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.

Best Value

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

Performance

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

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?

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

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.