Great Car for the Money despite some shortcomings.
written on 02-11-2016
Recently test drove a used 2013 Avalon Hybrid XLE Touring, New 2015 Avalon Hybrid Limited & New 2016 Avalon Hybrid Limited. We purchased the 2015 Avalon Hybrid Limited with 0% financing for 60mos. & traded a 2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited. I really noticed very little difference in the 2016 model in comfort & ride and the pricing on the 2015 we purchased was phenomenal - $34k before tax. Being a bit OCD & a heavy researcher/review reader before taking the plunge on a new vehicle it should be know that there are definitely some trade-offs with the Avalon. First off, the driver seat is much reviewed for being uncomfortable...especially on longer rides. On the Limited model, there is 10 way adjustability...I initially experienced this weird "I love the seat but can't fully get comfortable" feeling when first driving. But, after taking some time to really tweak the settings on the driver seat - I found my happy spot. The 2015 Avalon Hybrid drivers seat reminds me of some of my old BMW Sport Package seats. The seats aren't Cadillac plush, they're definitely more BMW "luxury/sport" seats. The ride isn't as soft as the old Cadillacs were but it's close. I can say it's a more sporty ride (you feel more road) but with a quiet cabin & Hybrid gas conservation. When you're on nice interstate or highway pavement - they can floats like a dream. On harsh roads, you will definitely get some feedback in the driving experience. Gas Mileage: Window sticker states 40/39. I am still trying to play with my driving & using the ECO setting to get these numbers. I love the fact a vehicle this big has better than average pickup, has 600+ mile range on a tank of gas and averages in the mid to high 30's in mpg's. Being that I am driving in the current winter cold of Chicago, I wonder how the Spring/Summer warmer weather will affect the gas mileage. Overall, I am still pleased with what I am seeing in gas mileage. Pricing: These cars definitely can be found for bargain basement pricing. Essentially a Lexus, minus a wood grained, heated steering wheel, etc. But for about $10k less coupled with Toyota reliability - this is the part for me that sold me. I can live with some minor annoyances for the fact most Toyota's will see 200k if maintained. The initial depreciation is steep on these cars if you pay sticker (but most can be picked up for under invoice if you shop a bit). Used 13-15 Avalon Hybrids tend to be priced in the $23-30k range used depending on mileage. Electronics/Entune/Navigation: THE BAD: Being that I own a 2008 Toyota Sequoia Limited & 2013 Toyota Prius - I already knew the Toyota navigation system was garbage. Directions are just bad/wrong. The fact you can't do anything on the touch screen while moving is a huge annoyance. Directions themselves are garbage & what takes me 3 minutes to input a location (again, while completely stopped) on the Avalon Nav system I can simply open my Google Maps on my iPhone, speak my destination & have guidance up in 20 seconds. I don't understand how these car manufacturers are so far behind the curve on this. The Entune app is also awful! The functionality works 10% of the time. Lastly, I am experiencing issues with Bluetooth music skipping when streamed from my iPhone...I haven't fully investigated this yet but never had this issue in my Prius? THE GOOD: Lots of bells & whistles to play with and customize. The Audio is very crisp & clear on the 11 speaker JBL speakers on the Limited model. The Auto heat is perfect. Front & Rear Heated seats are great. Rear Sunshade is very nice for kids in the backseat. I love the blind spot detection, rain sensing wipers & HID headlights. Great night visibility. Small annoyances: Engine can be a bit sluggish/hesitant when driving between ECO/Power...like the engine can't quite make up it's mind. It's subtle but admittedly annoying. Radio setup/presets are confusing. Why give a driver the option to choose FM/AM/XM if presets for each don't change/come up? MPG: Hoping there's a little driving learning curve as Toyota numbers have always, in my experience, been as advertised. I'd like to see at least 37/38 going forward. But, again, this is a big sedan that moves well that I'm complaining about getting 36.5 currently...kind of an oxymoron as cars this size normally didn't ever approach these MPG numbers prior to the advent of the hybrid engine. Last, but not least, what I LOVE about the Avalon: The drive. Some hate it, but I think its sporty & refined. The gas mileage. The roominess, trunk space, all the little bells & whistles. Number 1 Love: The bang for the buck! I think this is a car that flies under the radar with most buyers. You don't see a ton on the road as the senior market who owned the Avalon's prior to the 2013 redesign apparently were put off by the new firmer ride. This amounts to a great buying opportunity for most who don't care about Audi, Mercedes, Lexus or Cadillac badging.
I'm an auto broker, so I am always driving, seeing, studying new cars. I leased the Avalon Hybrid Ltd because it was the best lease value available in June 2015. I've had mostly BMW's over the past 15 years, but the past years I have leased a Prius, Camry Hybrid and now this Avalon Hybrid Ltd. All three cars were well-equipped, but my car has such luxuries as Blind-spot mirrors, Heated & Cooled Front Seats, Heated Rear Seat, Power Rear Window Shade, Active Back-up Camera, Navigation and Toyota Entune. These last two are quite disappointing to say the least. If I drive in "economy" mode and carefully, I can get over 40 mpg, but typically average about 37 mpg. If I drive a little bit more aggressively, I still get 34-37 mpg. I would prefer a BMW, but to get one with the comfort and luxuries afforded by my car, I'd have to pay about a 75-100% lease payment. Also, I have not had one single person get into my car without asking if it was a Lexus or telling me how luxurious it is. Nice for the price.
Limited 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
The 2015 Avalon Hybid Limited has terrific styling and a quit comfortable ride. Got nearly 600 miles on the first tank of gas, yet the acceleration and power are impressive. Fit and finish are as fine as any car we tried. Only two months ownership, but we love the car so far. April 2017: We still love the car, but have had a problem with the locks and trunk opener--they have sometimes failed to engage and so we have had to leave the car unlocked and have had to open the trunk without the fob. By the time we get the car to the dealer, however, the difficulty has gone away (twice), and the dealer tells us they can't diagnose the problem unless it is an active issue. We also left the car in the garage for three weeks and came home to a dead starter battery. Fortunately, the starter battery is in the trunk, and I was able to jump start the car. When I told the dealer representative about the run-down battery, he shrugged and said, "Happens frequently with a hybrid. Get a trickle charger." After a little research, I found out that a trickle charger was the wrong suggestion. It can overcharge the battery and shorten its lifespan. A big deal, because replacement cost for the hybrid starter battery is $600! On advice of a friend who owed a car repair shop for many years, we purchased instead a Battery Minder, which has a sensor that cuts off charging when the battery is fully charged. It won't run down the battery. But for peace of mind we still have regularly to connect and unconnect the Battery Minder I'm disappointed that the dealership didn't 1) counsel us on the tendency for hybrid starter batteries to run down when not started for a period, and 2) gave us bad advice on how to cope. I'm also unhappy about the inability to diagnose the intermittent problem with locking the vehicle.
Overall, I am very happy with my Avalon Hybrid Touring. It has an attractive exterior styling that I have not tired of. As a previous Avalon owner, I do not find the ride to be a problem. When I test-drove the vehicle, it did seem more firm, but now I don't even notice it. The interior styling and materials are top notch. People getting into the car often comment on how nice it is and ask whether it is actually a Toyota. Trunk space is certainly adequate. A feature which is new to me are the cross traffic alerts and blind spot monitoring. Both have already prevented accidents. Pulling out of a grocery store parking space with a large SUV on either side, the system alerted me to a truck which was moving too fast and not paying attention to cars pulling out of spots. Another time as I made a left turn, the system alerted me of a car to my right also turning, having not realized there were two left turn lanes. I will never buy another car without these features. Some of the descriptions about how it runs in all electric mode are misleading. "EV Mode" setting is worthless for two reasons. One, it rarely works. With the least bit of acceleration or speed, it will kick out of EV mode. Equally relevant, "Eco Mode" will use all electric when the speed, acceleration, and battery level are sufficient. The all electric mode can pull you up a decent hill if going slow enough, or travel at a speed of up to about 40 mph if on a flat road with steady speed. But in any event, there is only enough charge for about a mile before the battery depletes. The mileage figures are also a bit off. Since I living in a very hilly area and my trips are short, my city mileage is always worse than my highway. During the summer, my average mileage combined was around 40, with closer to 44 for highway driving. In the winter, my city driving is getting around 35-37 mpg. If the outside temperature warms up or I have been driving longer, I can see the mileage improve. The only thing I hate is the navigation system. It is confusing to operate, and the voice command system might as well be in another language. There is a function which allows you to "teach" the system to recognize your voice, but it didn't help. If you say "Find Florist," you can get anything from Fast Food to something bizarre like Hospitals.
Limited 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
The two cars I drove prior to this 2015 Avalon Limited (with Tech pkg) were a 2005 Avalon Limited and a 2013 MB E350 - I think the information may help you weigh my review. First - the 2015 Avalon does not stand up well when compared to the 2005 Avalon. The ride is more stiff while never feeling a bit sporty. The noise factor is quite disappointing as the new Avalon gives one much more road noise. I did not expect the Hybrid car to perform like the 6 cylinder gas version, and it doesn't. The hybrid does, however, deliver up 39.2 mpg in my real-world mixed city-hwy driving. The 2005 Avalon fluctuated between 23.8 -25.8 in the same driving. For 8 months I drove a 2013 MB E350 which cost about the same as the 2015 Avalon Hybrid Limited. The MB was a much better driving car and the sound experience was on par with the 2005 Avalon (quite good). The MB did not, however, have the same safety technology package in that price point - one would have to spend $5000 more (on a certified MB) to have the similar technology package. The 2015 Avalon feels light and cheap as compared to its predecessor or the MB. It also has less power, but is sufficient in that department. It is really not a joy to drive. On the other hand, the interior styling is beautiful and outshines the MB and the 2005 Avalon by a great deal. The safety features are plentiful, but the stereo is mediocre at best. Despite being happy every time I fill the fuel tank, I would not buy this car again. If fuel prices go to $5 a gallon, I may change my mind, however. Update for Spring 2017: there really is no update. More of the same. The car is still unremarkable to drive. The exterior styling still looks like every other car on the road. The interior is still attractive yet not particularly comfortable. The fuel consumption is still excellent. I still wish I had bought a different car. But if you can accept that it is a good car, not a great car, but will likely be reliable for a long time, this may be your car. The 2015 Avalon now has 49,000 miles on it and it still performs exactly the same as it did on the first day I bought it. There have been no significant repairs and no significant expenses incurred. It still looks just like every other car on the road and it still transports me flawlessly every day. It has just now worn out the original set of tires, but other than that even the maintenance is de minimis. Buying this as a new car was probably a bad idea but buying it as a used car for your daily driver is probably a great idea. The Avalon made it to about 60000 miles and we were involved in a relatively minor accident, but it became a total loss. It appeared to me that the light weight build of the vehicle turned a $5k loss into a total loss. I replaced it with a certified MB and am much happier. Last note on the Avalon, I despised the voice recognition technology that almost never worked and the great fuel comsumption did not begin to be a good payback for the loss of ride quality.