Full 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Toyota Avalon is essentially unchanged other than minor adjustments to standard feature content.
As the established leader of the hybrid car movement, Toyota saw fit to expand this gas-saving technology to its popular full-size sedan, the Avalon. As such, the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid offers excellent fuel economy for a large sedan combined with all the amenities and style of the standard Avalon, which was redesigned just last year.
Accordingly, the Avalon Hybrid has the same sharp, sweeping look that might have you mistaking it for a European luxury sedan. Inside, the handsome, roomy cabin boasts high-quality materials and all the latest luxury and convenience features. Underneath it all is a well-sorted suspension that provides surefooted handling along with a comfy ride.
The heart of the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is the same powertrain found in the Camry Hybrid: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. It pumps out a respectable 200 horsepower combined. More importantly, it allows this big sedan to earn an EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating of 40 mpg. Factor in the 17-gallon gas tank and you're looking at a theoretical range of nearly 700 miles between fill-ups.
The Avalon Hybrid also happens to be pretty much in a class by itself, as no non-premium brand automakers currently offer full hybrid systems in their large sedans. A mild-hybrid version of the 2014 Buick LaCrosse is available, but its fuel economy and overall driving demeanor can't match the Avalon's. If you don't need quite as much room, you might consider a midsize alternative, such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid (or its cousin, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid), the Honda Accord Hybrid or Toyota's Camry Hybrid.
All the midsizers are a little smaller inside than the Avalon, though they do boast even higher fuel economy (except the Camry). And don't discount 2014 Volkswagen's Passat TDI (diesel) as another, less costly alternative with lower mechanical complexity. It earns 34 mpg combined and up to 40 mpg on the highway. Overall, though, the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid's excellent fuel economy, distinctive styling and accommodating cabin make for a pretty impressive package.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a five-passenger sedan offered in XLE Premium, XLE Touring and Limited trim levels.
The XLE Premium comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, a four-way power front passenger seat and heated front seats. Electronic features include keyless ignition/entry, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display and an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
The XLE Touring adds foglights, driver seat and side mirror memory functions, a navigation system and Toyota's Entune smartphone app integration system.
The Limited includes the above and adds xenon headlights, auto-dimming side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, upgraded leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, an eight-way power passenger seat, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a rear power sunshade, hard-drive based navigation, a 7-inch touchscreen display and an 11-speaker JBL premium sound system.
Some of the upper trims' features are available as options for the lower trims, while the Limited also offers the available Technology package which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlight control and a forward collision warning system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor that's fed by a trunk-mounted battery pack. Combined, the two power units are good for 200 hp. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) delivers power to the front wheels.
According to EPA estimates, the Avalon Hybrid returns 40 mpg combined (40 city/39 highway). In Edmunds performance testing, an Avalon Hybrid Limited accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. This is about a second slower than the regular Avalon or most other conventional large sedans, but average for a hybrid sedan.
Standard safety features include traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side-curtain airbags and front knee-airbags. The Limited comes with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts (optional on the Touring). Also standard on the Limited is Toyota's Safety Connect service, which includes roadside assistance, stolen-vehicle location and automatic collision-notification. The Limited's optional Technology package includes a frontal pre-collision warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Avalon Hybrid stopped from 60 mph in 132 feet -- about 5 feet longer than average for the segment.
In government crash tests, the Avalon Hybrid received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the otherwise similar non-hybrid Avalon scored a "Good" rating -- the highest possible -- in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The Avalon's seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Avalon Hybrid's interior is spacious and elegant, with high-quality materials throughout. The front seats are very comfortable and highly adjustable, with plenty of side bolstering and lumbar support for both the driver and the front passenger. As you'd expect for this class of car, the Avalon's rear seats are quite roomy.
The Touring and Limited come standard with Entune, a suite of smartphone-connected services and apps that includes features like the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio, real-time traffic and sports and stock information. Getting started with Entune is a hassle, since you have to install an app on your phone, register for an account, and you always need an active data connection to use it. In addition, the car has to be parked to access many of Entune's apps (many of which you probably already have installed on your smartphone). Finally, the touchscreen interface has straightforward menus, but it's sometimes unresponsive to user touch.
Storage compartments provide ample room for drinks and personal effects. The lower section of the center console provides a convenient "eBin" with power cords passing through a sliding panel for two cell phones and auxiliary and USB connections. A large center armrest provides more storage space and additional connectivity and charging for cell phones. The trunk offers 14 cubic feet of space, which is less than the regular Avalon but still more than what's available from the typical midsize hybrid sedan.
Your first thought when driving the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid might be one of mild surprise, as the big sedan feels more responsive and surefooted than previous Toyota Avalons. The steering is somewhat slow, but still feels reassuringly precise during typical driving maneuvers. Overall, the Avalon Hybrid just feels easy to drive. The one significant gripe we have is that the brakes can feel grabby under light braking until you acclimate to them.
The hybrid model's 200-horsepower rating isn't a whole lot for a big car like this, but for the most part, acceleration is perfectly adequate. The Avalon Hybrid is also exceptionally quiet, equaling the hushed demeanor of a large luxury sedan while cruising at highway speeds.