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The included 6-speed automatic offers a sport-shift mode, and incorporates throttle blipping for smoother downshifts. All V-6 models get paddle-shift controls, as well as Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes that adjust steering, throttle, and shift feel. The V-6 versions hit 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds.

The Avalon Hybrid has a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 teamed with two motors tucked into the transaxle, which are fed by nickel-metal hydride batteries. Power is routed through Toyota's tried-and-true planetary power-split continuously variable transmission setup. The system combines for 200 hp and coaxes 0-60-mph times of 8.2 seconds out of the Hybrid four-door.

Three driving modes are offered in the Hybrid: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode allows running on battery power alone at speeds of up to 25 mph, while Eco mode cuts down on throttle response and HVAC output. Sport mode sharpens the Avalon Hybrid's throttle and transmission responses to feel quicker, even if it's not ultimately much faster.

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2017 Toyota Avalon

Comfort & Quality

The Avalon delivers on all its big-car promises; five can sit in hushed comfort.

With today's Avalon, Toyota has dialed back some of the vast space of previous models, and has focused more attention on delivering a quiet, stylish interior that still has enough room to seat up to five adults.

We give it a 9 for comfort and utility; the Avalon is one of only a few sedans that can carry that many passengers and their belongings in comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Toyota redesigned the Avalon for the 2013 model year, and it relented on the formal roofline that had given the car copious back-seat room. It's still a long-wheelbase, front-drive sedan, so while the roofline is lower, the space inside is just slightly smaller. The front seats are a bit lower, but in tandem with a lower dash, the Avalon now has a more airy feel inside. The seats themselves don't have a lot of lateral support, but there's enough lumbar and backrest padding to ensure a comfortable ride for long trips.

They're also upholstered in impressive, supple leather, with real stitching; Limited models receive ventilated premium leather.

The cabin can easily fit four large/tall adults, and three adults of moderate size can tuck in easily on the back bench. The back seating positions are contoured well for adults and have relatively long lower cushions to provide thigh support. There's not only plenty of leg room but also head room. 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 built-in storage bins—in addition to a roomy center console and a leather-lidded bin for smartphone 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 for a weekend's worth of luggage. Meanwhile, the Hybrid's 14-cubic-foot trunk obviously compromises a bit, but it should be plenty spacious for most needs.

Avalon quality, fit and finish

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.

Initially, people might find Toyota's interface choices a bit odd in the Avalon; yet they work quite well. All models in the lineup get capacitive dash switches, although the screen is merely a touch screen. Although capacitive buttons can be frustrating, the way that they were implemented is somehow far more intuitive than in many recent Ford, Lincoln, and Cadillac vehicles. Instead of a tab that protrudes like a button, marking the bottom of the area you're supposed to press, Toyota frames the button area with a recessed rim, making them much easier to find and press without glancing down. Sound-system volume sliders also work in a more precise, intuitive way than in cars from other brands.

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 from wind and lowered noise. Both the Hybrid and the V-6 are quiet during cruising, without noticeable engine noise. Only during hard acceleration does the Hybrid model reveal itself with a more coarse engine note. The only other exception is a bit of motor whine that makes its way inside in the Hybrid, when in Sport mode or making quicker takeoffs.

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2017 Toyota Avalon

Safety

The Avalon performs well in crash tests, and has lots of standard safety technology.

The 2017 Toyota Avalon fares well in crash tests, and this year it's fitted with even more standard safety gear. 

We give it an 8 for safety, awarding it points above average for good marks from the IIHS and the NHTSA and an additional point for its now-standard collision avoidance tech. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Avalon earns very good scores from the NHTSA—five stars overall, though it's rated at four stars in individual tests for frontal impact protection and rollover resistance (which is a calculated score rather than an actual test.)

The IIHS, meanwhile, rates the Avalon as a Top Safety Pick, meaning it rates as a "Good" in all impact tests, including the tough small-overlap category. The Avalon's automatic emergency braking system has been rated "Superior,"  while its headlights are either a "Marginal" or a "Poor" in the IIHS' new-for-2017 test. 

Opt for an Avalon Touring with its LED headlamps and the IIHS says the lights are slightly better than the halogen units used across the rest of the lineup. The best of the group, however, are the HIDs available on the Limited and Hybrid, which rate "Acceptable."

Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, a Smart Stop brake-override system, and 10 airbags 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.

Toyota also includes a rearview camera on all models, which is good compensation for the sometimes difficult-to-judge rear end. Adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beams are standard on all Avalons as of the 2017 model year.

The available blind-spot monitors are 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 message.

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.

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2017 Toyota Avalon

Features

Apple Car Play and Android Auto are notable omissions, but every Avalon gets high-tech safety gear.

The Avalon is offered in XLE, XLE Plus, XLE Premium, Limited, and Touring trim; Avalon Hybrids are sold in XLE and Touring trim.

We give them an 8 for its standard and optional features, and for an infotainment system that pairs well with most smartphones. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Every Avalon comes with power features; cruise control; climate control; leather seats; power heated front seats; and a rearview camera. XLE Plus models add a universal garage-door opener and a moonroof. XLE and XLE Plus now include tire-pressure monitoring as well, and both come with 17-inch alloy wheels.

These models are excellent values, especially with the addition of standard forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.

At the middle of the lineup is the Avalon XLE Premium, which now comes standard with navigation and Qi wireless charging.

Touring models receive their own sporty suspension tune, a different front fascia, gray-painted 18-inch wheels, and LED headlights with LED daytime running lights.

On the Avalon Limited, Toyota adds heated-and-ventilated front seats, perforated leather front seats, heated rear seats, three-zone automatic climate control, HID headlamps, a rear sunshade, and LED daytime running lights. The Avalon Limited essentially has 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.

Toyota Avalon infotainment

Between the models you can essentially get three different audio/infotainment systems. XLE and XLE Plus models come with an Entune-equipped 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This system can run different apps by using the data connection through a paired smartphone.

Avalon XLE Premium models step up to a 490-watt system with navigation as well as the Entune App Suite. At the top—and only in the Limited—there's a 785-watt JBL premium audio with hard-drive storage.

Toyota continues to ignore the smartphone universe and has not adopted Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in its Entune interface. It's a serious demerit; those systems have proven to be superior and more streamlined than almost all manufacturer systems we've tried.

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2017 Toyota Avalon

Fuel Economy

The Avalon's gas mileage is fine in gas models, stellar in the Hybrid.

For the 2016 model year, the Avalon earned ratings of 21 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined from the EPA. That's better than some models in this size class, despite the Avalon's 6-speed automatic and powerful V-6.

We give the Avalon a 7 out of 10 for gas mileage, putting more weight on the more common Avalon, but adding a point for the Hybrid. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2016 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. Its highway number contributes to a bladder-bursting range figure—680 miles on a single tank of regular unleaded. For just a couple thousand dollars more than a comparable gasoline-only option, the hybrid Avalon drives just as nicely, and returns double the fuel economy in the city as the V-6.

All hybrid models sport three different modes for driving: Eco, Sport, and EV for covering very short distances on electric power alone. The V-6 has a similar system—of course it sheds the EV mode. With either powertrain, the Eco Mode yields a smoother throttle and more conservative HVAC system. 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.

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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 9
Features 8
Fuel Economy 7
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