San Jose, Calif. ? We had not driven the Toyota Avalon since the introduction of the all-new 2013 model, so on a recent trip to watch our grandson play high school football in central California (he?s a varsity starter this year) we borrowed the 2015 Toyota Avalon to get reacquainted.
Looking back at Bill?s 2013 review of the introduction, he was impressed by the new level of design sophistication and technology that Toyota brought to the Avalon. Certainly after two years on the market, the Avalon looks more familiar, but the design is still fresh and crisp with its sweeping coupe-like roofline, distinctive Toyota family grille and comfortable, roomy interior. And the available technology features have increased.
The Avalon mimics its cousin the luxury brand Lexus ES 350 not only with nearly identical dimensions and components, but the top level Avalon models could almost pass for a Lexus in quality and luxurious appointments. This 2015 model Avalon we drove is also about to spring forth with a mid-term makeover for 2016, but the changes are not significant enough to make it something worth waiting for?the 2015 is one of the best large family sedans right now.
Inside the 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition, we found a spacious interior that actually fits five adults with plenty of leg room and a trunk that holds 16 cubic feet of cargo. Even the interior in this mid-level model is very nicely appointed with leather seating ? heated in the front. The dash has a distinctive wide center stack with easy to use large controls, buttons and knobs. Outside the Touring Sport Edition gets standard HID Quadrabeam headlights that cut through the darkness brilliantly and during the day the distinctive LED daytime running lights (DLRs) identify it as a Touring SE (or Limited model).
Step up to the Limited trim level and you can add the available tech package ($1,950) which adds Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System, Auto High Beam and wireless charging bin. Although standard equipment on our car was extensive including Entune Premium Audio system with seven-inch touch screen and navigation system. The system includes a full audio system including satellite radio, HD radio and has full connectivity along with apps that feature infotainment choices like Pandora, iHeart Radio and Bing. The screen also serves as the display for the backup camera. We also appreciate the inclusion of blind spot warning and cross traffic alert.
The front-wheel drive Avalon is available with two powertrain options, the Toyota 268-hp 3.5-liter V-6 with six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with standard steering wheel-mounted shift paddles on all models. The second drivetrain is the Hybrid system which uses a 156-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a 105 kW electric motor to produce a combined 200-hp. The hybrid uses the more economical Continuously Variable Transmission.
The Avalon produces an impressive 6.1-second 0 to 60 mph time according to buff magazine tests. The EPA fuel economy is listed at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. In a combination which included California freeway driving and football stadium parking lot jockeying we averaged 26.7 mpg during our trip. The hybrid makes the 0 to 60 mph run, according to Toyota, in 8.0 seconds, and it is rated at 40/39/40 mpg by the EPA numbers.
We remember earlier Avalons had a softer and somewhat wallowy ride. The Touring model we just drove was nicely controlled with little body roll even when keeping up with the fast moving crowd that runs through the curves on California?s challenging Highway 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz. Rough surface roads did create a great deal of road noise, but smooth surfaces were very quiet in the cabin.