G. Chambers Williams

Toyota’s Avalon sedan gets a new look, more technology with update for 2019

Toyota has redesigned the full-size Avalon sedan for 2019, including the gasoline-electric hybrid model shown here.
Toyota has redesigned the full-size Avalon sedan for 2019, including the gasoline-electric hybrid model shown here.

Toyota’s big premium sedan, the Avalon, has been given a makeover for 2019, bringing an even more-comfortable ride in a roomy car that also performs well – and is available in hybrid versions.

The 2019 Avalon Hybrid has the same gasoline-electric drive system as the midsize Toyota Camry hybrid, using a revised 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with an electric drive motor.

Total system horsepower is 215 (up 15 from last year’s model), with the hybrid’s gasoline engine alone rated at 176 horsepower and 163 foot-pounds of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission is included.

Fuel economy is as high as 44 mpg for the hybrid and 26 mpg for the gasoline-only Avalon models. Both engines are designed to operate on regular unleaded gasoline.

Gasoline-only models come with a conventional V-6 engine, rated at 301 horsepower and 267 foot-pounds of torque, connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That’s up from 268 horsepower and a six-speed automatic last year. All Avalons have front-wheel drive.

This is the fifth generation of the Avalon, which essentially is a stretched version of the Camry. It’s intended for people who want the roominess and comfort of a full-size sedan, which is becoming a rare commodity in today’s automotive climate.

Avalon comes in four gasoline-only trim levels and three hybrid versions for 2019. In the gasoline models, prices begin at $35,550 (plus $930 freight) for the base XLE gasoline model, followed by the XSE ($38,050), Limited ($41,850) and Touring ($42,250).

The hybrid models begin at $36,550 for the XLE. The others are the XSE ($39,050) and Limited ($42,850), which we tested for this report. Surprisingly, the hybrid version costs just $1,000 more than the regular gasoline model in all three trims. In the 2018 Avalon, the extra cost of the hybrid drive system ranged from $1,500 to $2,250, depending on the trim level.

With the makeover, the hybrid’s 244.8-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack now rests under the rear seat, rather than in the trunk. Toyota says that gives the car a lower center of gravity, which improves ride and handling. It also gives the hybrid the same trunk capacity as the gasoline models, just over 16 cubic feet.

EPA ratings for the gasoline models are 22 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined (XSE) or 22/31/25 (all other trims). Hybrid mileage ratings are 43 city/44 highway/44 combined (XLE) and 43/43/43 (XSE and Limited).

Even though the hybrid’s overall horsepower is just over two-thirds that of the gasoline model, the car has the feel of a V-6. That’s because of the low-end torque provided by the electric motor, which is designed to kick in extra power when needed, such as for passing or merging into traffic.

We found the hybrid to have plenty of pep in all driving situations, not just uphill freeway ramps. We’ve also tested the gasoline-only Avalon, and we found the hybrid to be nearly as powerful where power was needed, including passing on two-lane country roads.

A key attribute of the Avalon is the ride, which was smooth even over railroad crossings and on some bumpy country roads, and at all times, the interior was very quiet.

As for the new Avalon’s exterior, the changes are somewhat radical, especially at the front, with the new waterfall-style grille. On the XLE and Limited models, it’s dark gray with a chrome border. Also included are machined-silver LED headlight bezels, body-color rearview mirror housings, and unique wheels.

XSE and (gasoline-only) Touring models have piano-black mesh grilles, machine-finish and gloss-black wheels, black outer mirror housings, and black headlight bezels. At the rear is a trunk-lid spoiler and black badging, with quad tailpipes.

There are two new exterior colors: Opulent Amber and Harbor Gray Metallic. Toyota colors carrying over from last year are Celestial Silver Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, Parisian Night Pearl, Wind Chill Pearl and Ruby Flare Pearl ($395 extra, included on our tester).

Our Limited Hybrid came with 18-inch alloy wheels mounted with P235/45R18 tires. The interior was gray and beige premium leather, with heated and vented front seats. Both front seats came with eight-way power adjustment and four-way power lumbar support.

Other standard features on our Limited Hybrid included an Entune 3.0 JBL premium audio/navigation system with nine-inch touch screen, 14 speakers, Clari-Fi technology, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto) and Siri Eyes Free; seven-inch driver-information display; heated tilt-and-telescopic steering column; 10-inch head-up display; smart key with pushbutton start; and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals.

We also had automatic adaptive LED headlights with daytime running lights, a single exhaust outlet with hidden tip, and a power slide/tilt sunroof.

Inside were dual-zone automatic climate control with air filter and rear vents; wireless phone charging; four USB ports; and anchors/tethers for child seats on outboard rear seating positions.

Standard safety features include Toyota Safety Sense, with dynamic radar cruise control, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Braking, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and automatic high beams; the Star Safety System, with electronic stability and traction control, antilock brakes, and Smart Stop technology; Blind Spot Monitor; Rear Cross-Traffic Alert; and anti-theft system with engine immobilizer.

Extras on our test vehicle were the Advanced Safety Package ($1,150), which brought Intelligent Clearance Sonar, Bird’s Eye View camera system with perimeter scan and rear cross-traffic alert with braking; and a carpet mat package ($248).

Up to five people can ride in the Avalon, four quite comfortably. We found the front bucket seats restful even on a long drive, and rear passengers had plenty of legroom even when the front seats were back far enough on their tracks to accommodate larger passengers up front.

The middle position of the back seat is tight for an adult, mostly because the seatbelt receptacles limit the width of the position. There is a pull-down armrest that provides two cupholders. The door pockets, front and rear, have one small bottle holder each. There are map pockets in the backs of the front seats.

There are several storage areas, including a center console with an “eBin” tray, designed to hold two portable electronic devices side by side – his and hers cellphones, for instance. There are two cupholders in the center console to the right of the transmission shifter.

On our vehicle, the tray area, in front of the cupholders and shifter, included wireless recharging for phones that have that capability. There also were USB and auxiliary inputs and a 12-volt outlet in the tray, which has LED illumination. There is a storage box where devices can be hidden away.

My iPhone linked easily to the audio system through the Bluetooth connection, bringing my music to the 14 speakers in the Avalon.

Total sticker price for our 2019 Avalon Limited Hybrid was $45,523, including freight and options.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2019 Toyota Avalon sedan

The package: Full-size, four-door, five-passenger, front-wheel-drive, V-6 (gasoline only) or four-cylinder gasoline/electric (hybrid) sedan.

Highlights: Toyota’s large sedan moves into its fifth generation with a makeover for 2019, and it still includes hybrid versions. This is Toyota’s flagship sedan, with lots of interior space, plenty of standard amenities, and a smooth, quiet ride.

Negatives: Can get pricey at the upper end; rear middle seat position tight for adults.

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 (gasoline-only models); 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine coupled with an electric motor (hybrid).

Transmission: Eight-speed direct-shift automatic (gasoline); continuously variable automatic (hybrid).

Power/torque: 301 HP./267 foot-pounds (gasoline); 176 HP./163 foot-pounds gasoline engine, plus electric motor, for total 215 system horsepower (hybrid).

Length: 195.9 inches.

Curb weight range: 3,560-3,704 pounds (gasoline); 3,638-3,715 pounds (hybrid).

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard, with traction control.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain for both rows.

Trunk capacity: 16 cubic feet.

EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city/32 highway/26 combined (XSE gasoline) or 22/31/25 (all other gasoline trims); 43 city/44 highway/44 combined (XLE hybrid) or 43/43/43 (XSE and Limited hybrids).

Fuel capacity/type: 14.5 gallons (XLE gas); 15.8 gallons (XSE, Limited, Touring gas); 13.2 gallons (hybrid)/regular unleaded.

Major competitors: Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Genesis G80, Lincoln MKZ.

Base price ranges: $35,500-$42,250 (gasoline); $36,500-$42,800 (hybrid), plus $930 freight.

Price as tested: $45,523, including freight and options (2019 Limited Hybrid).

On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.