RETURN OF THE TURNPIKE CRUISER
2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Aug 11, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
TOYOTA BRINGS BACK THE TURNPIKE CRUISING PACKAGE By Roy Nakano Back in the 1960s, you could get a sedan with a Turnpike Cruising Package in America, which consisted of a tall (long stroke, narrow bore), 400 cubic inch V8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor and gobs of low end torque, a low 2:56-to-1 rear axle ratio, and a three-speed automatic transmission. The combination kept the revs (RPMs), friction and stress on the engine low, thereby maximizing fuel economy. It was a brilliant solution for those who wanted the creature comforts of a large sedan, and still get decent gas mileage. Fast-forward to today. Toyota has brought back the turnpike cruising package. Only this time, it uses a tall, 153 cubic inch (2.5-liter) in-line four that’s only on part of the time, working with an electric motor that uses no petroleum, and a variable-ratio automatic transmission that keeps the system revving for optimum fuel economy. And it’s powering a car with greater interior room than the old American cars in the 1960s with the package. It’s called the Avalon Hybrid, and it’s all new for 2013.
Back in the day, you were in hog heaven if such a car could get 20 miles per gallon. The Avalon Hybrid is EPA-rated at 40 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. For a gas-powered sedan of this size, it’s a new high. You won’t mistaken the Avalon for a compact hybrid. Some of them exhibit a bit of a tinny quality—no doubt a function of trying to keep both the weight and price down. The Avalon Hybrid is not exactly expensive, but it’s entry price of $35,555 keeps it out of the bread and butter category. On the other hand, there is no hint of tinny with this Toyota. The Avalon Hybrid is a full-size sedan with near-luxury quality. The car, in fact, is built off of the same platform as the new Lexus ES sedan. While there’s a great temptation to call the Avalon a Lexus for the price of a Toyota, we won’t go that far. The fit and finish in the Avalon is class-leading (note the hand sewn soft-touch material for the dash panel), but the Lexus remains in an altogether different class (by the way, Lexus offers its own “turnpike cruising package” in the form of the all new ES300h).
In addition to the normally fuel-efficient mode of operation, the Avalon Hybrid has EV, ECO, and Sport modes. EV allows all-electric operation under very gentle driving conditions for up to 25 miles per hour. ECO reduces throttle response and AC output to provide even better fuel economy. And Sport does the opposite, and enhances steering feel for more spirited driving and responsive acceleration. It’s particularly handy for entering freeway ramps and for passing. Driving can be made even more sporting as a result of the Avalon Hybrid’s new S-mode, which offers sequential manual shifting using the console shifter or (on Touring and Limited models) steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Anyone familiar with the B mode on some of Toyota’s hybrids will appreciate the further flexibility that the S-mode offers to allow sequential downshifts during stop-and-go traffic. On the cabin technology front, we are pleased to report that user-friendliness just gets better all the time. We were able to pair a smartphone on the Avalon’s Bluetooth system with ease—and without dropping the call. Moreover, there’s a mute function on the hands-free Bluetooth system that allows you to carry on a conference call without having to force your other callers from hearing the ambient traffic noise on your end (you can un-mute it when speaking).
Toyota boasts that the new Avalon is the first vehicle in the world to offer in-console Qi wireless charging. The wireless charging pad is integrated in the Avalon’s center console when the car is optioned with the Avalon’s Technology Package (Qi–enabled smartphone not included). “Charging is as simple as placing the phone upon the (console) lid’s high-friction surface,” says Avalon Chief Engineer Randy Stephens. On the road, the new Avalon Hybrid drives less like a large American car of the 1960s and more like a contemporary large European luxury sedan. We think that’s a good thing. Gone is the floating cruise ship oscillation of old, replaced by a steady but smooth ride shared by the best of today’s larger fleet. Toyota has been building hybrids since before the turn of the century, and it’s been a decade since its Hybrid Synergy Drive turned the industry upside-down when it first appeared in the second-generation Prius. The Avalon Hybrid carries the latest version of a system that’s withstood the test of time—only now it’s in a whole new class.
Welcome to the new turnpike cruiser. For more information about Toyota products, go to www.toyota.com SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2013 Toyota Hybrid XLE Touring Price: $35,555 (Hybrid base) $37,250 (Hybrid XLE Touring base, as tested) EPA mileage estimates: 40 city/39 highway/40 combined miles per gallon Engine type: Hybrid Synergy Drive System 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve with VVT-I /eCVT Horsepower: 140 (electric motor) 154 (internal combustion engine) 200 (combined)
Torque: 200 pound-feet (electric) 153 pound-feet (ICE) Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Transmission: Electronic continuously variable automatic with manual sequential shift mode Suspension Four-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension with stabilizer bars front and rear Wheels and tires: 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/55R17 tires Brakes Star Safety System includes VSC, TRAC, Anti-lock Brake System, EBD, Brake Assist & Smart Stop Tech (SST) Dimensions Overall length: 195.3 inches Overall width: 72.2 inches Overall height: 57.5 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 3594 pounds