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Upward Mobility

Published on Fri, Aug 17, 2018

By: Glenn Oyoung

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited

LA Car gets a week behind the wheel of Toyota’s flagship sedan. The mid-life crisis has never been so plush.

By Glenn Oyoung

Certain things are signaling to me that I am getting old. Lower back pain. Rocking out to my favorite Depeche Mode jam only to find out it’s playing on K-Earth 101 (I just can’t get enough). Perhaps most-telling for me, the sheer excitement of having a proper sedan to shuttle the family around rather than my (beloved, but thirsty) full-size 4×4. Cue my week of posh comfort and fuel-economy bliss with the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited.

If I had access to a time machine and nothing more pressing to do, I’d go back and tell 90’s Glenn with the lowered Prelude that one day he was going to be staring at his iCal waiting with anticipation to receive an Avalon Hybrid as a press car. That version of me would literally spew boba while laughing so vociferously that Dad Glenn (me) would have to punch Motegi Racing Glenn in the face.

But it’s true. We all grow up and as our needs eventually change, so do our tastes. While I love my Tundra, gas prices lately have got me rethinking my choice of daily driver. My daily cargo consists of my laptop bag and a mug of coffee. I don’t need a truck. How about a sports car? I love a spirited drive as much as the next gear head, but when was the last time your morning commute looked like any OEM’s commercials? I don’t know about you, but on the weekdays I’m just aiming to get to the office in one piece — as comfortable as possible, as entertained as possible, and using as least gas as possible. The Avalon was the perfect vehicle to fulfill those everyday needs.

EXTERIOR: Looking Sharp

When it was first launched in 1994, the Avalon looked in many resembled an overstuffed Camry. My how times have changed five generations later. This is most definitely not your granddaddy’s Avalon. It does bear resemblance to the completely redesigned Camry, but that’s not a bad thing.

The sharp angles and hard creases particularly along the side rockers and on the rear haunches of the body line project a high-tech, modern feeling. From the side, the Avalon not only resembles its Toyota sibling but is almost a spitting image of its Lexus cousin the Lexus ES. That makes sense given they share all the same platform.

The Avalon looks the part of the sedan of choice for an upwardly-mobile young professional — large enough to accommodate the clients, upscale enough to impress them, but it’s a Toyota so not so expensive as to arouse suspicion on the hourly billing rates.

My only axe to grind with the exterior design is the Avalon’s gaping maw up front. Roughly 85% of the front is dedicated to the black plastic mega grille. I mean, how much air does any sedan need — a hybrid no less? Audi went through this phase for a while and thankfully backed off. Luckily this is the only Toyota that needs headgear at the moment, so all signs point to this being a one-off (for now).

From every other angle, the new Avalon nails it in my books and I’d be happy to rock this yuppy techno look on a daily basis (especially if I could convince my aftermarket friends to do a cleaner front fascia based on the ES).

INTERIOR: I Could Get Used to This

Step inside the new Avalon and I double dog dare you not to say “Wow!” In fact, over the course of my week with the Avalon I heard that said every time someone opened the door. We displayed the Avalon at the Carcadia monthly cars & coffee show it received resounding praise. I was asked repeatedly, “Are you sure this isn’t a Lexus” to the point I wanted to highlight the Toyota badging (that would have made future press car loans awkward, so I thought the better of it.)

Toyota’s product planners have wisely focused their efforts on making sure the place you spend the most time with your new Avalon is dialed-in and then some. Stay at a five-star hotel and you notice that it’s the all the details, working in concert, that add up to a luxury experience. The same cohesive approach to luxury is at work in the Avalon’s cabin.

The Cognac Leather trim available on the Limited is a rich color that exudes warmth and is stylishly accented with perforation and stitching. I was surprised to find real wood trim across the dash and door panels. In the Touring edition, you’ll find aluminum. Cross drilled aluminum pedals give your eyes something else to admire as you enter the cabin. These are materials generally reserved for more expensive models.

Photo by Toyota
Photo by Toyota

The dashboard is modern and clean.  The floating center stack is a smart solution to housing the 9-inch display and AC controls in a visually appealing way.

TECHNOLOGY:  Let us Entertain You

The Avalon Limited throws every tool Toyota has at you to keep you entertained and connected. Toyota’s Entune 3.0 system features the Entune App Suite with apps like Yelp, the ability to check nearby fuel prices, and news.  Avalon is the first Toyota to feature Apple CarPlay. Bravo! This was way overdue. It seems Toyota has finally acknowledged that no matter what apps they include in their Entune suite Apple fanboys like me just want simple plug and play connectivity to their iOS universe.

Our loaner was equipped with the JBL® w/Clari-FI™ audio system. I enjoyed turning my commutes into karaoke sessions thanks to the 1200-watt, 14 speaker surround sound system. JBL touts it’s Clari-FI technology’s ability to take the digitially compressed music we have on our phones or streaming music services and restore the richness. I first experienced this on the new Camry and could hear the difference in the Avalon. Duran Duran on my iTunes will never be the same.

In addition to the audio technology, the Avalon is loaded up with other technology including wireless charging and Toyota’s Remote Connect tool which allows you to control your vehicle using your smartwatch. The future is here,  for real. Opt for all the bells and whistles in the subscription department and you transform your Avalon into a rolling office with its own WiFi hotspot and  it will ping you when its time for service.

Photo by Toyota
Photo by Toyota

In the display department, the 7-inch multi-information display (MID) behind the steering wheel is huge and the menu is pretty intuitive as far as these things go. Perhaps because of how large the MID is I was left wondering if Toyota will go with a larger center display  than the 9-inch one in the center stack. A 17-inch one a la the Model S one would work with the super high-tech environs.

Of course, these days you cannot talk automotive technology without mentioning safety. The Avalon Hybrid Limited features Toyota’s top-of-the-line Toyota Safety Sense™ P (TSS-P) suite of active and passive driver assist systems to get to work in one piece. TSS-P includes Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise  Control, Blind Spot Monitoring and more.

PERFORMANCE: Pulling Gs and MPGs 

OK this is where I’m supposed to say the Avalon’s aggressive looks do not match up to it’s performance. The aforementioned gaping intake that looks like it should be from a 1950s jet fighter (check out the F-86 Sabre my fellow jet geeks, and tell me I’m wrong), the sharp edges and creases – this thing is supposed to fly like an Alpina B7 right?

Well it all depends on your expectations. With any Hybrid the metric that matters is not hp but mpg. I did not ever expect the Avalon to break loose the rear tires. My expectation was the Avalon, especially in Hybrid Limited trim, would pamper me and get over 40mpg. Expectations met.

In a straight line the Avalon Hybrid was faster than I expected. The 149 lb.-ft. of torque and 215 horsepower are not going to be winning you any pink slips, but are more than adequate for onramps. Where the Avalon really surprised me in the handling department, especially in a car of this size. The Avalon shares its TNGA underpinnings with the Camry, and as in the Camry it has a lower center of gravity than the outgoing model. Turn on Sport mode and you’ve got a little taste of driving fun for the workday.

The Avalon was a crowd pleaser at Carcadia. Arcadia Mayor Sho Tay gives it the thumbs up.
The Avalon was a crowd pleaser at Carcadia. Arcadia Mayor Sho Tay gives it the thumbs up.

WRAP-UP: The Ultimate Commuting Machine

Toyota Sedans at Carcadia – Past & Present
Toyota Sedans at Carcadia – Past & Present

Is it the ultimate driving machine? No, but it may be the ultimate commuting machine and in the end that’s what large sedan buyers want. In an environment where other manufacturers are literally killing off not only individual sedans but also entire car brands in pursuit of SUV and crossover profits, it seems contrarian for any company to invest so much in sedans. But before all the trucks and SUVs and TRD Pro, Toyota was a car company. With cars like the Avalon Hybrid it might just be Toyota laughing all the way to the bank — especially if they continue to raise the bar in terms of design, luxury, and value.

For more information, visit

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid 

Starting Price: $42,800

• 2.5-Liter Dynamic Force 4-Cylinder DOHC 16-Valve D-4S Dual Injection with VVT-iE, VVT-I with Eco, Normal, Sport and EV drive modes; 176 hp (net 215 hp) @ 5700 rpm; 163 lb.-ft. 3600-5200 rpm
• Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) with sequential shift mode
• Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
• Suspension: Independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar; multi-link
rear suspension with stabilizer bar
• 43 estimated combined MPG and 43 city/43 highway estimated MPG
• 18″ alloy wheels with P235/40R18 tires

• Signature LED headlights with auto on/off feature; laser ablation design and dynamic auxiliary turn signal
• LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) with on/off feature
• LED taillights with laser ablation design and dynamic auxiliary turn signal
• Front chrome grille surround with dark gray insert and active grille shutter
• Power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade
• Aerodynamic front tangential venting
• Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield

• Dual zone automatic climate control with air filter, electric compressor, humidity sensor and rear-seat vents
• Integrated backup camera with projected path
• 7-in. Multi-Information Display (MID)
• Premium leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats, 8-way adjustable driver’s seat
with 4-way power lumbar; 8-way adjustable passenger seats with 4-way power lumbar
• 60/40 split fold-down rear seats
• Heated tilt & telescopic premium leather steering wheel with memory function, audio
Bluetooth ® hands-free and voice-command controls
• 4-Mode Switch (Eco, EV, Normal, Sport)
• 10-in color Head-Up Display (HUD) with customizable settings, speedometer, navigation,
shift position, compass, TSS-P indicators, audio, phone, and outside temperature and adjustable brightness
• Genuine wood interior trim Audio

Technology & Entertainment

• EntuneTM 3.0 Premium Audio with JBL® w/Clari-FITM, Dynamic Navigation and App Suite

• EntuneTM 3.0 Toyota Connected Services — Safety Connect with 3- year complimentary trial. Service Connect with 3-year complimentary trial

• Remote Connect with 6-month complimentary trial, Wi-Fi Connect

• Toyota Safety SenseTM P (TSS-P)- includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection function (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist function (LDA w/SA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
• Star Safety SystemTM — includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), 4-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology® (SST)
• Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

Optional Packages
• Advanced Safety Package includes – Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, Intelligent
Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking (RCTB)

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