In recent years, Toyota's said it will build a hybrid version of every one of its vehicles by 2020.
Count one more down: the Avalon sedan is going hybrid for the 2013 model year.
The big four-door, a relative of the best-selling Camry sedan, goes on sale in November of this year. When it does, it will inherit a version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system found in the latest Camry Hybrid, where it helps that sedan achieve EPA ratings of 43/39 mpg.
The drivetrain teams a 2.5-liter four-cylinder running a lean Atkinson cycle, with nickel-metal hydride batteries and two motors tucked into the transaxle, with gearing handled by a continuously variable transmission.
In the Avalon, the net is 200 horsepower, and three driving modes are offered: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode allows drivers to run the Avalon on battery power alone up to 25 mph, while Eco mode cuts down on throttle response and HVAC output. Sport mode adapts the Avalon Hybrid's throttle and transmission for quicker response.
At its best, Toyota says the Avalon Hybrid will hit 60 mph in 8.2 seconds; at its other "best," it predicts a 680-mile driving range on a single tank of gasoline, and estimated EPA ratings of 40/39 mpg and 40 mpg combined.
As for the more powerful Avalon V-6, it continues with its 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The six-speed automatic carries over, though it now has a sport-shift mode and throttle blipping for smoother gear changes. On Avalon Touring and Limited models, the automatic also gets paddle controls for shifting, an indication of where Toyota wants the newly stylish sedan to go.
Toyota estimates the V-6 Avalon's 0-60 mph time at 7 seconds or less, and pegs its fuel economy at 21/31 mpg, or 25 mpg combined. It too offers three driving modes--here, Eco, Normal, and Sport modes for steering and throttle feel.
On another front, Toyota's made a concerted effort to keep weight down in the new Avalon. The new Avalon Hybrid weighs less than 3600 pounds, while the standard car is under 3500 pounds in base trim. The 2012 model begins above 3600 pounds. Toyota credits better construction, but also trimmed proportions: compared to the 2012 model, the new Avalon's down marginally in overall length, width, and height, though the wheelbase is identical to the outgoing model. However, its trunk has grown by 1.6 cubic feet, to 16.0 cubic feet total.
New features for the Avalon include Entune, the mobile-app system that ports functionality from phones to the Avalon's infotainment system--streaming Pandora music into the stereo, for example. A USB port, satellite radio, and ambient lighting are featured, as are an optional navigation system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a three-zone climate control system.
Finally, the Avalon's safety package moves into a higher plane, with ten standard airbags and a rearview camera now standard. Blind-spot monitors are an option.
Now in its fourth generation, the Avalon's facing several stylish new vehicles in its class, all with exceptional features--eAssist and MyFord Touch among them. The suave new look is one tack it's taking to shift the nameplate into a more youthful direction; the new Hybrid edition is another.
(c) 2012, High Gear Media.