Standard versions of the Toyota Avalon are powered by a 268-horsepower, 3.5L V6 that has variable valve timing for smooth response across the entire rev range. It's hooked up to a 6-speed automatic transmission that has Eco, Normal and Sport modes as well as steering-wheel paddle shifters for manual control.
Avalon Hybrid models get a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and a 105-kW electric motor system as part of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive-- the same as used in the Camry Hybrid. The electric motor system adds to the powertrain's output when needed and recovers energy when decelerating or braking. The powertrain makes 200 horsepower altogether. Fuel efficiency for the Hybrid is estimated at 40 mpg city, 39 highway.
The Avalon has ride and handling characteristics that bridge some of the difference between a plush luxury car and a sporty premium sedan. With MacPherson struts in front and dual-path dampers, plus a dual-link rear suspension, anti-roll bars front and rear and pillow ball joints in back, the Avalon has been tuned to be agile yet refined. Electric power steering provides less boost at higher speeds and is weighted to for good centering in tight corners.
While the Avalon is more enjoyable to drive than the previous models, it's still one of the quietest sedans without a full-fledged luxury badge. Thanks to measures such as an acoustic windshield and special sound-absorbing materials throughout, road and wind noise are especially well-masked.
All models are neatly finished on the outside with LED tail lamps and a chrome-tipped exhaust; but it's inside that the new Avalon is most noteworthy. The Avalon's instrument panel uses special IntelliTouch capacitive switches under a grained surface; they're designed to be used with gloves, and by those with long fingernails.
Equipment is comparable between normal V6 and Hybrid versions of the Avalon. The base XLE includes heated exterior mirrors, painted alloy wheels, intermittent wipers, dual-zone climate control, a backup camera, cruise control, leather upholstery, woodgrain interior trim, heated power front seats, a Smart Key system, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming and a Display Audio sound system with a 6.1-inch touch screen, eight speakers and auxiliary and iPod/USB inputs.
XLE Premium models add a power moonroof, push-button start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a compass and a universal garage-door opener, while the XLE Touring adds fog lamps, premium leather upholstery, voice command functionality, memory settings for the driver and front passenger and a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. It also gets an upgraded sound system with nine speakers, a navigation system and Entune services and Bing search, iHeartRadio, Pandora and OpenTable apps.
The Limited and Hybrid Limited models are at the top of the model line and include HID headlamps, heated exterior mirrors, aluminum door sills, 3-zone automatic climate control, premium perforated leather upholstery, a 10-way adjustable driver's seat (8-way for passenger), heated rear seats and LED daytime running lamps, White Ice interior ambient lighting, and a Premium Navigation system that steps up to an 11-speaker JBL setup plus subwoofer and separate amplifier, as well as HD Radio with iTunes tagging. The system also allows access to customizable vehicle settings.
Options on the Avalon are limited to just a few items. One of those is the Technology Package, which includes several important active-safety features--Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, and the Pre-Collision System--which might help avoid an accident entirely.