Since Ford’s LTD in 1965, entry-level brands have been fielding near-premium sedans. The LTD may have long ago went the way of eight-track tapes, but big, well-optioned sedans built by mass-market automakers live on, albeit precariously. Yet despite the shrinking relevance of the niche, Toyota remains committed to the segment with its evergreen Avalon. It offers buyers features aplenty in a package boasting traditional comfort and size, a formula that carries on for 2018. The Avalon Hybrid elevates the big Toyota's persona by adding to the mix a fuel efficient gas/electric hybrid powertrain.
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2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Overview
What's New for 2018
The Avalon Hybrid quietly motors into 2018 largely unaltered, save for a slight change in trim level nomenclature. Toyota introduced a redesigned Avalon at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, with sales slated to begin in spring 2018.
Choosing Your Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Buyers can outfit their parsimonious Avalon in one of three trims: XLE Plus, XLE Premium and Limited. Regardless of the level of equipment and ornamentation, all Avalon Hybrids sport a 2.5-liter four cylinder that is mated to an electric motor. The result of this marriage is a combined 200 horsepower sent to the front wheels through an electric continuously variable transmission. For added efficiency, an EV drive mode allows drivers to operate in purely electric mode for short distances under 20 mph. Fuel economy for the hybrid is an impressive 40 miles per gallon city, 39 highway, and 40 combined.
Three interior hues and a variety of exterior paints are available, including the lavishly named Oh La La Rouge, Crème Brulee and Sizzling Crimson. Topping off the exterior aesthetics are the standard 17-inch wheels, finished in either dark gray for XLE Plus and Premium models or more traditional chrome for the top-spec Limited.
On the safety side of things, all flavors of Avalon come with ten airbags, braking assist and smart-stop brake override, as well as the expected ABS and stability control.
Of the three Avalon Hybrid trims, there's not a single optional extra.
The Hybrid Limited is priced right in the mechanically identical - and more prestigious - Lexus ES territory; in fact, an ES Hybrid only costs an additional $120 more once the destination charge is factored in. Because of this, buyers shouldn't go past the XLE Premium, which gives buyers an excellent amount of content at a price point still a few thousand below the Lexus.
2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Review
The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, the fuel efficiency leader of the lineup, offers a controlled and supple ride, modern design, roomy interior, and a wide range of advanced safety features. But handling is far from sporty, the bland interior can't match the contemporary exterior, and upper trims are priced dangerously close to Lexus territory.
Prices for the 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid range from $38,395 for the Hybrid XLE Plus to over $44,000 for a Hybrid Limited model. Base models include 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and seating (heated in front), keyless push-button start, and a seven-inch touchscreen. Toyota Safety Sense P is also standard and includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning with steering assist.
With a single drivetrain and with upper trims offering few things of consequence to entice (memory seats, wireless charging, navigation, perforated leather seats, and heated rear seats) and priced dangerously close to the Lexus ES 300h, we'd go for the entry-level Hybrid XLE Plus model. Here's how we'd build it:
- Model: 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE Plus
- Engine/Drive Unit: 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine / 60-hp electric motor / 1.6-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack
- Output: 156 hp (engine), 141 hp (electric motor), 200 hp(system net) / 156 lb-ft (engine), 199 lb-ft (electric motor)
- Transmission: CVT automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 40 City / 39 Highway
- Options: None
- Base Price: $38,395 (including a $895 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $38,395
The hybrid powertrain offers acceptable acceleration courtesy of the main electric motor, while the ride manages to be firm without being harsh. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid has excellent fuel economy, returning an EPA-estimated 40 miles per gallon in the city, 39 on the highway, and 40 combined.
At the same time, the ride is hardly sporty. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder can sound harsh when you put your foot into it, the transition between friction and regenerative braking isn't entirely seamless, and an all-wheel-drive system isn't offered.
Interior and Exterior
The Avalon's contemporary exterior is wrapped around an interior that offers plenty of leg and head room for five adults to travel in comfort, courtesy of a long wheelbase and generous seats. Its trunk houses 14 cubic feet of space – only two less than the non-hybrid – for plenty of luggage room. An acoustic windshield and side glass contribute to a hushed ride even at highway speeds.
At the same time, the front fascia is far too aggressive for a hybrid, while the simple interior doesn't reflect the exterior's graceful touches. The wide seats also lack sufficient bolstering, and the hybrid also loses the versatility of a rear-seat pass-through. The low roofline requires a small duck to reach the rear seats, and traditional dashboard knobs and buttons have been replaced by less-tactile touch-sensitive controls.
The Best and Worst Things
The Avalon Hybrid's combination of excellent fuel economy, smooth ride, and advanced safety tech is enticing. We only wish its slick exterior design carried over into the cabin, and that upper trims weren't priced so closely to comparable Lexus models.
Right For? Wrong For?
With classic looks, excellent fuel economy, and luxury touches on base models priced thousands less than a Lexus, the Avalon Hybrid should appeal to eco- and value-conscious luxury buyers.
With an ungainly-looking front fascia and ride and handling geared toward comfort rather than fun, the Avalon could prove to be a turn off for both style-conscious and enthusiast buyers.
The Bottom Line
Despite a bland interior, sedate handling and performance, and a top trim sticker price that can surpass the entry-level Lexus ES 300h, the 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid's comfortable ride, roomy interior, excellent fuel economy, and standard advanced safety features make it a top pick in its class.