Thursday, February 11, 2016

Toyota's Avalon loses nothing in hybrid form

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­– I’ve been a longtime fan of the Toyota Avalon, having reviewed it enough times to get that point across.

It’s a Lexus-level sedan with Toyota badging, loaded with plentiful comfort, convenience and safety perks.

But a recent week in a 2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited model was a new experience.  The good news: This hybrid version of the venerable Avalon does not diminish the model’s reputation.

If anything, it enhances it.

Over years of reviewing hybrid vehicles, I’m still stuck on old-school values.  For me, the best thing a hybrid motor vehicle does is make me forget that it’s a hybrid.  A bad-news bias?

Not at all.  Let me explain.

I’ve tested dodgy hybrids – especially first-generation models rolled out years ago – that gave well-made hybrids a bad name.  They spoiled the motoring experience with clunky transitions between electric and traditional internal-combustion power … or fuel mileage that fell far short of what was advertised … or making loud, whining noises that gave me the alarming impression that I was about to be crushed by a speeding fire engine.

The tested Avalon did none of this.  What it did was deliver peppy, reliable performance in a quiet manner.

The Avalon Hybrid was equipped with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine matched with a 105-kilowatt electric motor, what Toyota calls a Hybrid Synergy Drive System.  The automaker’s engineers say the system works to provide a maximum 200 horsepower, and yes, that was more than adequate to move the tester with authority, when asked.

The big bonus of the system is 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.

The current-generation Avalon looks good, classy enough to park at the country club but sleek enough in profile to get the occasional challenge from a freeway lead foot.  As is seemingly required these days, a monster-size grille adorns the front end.

My tester sparkled in the sunlight with arguably the coolest exterior paint color name I’ve ever encountered: Parisian Night Pearl.

On the inside, luxury and customer-pleasing goodies were wall to wall.  The lineup included premium, leather-trimmed, heated/ventilated, power front seats with lumbar support; a power rear window sunshade; three-zone climate control; and a surrounding cushion of 10 air bags.

The bottom line on the tester was $43,285.  That’s a hefty price to be sure, but again, this is a Lexus-like transporter capable of delivering years of driving enjoyment, and simultaneously saving you serious coin on your annual fuel expenses.

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