Review and Test Drive: 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE

By Jonathan Spira on 22 May 2020
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It’s hard to imagine that the Toyota Avalon has been around long enough to be in its fifth generation but the elegant family sedan continues to carve out its niche in the United States, now sporting a massive grille à la Lexus. Built on the new TNGA platform shared with the Camry, the latest Avalon has a sporty look to it thanks to the fastback-like rear windscreen that slopes gently into the rear deck and we were anxious to get behind the wheel as soon as a cherry red (Toyota calls it Ruby Flare Pearl) arrived on a grey late March day.

But first, before we proceed, a bit of history about the Avalon. When it was introduced in 1994, the Avalon ostensibly replaced the Toyota Cressida in Toyota’s lineup, although the automobile was longer, wider, taller, and more powerful. Contemporary reviews indicate that Toyota opted to discontinue the Cressida because of the success of its nascent Lexus line of luxury vehicles. (The Cressida, incidentally, was the last rear-wheel drive model sold by Toyota in the United States.)

The Avalon was, for all intents and purposes, an attempt to beat the American automakers at their own game. At launch, it was the roomiest six-passenger car from a Japanese manufacturer marketed in the country, and Toyota played off this message in its advertising and marketing efforts, highlighting, for example, something German automakers couldn’t ever (or wouldn’t ever) offer: a front bench seat.  (Buick, anyone?) .  This made it one of the very few six-passenger cars in the country at a time where full-size cars were continuing to shrink dramatically in size.

The Avalon Hybrid is available in three trim levels, XLE, XSE, and Limited (the standard petrol-powered Avalon also comes in Touring and TRD variants).

The cherry red color of the Avalon made it stand out in a sea of black, white, and grey vehicles, a good strategy since the first four generations of Avalon were somewhat dull overall. The  black honeycomb mesh insert in the grille was a striking contrast.

Let me say this just once: this is not your father’s Avalon. This is an entirely different, better, more refined, and more interesting beast and the hybrid option makes it a relatively green full-size sedan to boot.

Click here to continue to Page 2Driving the 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

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