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Visual Promotion Sep 29, 2019

2019 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid

Here’s why we shouldn’t forget sedans

 

Plus: A smooth, comfortable, quiet near-luxury sedan; planet-saving MPG; fine value; not a crossover SUV

 

Minus: Minor CVT whine, AWD not available, not a crossover SUV

 

 

 

Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid $39,000; as driven $40,942 (43/43 city/hwy MPG)

 

XLE $36,395.

 

Avalon XSE, Limited, Touring $38,895 to $43,095 (21/30 city/hwy MPG)

 

XLE, XSE, Limited also available as hybrids for $1,000 more.

 

 

 

The Avalon is the forgotten Toyota, and there’s a simple reason for this: A new Avalon can cost $40,000, which is edging into Lexus territory. In fact, the Avalon and the Lexus ES are kissing cousins. We’re all susceptible to vanity, so for more or less the same money, and equipment, would you choose the Toyota or the Lexus? Right, I thought so.

 

That’s too bad, because the Avalon shouldn’t be forgotten. This 2019 version—it’s now the 5th generation of the model—is the best one yet, by every yardstick. And it looks like a proper, grown-up sedan: long, low, sleek and beautifully detailed. When the Avalon first appeared, way back in 1994, I cut it dead—it was an old geezer’s car. Well, guess what? I’m now an old geezer. And the Avalon is looking pretty good.

 

This one is a hybrid. It’s got a 4-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors. Together, they produce 215 HP and 312 lbs of torque. That’s less horsepower than the standard Avalon’s V-6, but all that torque makes the hybrid feel quick, and it has a nice highway groove at about 80 MPH. It’s efficient, too: Going to Boston and back, I got 38.5 MPG. It should deliver 40-plus MPG—in town, too. That’s very good for such a big, comfortable, well-equipped car.

 

New for 2019 is a continuously variable automatic transmission that feels like it’s got eight speeds. It’s almost unobtrusive, with just a bit of whining under acceleration. We can shift manually, with these paddles on the

 

wheel, but why bother? The cabin is elegant, and the big touchscreen and simple controls are very friendly. I can decipher everything without my readers and the menu buttons are big enough that we geezers can hit them every time. The car connects with Alexa and also with a smartwatch. But we need an iPhone, to link to the computer, or we won’t get satellite navigation.

 

If I had a long commute, and especially if I carried passengers, this new Avalon might well be on my short list. The hybrid is particularly impressive, for two reasons: First, it doesn’t drive or feel like a hybrid. If we didn’t know it was a hybrid, we might only wonder why we don’t have to buy gas so often. And second, the upgrade costs just a thousand dollars more than a gas-only Avalon. That’s a bargain. I’ve always thought that carmakers shouldn’t charge extra for the “green” versions of their cars, even though they’re more complicated. Toyota is heading in that direction, and good for them.

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