2020 Toyota Avalon

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2020
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2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
October 21, 2019

Buying tip

The 2020 Toyota Avalon works best as a luxury cruiser, so stick to the XLE, Limited, and Touring trim levels.

The 2020 Toyota Avalon works best as a stylish, comfortable cruiser, and not as a wannabe sports sedan.

The 2020 Toyota Avalon is Toyota’s grown-up sedan, and yet we’re not sure it knows what it wants to be when it reaches adulthood. Ordered in XLE and Limited trims, it’s a relaxed highway cruiser ready to soak up long distances. In hybrid guise, it’s as thrifty as a subcompact sedan but with a spacious interior. And this year’s sporty Avalon TRD hankers for a winding road.

Overall, we call the multi-personality car 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

Avalon comes in XLE, XSE, TRD, Limited, and Touring, with a choice of 301-horsepower V-6 or 215-hp hybrid that sends power to the front wheels. Unlike some rivals, the Avalon isn’t offered with snowy weather-friendly all-wheel drive. The base V-6 moves the Avalon well, though it’s thirsty. Our pick here for most drivers is the gentle hybrid, which is rated by the EPA at 43 mpg or higher depending on the trim. Similarly, we think the Avalon works best in softer XLE and Limited trims than it does in the stiff XSE and Touring and stiffer TRD trims. The sportier Avalons struggle to overcome their size when pushed and transmit unexpected harshness and road noise into the cabin. 

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That size is also an asset when it comes to interior space. A true five-seater, the Avalon can handle the entire family in comfort. The right-priced Avalon Limited is even draped in leather and gorgeous wood trim. We’ll take ours in the warm Cognac hue inside, thank you. 

The bright 9.0-inch touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay compatibility, though it won’t talk the same talk with an Android device. A wide array of collision-avoidance tech comes standard, while a surround-view camera system is on the options list. The Avalon has done well in crash tests, too.

If a big four-door is on your list, the Avalon is worth a look. 


6

2020 Toyota Avalon

Styling

The 2020 Toyota Avalon desperately wants to play with sports sedans.

If the 2020 Toyota Avalon could talk, this full-size sedan would say it’s a toned, muscular jock. Some overwrought touches hold it back in our ratings, and we wind up with a 6 out of 10 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The Avalon comes in three basic styling configurations: XLE and Limited share a clean, cohesive look, while XSE and Touring trims slap on a gaping front grille with a mesh-style insert that looks like it came from the Dyson catalog. Except that those vacuums may actually be more stylish. The new Avalon TRD goes even further with a functional aero kit, a feature we never expected to see on an Avalon. 

Standard LED headlights point the way forward. The range-topping Avalon Touring comes with effective laser-cut headlights. LED taillights at the rear have an elegant look not totally in sync with the front end.

The Avalon’s interior is daring with hues far from ordinary and available woodgrain trim supplied by musical instrument manufacturer Yamaha. It’s not quite a Lexus, but the line is fine indeed.

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6

2020 Toyota Avalon

Performance

It may look sporty, but the 2020 Toyota Avalon works best in luxury-oriented configurations.

The 2020 Toyota Avalon can be had with either strong V-6 power or a thrifty hybrid powertrain, and it sends power to the front wheels unlike some of its rivals that offer all-wheel drive. 

We rate the lineup at 6 out of 10 on account of the plush ride afforded by the standard suspension. Sport-oriented models might lose a point if rated independently. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The standard 3.5-liter V-6 churns out a healthy 301 horsepower, which is sent to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 tugs the Avalon along well, and the engine is muffled in most trims. The XSE and TRD include a piped-in intake noise that spoils the mood.

Avalon hybrids swap in a 176-hp inline-4 teamed with an electric motor that combines for 215 horsepower through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It accelerates well around town but can feel winded climbing hills or passing slower traffic. That’s the trade-off for 43 mpg combined.

Underneath, the Avalon uses an independent MacPherson strut in front and multi-link rear suspension. Range-topping Touring trim makes use of a variable suspension that can be stiffened up at the tap of a button, perhaps too much in Sport+ mode.

Good steering heft in any mode helps the Avalon feel somewhat entertaining, though its size and generally soft demeanor make it far from tossable.

This year’s new Avalon TRD builds on the XSE with 19-inch wheels and a louder exhaust. It makes all the right noises, and few of the right moves. As a cruiser, it misses the mark entirely. As a sports sedan, it would drive us toward Toyota’s less-costly, more-polished Camry TRD.

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2020 Toyota Avalon

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Toyota Avalon delivers luxury goods at a palatable price.

With its spacious, luxurious interior, the 2020 Toyota Avalon rivals cars that cost twice as much when it comes to wafting down the highway in comfort. We would rate it 9 out of 10, but the comparatively harsh ride in the sportier models knock it down to an 8. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

Supportive front seats with a wide array of adjustment offer the kind of all-day support expected in a mile-eating sedan. They’re just bolstered enough for curvy road duty, and they’re power-adjustable. The rear seat has 40 inches of legroom, enough for most riders to cross their legs in comfort.

Toyota drapes the Avalon with quality materials inside. Base XLEs feature convincing synthetic leather, while most other trims use real hides. Wood trim supplied to Toyota by Yamaha adorns the Limited trim level to good effect, while the aluminum on XSE and Tourings has a pleasant look.

The Avalon’s trunk can swallow about 16 cubic feet of luggage, a relatively low number given its large footprint.

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8

2020 Toyota Avalon

Safety

Good crash-test scores and lots of safety gear make the 2020 Toyota Avalon a good pick.

The 2020 Toyota Avalon is well-equipped with collision-avoidance tech and it has done well in crash tests. We rate it at 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

Every 2020 Avalon drives off from the factory with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, active lane control, high-beam assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. An option package for Limited and Touring trims adds a surround-view camera system and rear cross-traffic braking.

The NHTSA rated the big sedan at five stars overall, with four stars in the calculated rollover measurement and four stars for frontal crash test. IIHS testers largely agreed, bestowing the sedan with a Top Safety Pick+ award.

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2020 Toyota Avalon

Features

The 2020 Toyota Avalon is well-equipped and well-priced in most trims.

For around $37,000, the 2020 Toyota Avalon delivers more than just space for the money. It’s a well-equipped sedan at every step of the way, and for that we rate it at 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The base Avalon XLE comes with active safety gear, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility, five USB ports, power and heated front seats, and synthetic leather upholstery. 

Tick all the options and an Avalon Touring comes in about $44,000 with JBL speakers, heated and cooled front seats swathed in synthetic leather and suede, and adaptive dampers.

Plan to spend another $1,000 for a hybrid.

The best buy here, as far as we’re concerned, is the Avalon Limited, which for around $42,000 comes with the plushest suspension settings and an interior draped in leather and wood, the kind of trappings we’d expect from a much costlier luxury car. 

A standard 9.0-inch touchscreen is complemented by a 7.0-inch display in the instrument cluster. Toyota’s built-in software can be menu-intensive, though the standard Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility work well. Just don’t look for Android Auto compatibility–it’s not on the Avalon, at least not yet. 

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5

2020 Toyota Avalon

Fuel Economy

Stick with the hybrid and the 2020 Toyota Avalon is a miserly big sedan.

What a difference an engine makes. The 2020 Toyota Avalon is something of a guzzler with the standard V-6, while the optional hybrid powertrain bests most small cars. 

We rate the lineup at 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

The V-6 is rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined, though the smaller wheels and tires on the base XLE bump those figures to 22/32/26 mpg. Those figures are mostly on par with other full-size sedans. 

Most Avalon hybrids earn 43 mpg no matter how you drive them—43/43/43 mpg on the EPA’s test, except again the XLE is rated higher at 44/43/44 mpg.

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7.0
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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