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2019 Toyota Avalon: Real World Review

  • The Toyota Avalon has been updated for 2019.
  • It provides a traditional sedan feel.
  • The Hybrid gets an estimated 43 miles per gallon city and 44 mpg highway.

It’s hard to be objective about the 2019 Toyota Avalon. Long before I even drove the new, updated version, I knew it was the kind of car I’d like. Similarly, I like the Acura RLX, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala Premiere, Honda Accord Touring, Kia Cadenza (quite a bit), Lexus LS 500 and Nissan Maxima. The Avalon has always felt a cut or two below some of these other large sedans — well, only in recent years. If you go back to the mid-2000s, it was essentially a moderately priced Lexus. Granted, one where you had to mingle with Corolla owners when needing service, but a very Lexus-like car regardless.

This time around, I’m behind the wheel of the hybrid Limited version and, in the real world, there are some clear high points with the Avalon and a few things that could be better. Two things that stand out right away are the car’s exterior look and the large touchscreen inside. One passenger said he thought the screen looked tacked on, like an afterthought. I actually like the look and size of that screen. It sits away from the dash, almost looking like a portable tablet. Of course, it’s not a portable tablet, that’s just the look. Cars from BMW, Cadillac, Kia, Mazda, Lexus and Lincoln have this same kind of setup — it’s a trend. I think it looks exactly right in the Avalon, maybe even adding to the luxury or near-luxury vibe. But that screen is really big, measuring nine inches.

Sharp New Look

The other thing I noticed right away was the car’s new exterior look. Up front, it looks a lot like other Toyotas, maybe even more like a Lexus ES than ever before. I think the view from the rear is the best, somehow managing to give the big sedan a stylish, European look. The quad or dual exhaust outlets on the gasoline-powered models make it look like all that sheet metal might be hiding a performance sedan. With the hybrid model, the exhaust outlets are hidden even though it still uses gasoline — I guess I can see the logic in that.

If there’s an issue with the Avalon, it’s with the overall execution of the interior. The version I was driving was a gray car with a gray interior. Might I just be reacting to the color scheme? Probably. Still, some of the materials are not what I’d expect in a $45,000 sedan, even though the base price is under $40,000.

There are interesting patterns, and that big touchscreen really impresses. Still, some of the buttons in the center console area (like the seat warmers) are small and basic-looking. Typical of Toyota, for every negative there’s a kind of "yes, but …" nod to practicality. Both the seat warmers and ventilated seat buttons are kind of small, but they have three levels so you can custom cool or warm your backside. If having a luxurious-looking interior is important to you, get the beige leather or "Cognac" interior.

The hybrid has more than adequate acceleration and relaxed highway ride. The Avalon isn’t excessively soft or floaty, managing to give a comfortable, compliant ride while still delivering decent handling. Even on rough-surfaced freeways, the car remains reasonably quiet.

The hybrid gets an estimated 43 miles per gallon in the city and 44 mpg on the highway. Not bad for a large sedan. That’s much better than the RAV4 hybrid, but nowhere near the Prius’ 58 mpg city/53 mpg hwy.

Versions

There are a variety of Avalon flavors. Here’s what you can expect when shopping for one. There are several basic versions of the 2019 Toyota Avalon and three distinct Avalon hybrid models:

  • XLE is the "base" model and costs about $36,000. It includes notable features like LED exterior lights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 17-inch wheels, dual zone climate control, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and a a 9-in touchscreen. A JBL audio system is available, as is wireless phone charging.
  • XSE is like a blending of a sporty and luxury model. It’s priced just under $40,000 and adds cooler-looking 19-in wheels, aluminum interior accents, a moonroof and adds wireless phone charging as standard.
  • Limited is one notch from the top and is $42,720. This plusher version of the Avalon has heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, wood accents inside, ambient lighting, Entune 3.0 and a 14-speaker JBL sound system. Limited buyers can add the Advanced Safety Package, which gives you a 360-degree view parking camera and rear cross-traffic braking, among other features. Also, the Limited gets those cool Audi-like sequential turn-signals. It’s a little thing, but it does make the car seem unique.
  • Touring is top-of-the-line, but only a few hundred dollars more than the Limited. At $43,120, you get a V6 engine, four driving modes with adaptive suspension, active noise-canceling and a head-up display. The only option here is the Advanced Safety Package — get it and you’re looking at a $45,000 car. That’s not cheap, but the Touring is a lot of car for the money.

There are also three versions of the Avalon Hybrid: XLE, XSE and Limited. The Touring is not offered as a hybrid.

If you’re really looking for a plush Toyota or just a nice, big sedan and, for some reason, have ruled out Lexus, get the Touring. The active noise canceling, driver-selectable modes, wood trim and head-up display could easily be part of a $3,500 option package on some luxury sedans. It’s worth noting that the 2019 Lexus ES starts at about $3,000 more than the Avalon XLE, so the two cars don’t have a crazy price gap.

Personally, I really like big sedans. If you’re looking for a large sedan, there are plenty of good ones available. Judged solely on the merits of car alone, I think the Avalon is about the third best pick. The Chrysler 300 is a good fit spiritually, but has a distinctly American feel (for better or worse). The Kia Cadenza has a more luxurious vibe inside and out, and the new Lexus ES is a notch or two above both of those. The Honda Accord has grown to the point where it might make a legitimate Avalon alternative, too. The Nissan Maxima has a younger, sportier demeanor, and the Acura RLX shouldn’t be discounted either, although its starting price is about $20,000 higher and comes off as more technologically sophisticated than the Avalon offering all-wheel drive and 377 hp — more than 70 over the V6 Avalon.

Once you factor in the Avalon’s expected resale value and reliability, it quickly rises to the top, though it isn’t the best big sedan money can buy. In fact, it might be the least luxurious. However, when you consider all aspects of ownership, features, options and price, it’s an incredible value and the kind of car you can simply drive for a decade without much thought.

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