• Car Review

Driven: 2019 Toyota Avalon Review

By David Undercoffler | April 23, 2018

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Yes
Price range: $36,395 - $43,695, including destination

Key takeaways

  • Toyota’s largest sedan was redesigned for 2019.
  • Available with a V6 or a hybrid powertrain -- we prefer the hybrid.
  • Trying to be more sporty to lure in younger buyers.
  • Aggressive new styling is a win on the rear but overkill up front.

What is it?

The Avalon is Toyota’s largest sedan, bigger than the midsize Camry and the compact Corolla.

It was completely redesigned for the 2019 model year with new styling inside and out, new trim levels and additional features.

Offered in a gas model or a hybrid model, the Avalon competes with the likes of Nissan’s Maxima, Buick’s LaCrosse, Chevy’s Impala, Chrysler’s 300 and a few midsize sedans like the Honda Accord and Chevy’s Malibu.

All Avalon models are front-wheel drive, and the model shares many of its components with the Lexus ES (since Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand).

The gas Avalon comes in four trims: the base XLE, the sport-tuned XSE, the Limited and the top-of-the-line Touring. It has a 301-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The hybrid model adds $1,000 to the price of the gas versions, and the hybrid powertrain comes in XLE, XSE and Limited trims (no Touring). It has an electric motor and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that make a combined 215 horsepower.

What’s good

TLDR: Comfy ride, great hybrid, handsome rear end.

The ride quality. Toyota put this new Avalon on an all-new platform that it uses for a variety of its cars. It gives the Avalon a solid, comfortable feel on the road. It also gives the Avalon heaps of room in the front and rear seats.

The hybrid. We tested both the hybrid and the gas versions of the Avalon, and while we liked both, the hybrid stood out for a variety of reasons. You definitely feel the drop in horsepower from the gas model (the hybrid has 215 while the gas model has 301 horsepower), but the hybrid still has enough power to do what you need it to. And with many generations of the Prius and other hybrids in its back pocket, Toyota knows how to dial in the system: the brakes, the fuel efficiency and low noise are all strengths of the hybrid.

The rear end styling. Though it’s hard to tell in pictures, the taillights have a cool, three-dimensional quality to them, and the light bar runs across the width of the back end. It’s a sleek look that echoes what you’ll find on pricier German luxury sedans; we won’t tell your neighbors if you don’t.

What’s bad

TLDR: That face, no nav? and seats that need more support.

The front end styling. The headlights look good (and they’re LED on all trim levels), but the gaping grille is a little too much of a catfish look for us. We know Toyota is trying to inject some youthful sportiness into the Avalon’s character, but they overdid it with the grille.

No navigation. On the base XLE model we tested, a navigation system wasn’t standard. We know that many people use their phone’s navigation apps, but we still think nav should be standard on a car starting at a tick over $36,000.

The seats. Up front they’re definitely comfortable and roomy, but we could use a little more bolstering on the sides and in the lumbar area. It’s a minor gripe, but in a car that’s as good at eating up freeway miles as this Avalon, you want to make sure you have supportive chairs along the way.

5 stars of execution

Safety? Yes

  • Toyota has included a long list of standard safety equipment on the Avalon. Included in a grouping called Toyota Safety Sense P (or TSS P) is pre-collision warning and braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring and 10 airbags.
  • As of writing this, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have not yet crash tested the 2019 Avalon.

Value? No

  • The Avalon starts at $36,395, including destination. That gets you a decent set of features, but when compared to rivals like the Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Impala and Buick LaCrosse, the Avalon isn’t as good of a value.
  • The Hybrid model does cost just $1,000 more than the gas version and with the eventual savings in fuel costs, it is a worthy upgrade if you’re ok with giving up some engine power.

Efficiency? Yes

  • The gas Avalon easily matches or beats its competitors in fuel efficiency. It’s rated at 22/31/25 mpg in city/highway/combined fuel economy.
  • The Hybrid blows away the competition, registering in at 43/44/44 mpg city/highway/combined — excellent numbers for a car this large.

Driving experience? Yes

  • In an effort to sell the Avalon to younger buyers, Toyota is playing up its sportier handling and styling. But the best choice for thrill-seekers in this class is still Nissan’s Maxima; the Avalon can’t compete on that front.
  • Generally though, the Avalon is quiet, comfortable and robust enough for your average daily driver.

Execution? Yes

  • The Avalon is a well-rounded sedan that gives buyers exactly what they’re looking for in this segment: space, comfort and quality.
  • It also folds in hints of luxury, though it’s the tech-focused, modern kind rather than the softer, pampering kind of indulgent luxury … for that, you have to look to a brand like Buick.

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The Avalon starts at $36,395, including destination, for the gas XLE. It comes with the aforementioned standard safety gear (pre-collision alert and braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control), faux leather seats that are heated up front, a nine-inch touchscreen audio system with eight speakers and Apple CarPlay connectivity (no Android Auto though), 17-inch alloy wheels, power front seats and faux wood trim.

Next is the sport-oriented XSE model, a new addition to the Avalon lineup. It starts at $38,895 and adds a unique interior and exterior trim (including a small rear spoiler, quad exhaust tips and 19-inch alloy wheels), a sport-tuned suspension, moonroof and seats that are a combination of faux-suede and leather.

The Limited model starts at $42,695. It adds a color heads-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 14-speaker stereo system with amplifier and subwoofer, navigation system and real wood trim.

The hybrid version of all three of these models is another $1,000.

At the top of the gas range is the Touring model, which isn’t available as a Hybrid. It’s $43,095 and adds goodies like an adaptive suspension, active noise control and a sport-tuned exhaust.

Our favorite Avalon would be the base XLE Hybrid, to which we would add the optional moonroof. This combo gives you everything you’re looking for in a large car in this segment -- efficiency, space and comfort -- at a reasonable price.

Also consider

As we mentioned, when it comes to the fun-to-drive quotient, Nissan’s Maxima remains the gold standard in the large, non-luxury sedan class. Not only is it sporty, but it’s also comfortable, a good value and offers plenty of amenities. It’s worth comparing to this Avalon, but note that because Nissan sells the Maxima to rental fleets, their resale value isn’t as strong as the Avalon.

Chrysler’s 300, Chevy’s Impala and Buick’s LaCrosse are also sold to rental fleets, so they experience the same (higher) levels of depreciation as the Nissan. Each is a fine car on its own, but we would choose the newer Avalon over all three. It just does everything better.