By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is an awfully good midsize sedan. The brand’s flagship car was given a complete makeover that didn’t get that much attention in a world dominated by utility vehicles.
Still, it should be noted that the 2019 Avalon Hybrid went from a fairly boring design to soothing akin to a snazzy design.
The car had a new wide grille that was dominant. Overall the new Avalon was longer, lower and wider. That really gave it a sleek appearance, especially in dark colors. Our test vehicle was opulent amber. It looked black until the sun caught it.
New stamping methods allowed for deep draw panels that expressed distinguishable sculpted forms. Complex surfaces could now be shaped, like the at Avalon’s door handles that coincided with its profile’s robust character line. A distinct, carved lower rocker panel behind the front wheels visually exemplified the benefits of its new global platform.
We had the Limited Avalon Hybrid. It was the top-of-the-line and had all the bells and whistles as they say. There were slim LED headlights, three dimensional surfaces, an aluminum hood with longitudinal lines and the new grille had tangential vents at its lower portion for passing air across the front tires.
Horizontal character lines were across the back, at the top, center, and lower portions of the car. The Avalon’s 72.8-in. width, in effect, was highlighted by the distinct sectioning. Connected LED tail lamps shaped in a three-dimensional, “aero fin” style differentiated the back from the last generation Avalon. They integrated the backup, stop, and turn lights into a single harmonious, fluid form. In short, the 2019 Avalon Hybrid looked good.
The Avalon was what Toyota called a premium midsize sedan. But it looked full size. However, it didn’t handle like a big car.
A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine was more fuel efficient, ran cleaner, and was more powerful than previous iterations. The four-cylinder was married to an all-new Toyota Hybrid System II powertrain that was engineered for both spirited driving and fuel consciousness. The hybrid system’s net power output was 215 horsepower – up 15 horsepower versus the outgoing version.
THS II used two electric motors – MG1 and MG2 – to supplement the charging of the hybrid system’s Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack, while MG2 assists the engine. It was mated to an electric variable transmission, or ECVT.
Mileage was an impressive 43 mpg across the board. In other words, it got 43 mpg in the city, 43 mpg on the highway and 43 mpg combined.
The car was nowhere near as sluggish as some hybrids. Acceleration was good. Of course, there were strong-grip regenerative brakes and the battery is now under the rear seat instead of in the trunk. That created a cavernous cargo space in back.
In addition to the LED headlights, the test car had LED daytime running lights as well. There were adaptive cornering lights, turn signals on the outside mirrors which had the blind side monitoring alert. It also had 18-inch alloy wheels.
We thought the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel a nice touch. That was just the beginning of a stand out interior. It was dominated by a 10-inch infotainment touch screen that looked like a one piece tablet affixed to the dash. Fit and finish which has always been a Toyota strong point was outstanding. That made the screen even more dominant.
There where heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats. The interior was a three tone motif. It was burnt orange, brown and black. It sounds garish but it was nicely done. The leather wrapped power tilt and telescope steering felt good in our hands.
The doors and seats had quilted leather. And seating surfaces were perforated. There was authentic aluminum pieces and Yamaha-sourced wood trim around the arm rests, center console and instrument panels.
The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid had a smart key for the locks and the ignition. There were full power windows all round and a head up display. The steering wheel was heated and there was a moonroof. We always appreciate overhead cameras which this car had as well as automatic high beams.
The climate controls were beneath the infotainment screen and there was a 12V plug beneath them. Three USB jacks were inside of the center console. This Avalon Hybrid had three drive modes: eco, normal and sport. There was also an EV mode. Oh, almost forgot, there was a compartment for the wireless charger for a compatible smartphone.
We climbed in the back and found those seats spacious. There were two more USB jacks on the back of the center console. Although there was plenty of head space, three people would probably be a bit uncomfortable because of the fairly pronounced tunnel.
And it gets a little close around the C pillar because the headliner is thick. Still, there was plenty of space. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid was a comfortable sedan from stem to stern.
Toyota boasted that it used soft-touch materials throughout – around the flowing, low-profile center console decorated in piano black trim; on the slim, tiered instrument panel leading into the doors; in the rear compartment, where doors and console mirror the impressive craftsmanship seen in the front cockpit.
We agree. Take off the badging and we think anyone would be hard pressed to know that the car was a Toyota. The material and finish made it seem like a luxury car. To call the Avalon Hybrid a premium car is not an overstatement.
Behind the steering wheel, a 7-inch Multi-Information Display showed vehicle information, turn-by-turn navigation, and various vehicle settings (including those pertaining to Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, available Intelligent Clearance Sonar, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Head-Up Display).
Of course, there was satellite radio, voice controls and Bluetooth. For $45,118, the 2019 Toyota Hybrid Limited deserves a look for those shopping for a midsized fuel efficient car.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com