2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid- Fresh Athleticism and High MPGs

by Tony West and Bill P.

The 2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid turns out to be a worthy adversary to the Fusion Hybrid and Accord Hybrid. The refreshed 2017 Avalon is available in XLE, XLE Plus, Premium, Touring, Limited, and Hybrid models in colors like Celestial Silver Metallic, Ooh La La Rouge Mica, and Parisian Night Pearl. The Avalon is slightly larger and more luxurious than its Camry cousin, but adding the efficiency of a hybrid powertrain makes the sedan lighter and sportier. We reviewed the 2017 Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium this fall taking the super-efficient whip all over Chicago and a few suburbs.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Avalon Hybrid proves fantastic for long commuting as the tranquil cabin makes sitting in rush hour traffic less of a headache. The fully-loaded Avalon Hybrid has cool standard features like a 7 inch touchscreen, 17 and 18 inch alloy wheels, smoked LED taillights, sunroof, plus leather wood grain and suede(ish) interior accents. Fine-tuned MacPherson strut front and dual link independent MacPherson strut rear suspension give the Avalon unprecedented agility and road resilience for a hybrid.

 

Familiar Design w/ Refined Aerodynamic Flair

For 2017 designers give the Avalon sedan a sleeker fascia, big grille and chrome accents all-around. The 2017 Avalon Hybrid has the same dimensions as the XLE, Touring and Limited models. The full-size sedan is 195 inches long with a 110 inch wheelbase. Quadrabeam halogen headlights are standard with smoke LED taillights plus hidden chrome-accented exhaust. The Hybrid Limited model features 18 inch super chrome alloy wheels, HID headlights and LED daytime running lights.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

A sleeker more muscular body gives the Avalon Hybrid a coefficient drag of just .28. And the lighter sedan with its big grille and creased hood glides on the highway. Not only does the refinements of the Hybrid Avalon give it a more dynamic performance, the drive itself feels more smoother, and with an electric motor- near silent. The 2018 Avalon Hybrid model is even more chiseled.

The Avalon has always been a great professional sedan with luxury elements inside. For the 2017 Avalon Hybrid, designers dialed back the luxury a little in favor of a larger touchscreen and more comfort and infotainment technology. Smart Key and the push button start are still standard on all models. The Avalon XLE Plus offers standard leather-trimmed 8-way power driver’s seat and 4-way power passenger seat with smoked chrome accents on the door and the center stack plus wood-grain style trim. Also standard is an eBin electronic phone holder. The eBin slides back to reveal one of three 12V outlets, and aux and USB port. The Avalon Hybrid XLE Premium package adds a cool Qi-compatible wireless phone charger, though I couldn’t get it to work.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid interior
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid interior

The top-of-the-line Avalon Hybrid Limited features perforated premium leather-trimmed multi-stage heated and ventilated front seats. Drivers have a 10-way power seat with cushion extender and passengers, an 8-way power seat. Three-zone climate control with filter is standard for the top models, and rear passengers have heated seats and a power sunshade. The resin scuff plate door sills are cool on the Avalon XLE Plus model but the aluminum scuff plates on the Avalon XLE Premium are cooler. Also cool is ice white interior ambient lighting. The steering wheel is also leather-trimmed and houses controls for phone, audio, cruise control, lane departure warning, Bluetooth, and the 3.5 inch TFT color multi information display.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid instrument cluster and MID
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid instrument cluster and MID

The 2017 Avalon Hybrid’s driver’s dash features the typical speedometer and coolant temp meter. Instead of a tachometer, the Hybrid has a Hybrid power meter that shows the hybrid power charge during regenerative braking and the power use during acceleration. At the center of the dash, the customizable digital multi information display shows range, speed, shift position, current and average fuel economy, navigation, energy monitor, and the drive mode indicator.

I also like the refinements of the Avalon Hybrid’s center stack, though it protrudes forward so much. It could be because of the Hybrid powertrain, but the center dash and stack area has a convex design where the touchscreen and dash hover more over the front passenger’s leg area, virtually cutting knee and ‘elbow’ room by a quarter.

Only two slender vents sit in the center above the touchscreen and on each side of the dash, and they’re small so it takes longer to cool off the cabin. There also seems to be less storage, with just small door pockets and a small center console. Yet legroom and hip room space is abundant and the trunk offers 14 cu.ft. The front passengers have 42 inches of legroom and rear passengers 39 inches.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid center touchscreen
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid center touchscreen

Aside from that the layout is clean and simplified. Intelligent Touch controls replace buttons with touch surfaces. All Avalon models have a 7 inch hi-res touchscreen with backup camera, Entune audio and infotainment. The Avalon XLE Premium we reviewed has a Premium JBL Audio system with the Entune multimedia bundle, navigation and App Suite. The Entune Premium JBL system includes nine speakers, Siri, predicative traffic, weather, and Gracenotes album art. The Avalon Hybrid Limited features 11 JBL Greenedge speakers, including a subwoofer.

 

 

Clean Well-Balanced Performance with Athletic Edge

The best feature of the new Avalon Hybrid is its powertrain that elegantly blends efficiency, durability and serenity. The 2017 Avalon Hybrid has a total output of 200 horsepower with a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder and 105 kW/4 electric motor. The 16-valve DOHC gas engine features aluminum components and variable valve timing. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission is matched to the powertrain. The 4-cylinder boasts 156 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, and the electric motor 199 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid battery pack is made from sealed nickel-metal hydride.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid hybrid drive unit
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid hybrid drive unit

The Avalon Hybrid’s performance was what I was most impressed with. Usually the Avalon is sleek and smooth on the highway. The Avalon Hybrid feels lighter on its feet and pierces through the wind at high speeds. Whether cruising or speeding down the highway, the Avalon Hybrid floated like a spaceship. Tranquility ensues when I’m cruising and the whip goes into full eco mode.

The front-wheel drive /front-engine Avalon Hybrid is great at high speeds and while in stop-and go-traffic because of its fantastic suspension and seamless steering and shifting. Swerving, and cornering feel effortless. Electric Power Steering is standard. MacPherson strut front and rear suspension handle great in various weather and road conditions. Braking however is kinda crappy.

The Avalon Hybrid has a special Electronically Controlled Brake System and that may be the reason the ventilated front disc brakes and solid disc brakes in the rear felt harsh most times. Just a mild tap of the brakes sent the Avalon Hybrid flying forward. When I had to slam the brakes it was jarring for the passengers in the front and back.

2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
2016-2017 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Avalon Hybrid also offers Eco, Sport and EV mode drive mode selector. EV Mode will allow for the Avalon Hybrid to cruise at low speeds soley on electric power. Sport mode adds a little agility and the suspension feels lower, but truly all three modes feel like Eco mode in the Avalon Hybrid. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the Avalon Hybrid still maintains it athletic character in any mode. And a combined EPA of 40 mpg is better than many of its hybrid competitors.

The 2017 Toyota Avalon, though it beeps warnings for a way too many features, earned a five-star overall safety rating. Toyota Safety Sense is standard featuring the Pre-Collision system with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Smart Stop Technology, Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Also standard is the Star Safety System with Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control, ABS and EBD. Smart Stop Technology and regenerative braking are standard features that add yet another level of efficiency.

The Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is also standard on the Avalon Hybrid.

Safety Connect, which is complimentary for one year on the Avalon Limited, includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Auto Collision Notification.

The 2017 Toyota Avalon model is overall unchanged this year. But the Avalon Hybrid’s new attitude is notable. It will be interesting to see if the refined sporty hybrid technology will make its way into more lux Toyota cars and trucks.

 

Check out more pic from our First Drive with the Toyota Avalon Hybrid on our Facebook page.