The 2019 Toyota Avalon wraps a new design around familiar powertrains. The full-size sedan is available with V-6 or hybrid propulsion that are mated to automatic transmissions. It’s front-wheel drive only, unlike some of its competitors.
The Avalon earns a point above average for a supple ride, which is a 6 on our performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Most Avalons will be powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that has been uprated this year to 301 horsepower shuffled through an 8-speed automatic. The duo nets an EPA-rated 26 mpg combined in XLE trim, which is marginally more efficient than last year’s model. Other trims have larger wheels and lose 1 mpg combined across the board.
The V-6 is strong and pulls the Avalon confidently in highway passes. Sportier trims such as XSE and Limited offer intake sound composers that amp up engine noises, but we’d stop short of calling the Avalon a sports car—it’s just a better feel through the pedal.
Most cars will ride atop a standard MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension that damps out road imperfections well. Base XLE trims ride the softest, XSE and Limited trim levels get stiffer springs or beefier stabilizer bars for better cornering.
Touring trim levels are equipped with Toyota’s first adaptive variable suspension setup that adjusts damping and varies shock stiffness in Normal and Sport+ modes. Normal is predictably smooth, Sport+ is far firmer and changes the Avalon Touring’s behavior dramatically through heavier steering, quicker throttle response, gear changes in higher revs, and a stiffer ride. It’s Toyota’s play at where (remaining) full-size sedan customers have turned over the past few years: away from old-man luxury like the Avalon and toward spicier offerings such as the Nissan Maxima and Chrysler 300S.
It mostly works, but the Avalon’s best moves are as a sedate sedan with little intrusion into the cabin. The piped-in noises aren’t wholly satisfying—few V-6s sound good—and the sport-tuned exhaust baffles holler but don’t scream.
The Avalon’s hidden talent? A retuned electric power steering rack that’s comfortably heavy and mildly engaging. When set in Sport modes, the steering gets surprisingly heavy and firm. There’s little feedback from the road, which is common for the electric systems, but its feel is surprisingly good.
The Avalon Hybrid returns for 2019 and is one of the few dedicated full-size hybrid sedans on sale. It pairs a 176-hp inline-4 with electric motors and batteries for a combined output of 215 hp.
The Avalon Hybrid is rated up to 43 mpg combined, which is impressive for the big sedan. It’s predictably down on power compared to the V-6 version, but it’s adequately powered for daily duty.
The Hybrid skips the adaptive suspension for now, but new this year is a Hybrid XSE trim level that adds sporty touches to an otherwise restrained model.
Underway, the hybrid is quiet and composed and dynamically similar to the conventionally powered model. The batteries add less than 100 pounds to the hybrid’s weight compared to the non-hybrid versions and they’re tucked under the rear seats this time around, last year’s were stuffed in the trunk.
The Avalon Hybrid uses a conventional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that keeps the big sedan in its efficiency sweet spot. Like other CVTs, it keeps the Avalon Hybrid far from sporty—we expected that anyway.
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