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New 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid features all-LED headlamp array, continues to rely on nickel metal-hydride battery cells. (Toyota)

2019 Avalon: Toyota further refines its Lexus alternative

At a time when buyers are increasingly migrating to SUVs, Toyota is launching its all-new 2019 Avalon believing that there is still high-volume life left in the large-sedan segment. Behind its Toyota ‘cow catcher’ chin, the latest Avalon is longer, lower, wider, roomier, slicker (0.27 Cd) and quieter.
Like the latest-generation Prius and Camry, the Avalon rides on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) midsize K platform with multilink rear suspension. It features a Toyota-first Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) standard on its top-line Touring trim and shares the Camry’s 3.5L V6 and Toyota Hybrid System (THS II) powertrains.
The Atkinson-cycle, dual-injected (port- and direct-injection) V6 delivers a claimed 301 hp (224 kW) and 267 lb·ft (362 N·m) through a new 8-speed Aisin automatic transaxle, while the hybrid delivers a net 215 hp (160 kW) from its 2.5L I-4 and 650-V electric motor through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With dual “intelligent” variable valve timingelectrically-actuated cam phasers on the 2.5-L—the Avalon XLE V6 scores 22 EPA mpg city, 32 highway and 26 combined and the XLE Hybrid 43/44/44 (one mpg lower in higher grades).
The Hybrid’s two electric motors charge its NiMH battery pack—now under the back seat— and one of them assists the engine. New Auto Glide Control (AGC) lets the car coast in near-neutral with little engine braking in Eco mode, while Sport mode enhances performance and the XSE Hybrid has steering-wheel paddles to shift through its CVT’s six simulated gears. The V6 Touring adds a Sport+ mode to further tighten its AVS real-time active suspension.
In limited driving on well-trafficked city and suburban roads, these new Avalons seemed plusher, quieter and crisper-handling than outgoing models. And in a world where rivals typically emphasize quietness, the Touring also enhances engine sound. “We start with an Intake Sound Generator in the engine compartment,” says Executive Program Manager Mark De Jongh, “and add a unique sport exhaust sound. From there, three microphones inside the vehicle listen for booming and other unwanted noise, and we send out frequencies through the subwoofer to cancel out those sounds. Then we add Engine Sound Enhancement through the front door speakers to give it a full, rich sound.”
Toyota’s ‘massive underbite’ grilles – dark horizontal bars on XLE and Limited, piano-black mesh on XSE and Touring grades – are visually polarizing, but there’s more appealing, expressively-sculpted sheetmetal everywhere else. The upper front corners house slim, all-LED projector headlamps, long vents run from below them to the lower corners, and all-LED taillamps integrate backup, stop and turn lights into three-dimensional “aero fin” arrays in back.
A cluster of three reflectors for low-, high-beams and DRLs in the LED ‘Vision Tech’ headlamps available on XLE and XSE provides “exceptional light disbursement,” especially in low-visibility conditions, Toyota says. Limited and Touring boast thin low- and high-beam modules, cornering lamps that fade in and out (instead of moving) to add 60% more foreground width, (sequential) Dynamic Auxiliary Turn Signals front and rear and Technical Laser Ablation that adds special texture to DRL, park- and taillamp lenses. Other Toyota firsts include standard Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto) and Amazon Alexa compatibility.
Plush and techy interior
The roomy cabin displays plentiful soft-touch materials, Perforated Ultrasuede (XSE, Limited and Touring) upholstery, a nine-inch multimedia screen floating above the IP, a seven-inch Multi-Information Display (MID) behind the leather-wrapped wheel, a 10-in. color Head-Up Display (HUD) in Limited and Touring, five USBs (only one connecting to the sound system) and wireless phone charging and a 12-V plug in a slide-open bin.
The standard Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) system bundles Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Full-Speed-Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA) and Automatic High Beams (AHB). Also standard are 10 airbags, a backup camera, Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Back Guide Monitor (BGM) and Toyota’s Star Safety System of advanced stability control and anti-lock braking. A Panoramic View Monitor with Alert (PVMA) and Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) are available.
XLE and XSE trims offer eight-speaker sound with Toyota Entune 3.0 Audio Plus. Toyota’s first smartwatch (or Amazon Alexa) -enabled device connectivity provides remote engine start, fuel-level check and door lock/unlock, and a 14-speaker surround-sound JBL premium audio system is standard in Limited and Touring, optional in XLE and XSE.
U.S. pricing begins at $35,500 (plus $895 Delivery) for the base XLE and extends to $42,200 for the Touring, with XLE, XSE and Limited Hybrid models stickering at $1,000 over their conventional stablemates. Continue reading »