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2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2018

The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid achieves 40 miles per gallon in combined driving. For a full-size sedan, that's astonishing, given that this vehicle segment used to be the realm of colossal V8-powered land yachts with fuel economy in the low teens. Heck, even today's reasonably efficient V6-powered Avalon can manage only 24 mpg in combined driving. Opting for the Hybrid could translate to a fuel-savings difference of $650 a year.

Now, there is a downside: The Hybrid has 68 fewer horses than the regular Avalon, and it has more weight to lug around. That makes it considerably slower, which may not fly in a segment where stout performance is expected. Yet, even if you ultimately choose power over fuel economy, know that any Avalon is an excellent full-size sedan choice. It provides an expected amount of extra space and refinement compared to a midsize sedan, while going above and beyond expectations with a cabin that rivals (or surpasses) luxury models and a list of standard features that includes accident-avoidance tech. Plus, it boasts a long, exemplary reliability record.

As such, not only could the Avalon Hybrid be the Avalon to get, but if you don't care that much about outright speed, it might also be the go-to full-size sedan, as well.

What's New for 2018?

The Avalon Hybrid is unchanged for 2018.

What We Like

Much better fuel economy than the regular Avalon and all other full-size sedans; standard accident-avoidance tech; huge and luxurious interior; renowned reliability

What We Don't

Reasonable pricing for a hybrid but still pretty high; mediocre acceleration

How Much?

$37,500-$42,800

Fuel Economy

The Avalon Hybrid's powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor and a battery pack. Total system output is 200 horsepower, which is very low for a full-size sedan. Environmental Protection Agency-rated gas mileage stands at 40 mpg in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and 40 mpg in combined driving. This is exceptional for a full-size sedan, and means you'll save hundreds of dollars every year on gas compared to a regular Avalon or another full-size sedan.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid comes in three trim levels: XLE Plus, XLE Premium and Limited. The non-hybrid Avalon is available in additional trim levels and we review that separately.

The XLE Plus ($37,500) comes standard with automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and steering assist, a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated power front seats, keyless-passive entry and push-button start, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, a USB port, a 7-in touchscreen (Toyota's Entune infotainment interface), a smartphone-based navigation app and an 8-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD Radio and an auxiliary audio jack.

The XLE Premium ($39,000) adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems, driver-memory functions, wireless smarphone charging, a 9-speaker audio system and an improved version of Toyota's Entune with a higher-resolution screen, integrated navigation and additional app functionality.

The Limited ($42,800) adds xenon headlights, upgraded gauges, auto-dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, additional front-seat power adjustments, a power rear sunshade, an 11-speaker JBL sound system and Toyota's Safety Connect system, which offers roadside assistance, automatic collision notification and more.

Safety

The 2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, 10 standard airbags, a backup camera, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and intervention and automatic high beams. The XLE Premium and Limited include rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system.

In government crash tests, the Avalon earned a 5-star overall rating. That score consisted of a 5-star side-impact rating and 4-star ratings in frontal and rollover assessments. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Avalon an excellent Top Safety Pick score, due to its top performance in all crash tests and its Superior-rated front crash-prevention system.

Behind the Wheel

Although previous Avalon models have felt floaty and disengaged behind the wheel, that's no longer true with the latest version. Instead, the 2018 Avalon offers surprisingly sharp handling and good steering feel, even in the Hybrid model, which usually gets the short end of the driving-experience stick.

Despite its improved responses, you'll find that the Avalon Hybrid still offers everything you've always liked about the Avalon. There's a smooth and comfortable ride, a roomy back seat and a well-crafted interior that dips its toe deep into the luxury pool.

Indeed, we have few gripes about the Avalon Hybrid's driving experience except to say that its acceleration is middling compared to the gas-powered model. That's probably a small trade-off for most drivers, considering the Avalon Hybrid's massive fuel economy advantage.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Lexus ES 300h -- The ES 300h shares the Avalon's platform and hybrid powertrain. It doesn't have as much space inside; its cabin is even more luxurious, and the two cars don't look anything alike, but we recommend considering both.

2018 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid -- The MKZ Hybrid is definitely worth a look, thanks to an impressive combination of bold styling, high-end materials and excellent fuel economy. Plus, despite its luxury badge and enormous standard features list, the MKZ actually costs less than the Avalon.

2018 Buick LaCrosse e-Assist -- New for 2018, the LaCrosse e-Assist is a mild hybrid and can't match the Avalon's fuel economy. However, it is considerably cheaper, meaning the stylish LaCrosse may ultimately be the less-expensive car in the long run.

Used Lexus GS 450h -- Although the GS 450h only offers 29 mpg city/34 mpg hwy, the rear-drive sedan also boasts a sportier demeanor than the Avalon and more power. Prices are high, though, so you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

We'd go for the base-level XLE Premium. It has virtually everything you need and most of what you could possibly want, and it doesn't cost a fortune, which is sort of the point of a hybrid car. The fact that it now comes standard with accident-avoidance tech sort of seals the deal from our perspective.

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2018 Toyota Avalon Hybrid: New Car Review - Autotrader