Classy Avalon Hybrid quiet, fuel efficient

The Toyota Avalon Hybrid gets a few minor upgrades as it moves into its third year. With a 17-gallon fuel tank and EPA ratings of 40 mpg, the Avalon Hybrid has a theoretical range of 680 miles on a full tank using 87 octane gas.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited

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With seven hybrid models in its portfolio, Toyota is the leader when it comes to producing vehicles with gas-electric powertrains.

This shouldn’t be surprising since though it wasn’t the first to bring the technology to the U.S. (that honor goes to Honda), Toyota’s Prius quickly became the “poster car” for green vehicles thanks to devotion it gathered among Hollywood types.

The Prius now is offered in four versions — the Hatchback, Prius v, Prius c, and Prius Plug-in. In addition, the Japanese automaker also offers hybrid propulsion for its popular Camry and Avalon sedans and the Highlander crossover.

The Avalon was the most recent addition with the company adding the hybrid for the 2013 model year when it gave the flagship sedan a personality makeover that resulted in a more stylish appearance.

For 2015, the Avalon is available in three trim levels in hybrid form — XLE Premium, XLE Touring, and XLE Limited — as compared to five in gasoline-power only models.

All are nicely equipped with such items as LED taillights, power tilt/slide moonroof, IntelliTouch controls for climate and audio systems, backup camera, rear-seat center armrest, a version of Toyota’s Entune telematics and Smart Key system on front doors and trunk with push-button start standard on all three hybrids.

The Limited also gets as standard navigation and premium audio in the upper-grade Engue system, HID headlights and LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing intermittent windshield washers, perforated leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats with a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat and 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear seats, a power rear window shade and aluminum scuff plate doorsills. Along with the XLE Touring model, the Limited also gets a blind spot monitor system with rear cross-traffic alert as standard.

Those features jack up the MSRP for the Limited to $41,700 (a $50 increase over 2014), a difference of only $3,900 over the XLE Touring and $4,230 over the XLE Premium Hybrid.

The Avalon is built on the same platform as the Lexus ES and features Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system that also is found on the Camry Hybrid. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine is rated at only 156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque, but when operating in combination with the electric motor (199 lb.-ft. of torque) the result is a combined 200 horsepower. (The Avalon also can run for short distances at lower speeds — under 20 mph the company says — on the electric motor only.)

With a CVT (continuously variable transmission) as standard, EPA ratings for the Avalon Hybrid are a robust 40 miles-per-gallon city and 39 highway or 40 combined. Though not particularly quick off the line, company clockers caught the Avalon Hybrid at 8.0 seconds for a zero-to-60 time.

That should satisfy most of the prospective buyers, who one suspects are among those who are interested only in getting from Point A to Point B when it comes to transportation goals and don’t particularly care about the fun of the journey itself. What might not make them happy is the Avalon’s firm suspension. By most standards, the ride isn’t uncomfortable, but neither is it the soft, cushy performance of past models.

Of course, with the hybrid power the Avalon is one of the quieter vehicles around. Even the annoying whine that is common among most hybrid vehicles as they comes to a stop is not as pronounced.

The Avalon’s cabin features high quality materials throughout — this is the Toyota brand’s flagship sedan, after all — with a goodly number of luxury amenities. When it comes to technology, the Avalon’s touch-screen system for operating such items as audio and navigation systems has the advantage of simplicity over the mouse-like Remote Touch system that is featured on many Lexus models.

But maybe you like complexity.

For a look at the Toyota Avalon and some specs, check out the accompanying slide show.

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