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Review: 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited

Kamil Kaluski March 10, 2014 Featured, Reviews, Toyota Reviews 64 Comments

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited front 34

Toyota made a name for itself in the 1980s when it offered affordable vehicles which were reliable, efficient, and long lasting. In the 1990s they stepped that up by adding interesting styling and features to their vehicles, making several great sports cars and increasing participation is motorsports overall. After the turn of the century things were not as rosy. Like the rest of the Japanese automotive industry, Toyota has lost its touch; lower part quality, bigger vehicles, rust issues on trucks, infamous recalls, loss of innovation.

Akio Toyoda confronted these issues some time ago and results can be seen in various new Toyota and Lexus models of the last few years. The fourth generation of the Avalon is one such example; it’s nice looking, the interior is made of high quality products, it drives well, it includes latest technologies, and seems screwed together as good as ever.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited dash

The exterior of the Avalon is modern, yet conservative. The Avalon does not try to pretend to be anything else than a large sedan and its styling cues tell that it cannot be anything else than a Toyota or a Lexus. Surprisingly many people asked me about this vehicle in my few days with it, with a curious yet positive outlook. The hybrid badge had a lot to do with that curiously, as everyone seems to be tired of paying for gas.

The interior offers the same kind of modern-yet-conservative styling as the exterior. The two front seats are wide and comfortable, and on the Limited model they’re heated and ventilated, although that ventilation is not the best in the business, as it seem to be a bit inadequate. The roomy rear bench has plenty of space for three butts, with plenty of legroom too. It should be noted that the rear doors open to almost ninety degrees, allowing easy access.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited interior details

Due to the hybrid’s batteries the rear seat does not fold down and there is no pass-through. The trunk itself sacrifices space for the batteries, shrinking from 16 cu. ft. in the conventional Avalon to 14 cu. ft. in the hybrid. While that number does not seem that drastic, all of that space it lost in the bulkhead of the trunk making the cargo area wide but lacking depth. The designers of the Avalon did, however, manage to find room for a temporary spare tire.

The dash layout is clean, with both the climate and infotainment controls easily accessible. Like most new cars the Avalon is short on knobs and long on buttons, but most common controls are easily accessible. It is the secondary controls, such as selecting a route that avoids tolls in the navigational system, which require a bit of searching.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited  bin charging tray

The Avalon was also the first vehicle which I have seen with wireless inductive phone charging, a $200 option. The charging pad is part of a nifty lower center console that also includes two 12v receptacles, auxiliary and USB inputs. The charging pad is located in the magnetic lid, which allows for your phone to be conveniently located whether or not it is being charged. Unfortunately my iPhone is not capable of wireless charging solution and I could not test that system out.

Historically, hybrids were not known for smoothness; the change over from battery power the gasoline engine was very noticeable and most hybrids were downright anemic in their power delivery. Things have improved in the Avalon; in the conventional driving mode the car does feel a bit sluggish, but depressing the sport button makes it feel more like a conventional car. With the transmission in sport mode, a tachometer appears on the dash and the internal combustion engine hangs in upper rpm range where it makes the most power. My ideal spot for this car was with the transmission on normal drive mode and engine in sport.

Highway ride, as expected from a large sedan, is superbly smooth. The combined 200hp from a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor seems totally adequate to smoothly pull beyond any legal U.S. speed limits with four passengers and air-conditioning on; passing power is not lacking either. Around town the power-train changeover is noticeable but with 199 torques available from the electric motor at 0rpm, the large sedan does get up and go.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited engine

The biggest reason to buy a hybrid vehicle is of course the fuel economy. The Avalon Hybrid is rated at 40mpg in the city and 39mpg on the highway. Driving the Avalon in south Florida for a few days, mostly with passengers, and always with air-conditioning, I got very close to those EPA numbers, which is to say quite impressive. The more impressive number was eight, however, as in the amount of gallons of regular gasoline I used in my three hundred miles of driving – that’s not even half a tank!

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the conventional Avalon XLE is $31,340. The Avalon Hybrid starts at $35,555. The fully loaded Hybrid Limited model shown here was $44,485 and included a technology package, wireless charging, and other minor options. Given how nice and comfortable this vehicle is, how efficient it is, and all the techy toys it offers, that’s an excellent value.

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited rear 34

Disclaimer: Toyota provided this vehicle for the purpose of this review. I returned it washed and with a full tank of gas.

[Images Copyright Redusernab/Kamil Kaluski and Toyota 2014]

 

  • Feds_II

    A long time ago, on a website far far away I read a review of a minivan of some sort. It was written in the traditional "here's a new car, here are its features" style. At the time I felt it was the first nick in the armor of what had been a pretty fun site to hang out with. Of course, it was about that time they re-pubished "conclusive proof" that GM trucks were very likely to explode in side impact. I can't remember which of these articles pushed me other the edge, but it was one of them

    Long story short: Awesomness Manifesto, banhammer, etc, etc, etc.

    I am not trying to be a curmudgeon here. You are providing a ridiculous amount of free entertainment, which I very much appreciate. Part of the reason I come back so often is because you guys have managed to remain pretty tightly focused. Even stuff that hasn't interested me specifically has had some connection to an automotive fringe. VERY expensive, VERY rare, VERY cheap, etc.

    This car has none of that. It's vanilla ice cream in a Styrofoam bowl with a plastic spoon. As a long time fan of this site, I'm going to go on record saying that I hope this review is an outlier, and point on a trend line that ends in an Awesomeness Manifesto.

    Thanks for all the hard work you guys put in. This is a couple-of-times-a-day stop for me. I appreciate it very much.

    • Sjalabais

      Wait for Kamil to post a photo of an Avalon hybrid burnout.

    • Feds_II

      Fartsticks, I can't edit after a reply. Second paragraph is missing a "not a". …and NOT A point on a trend line…

    • You shouldn't feel that way. There is room here for everything here, including large hybrid sedans, and this car is the reason why no Awesomeness Manifesto will ever be here – it's because it's not needed, it's because we're not trying to be buzz or all things to all people.

      The Avalon is an advanced car, it show progress of hybrids from the original Honda Insight, and gives insight into other new Toyota vehicles and how the company will move forward. It's a got a freakin' wireless phone charger.
      But I understand how that can be boring or not interesting, or not awesome. At that point I encourage you not to read it… someone else will, and they will find it interesting, just like they won't find anything interesting about a 1960's Fiat Multipla.

      I used this car to get around southern Florida. It allowed me to bring you coverage from Boca Raton Concours, show you the cool/weird/interesting cars I have seen in Palm Beach, and soon you'll learn that it took to me a very interesting restoration place. If anything else, it was a tool I used to get around to bring you these stories, and this review sums up my experience with this car.

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      I have mixed feelings… I agree with your sentiment, and am likewise very protective of our little sanctuary on the automotive fringe. I feel the editors and the commenters are a huge part of that. I feel like I am among friends here.

      At the same time, I'm kinda glad to see the site achieve recognition as a legitimate car review venue. I want this place to succeed and prosper, because our editors work damn hard, and they deserve all the respect of the bigger publications.

      But I take comfort in seeing this as the exception rather than the norm. Looking at the front page right now, Redusernab is still true to its roots. Plenty of automotive fringe, thoughtful discussion, and irreverent jokes.

      I have ever so slightly above zero interest in this car. Seeing it here is kinda strange. I have very little idea what goes on behind the scenes here, but the fact that Toyota lends their cars to our editors to write about them suggests to me that major car manufacturers know we're here, and feel we're important.

      In summary; I agree with you, but don't feel it's time to panic.

      • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

        Anal Delicia!

        • Scandinavian Flick ★

          Whoa, do not do an image search for that at work! I didn't even include the "anal" part…

          • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

            But Delicia is very tasty Polish cookie! Why internet, WHY!!!

            edit: …

            • Scandinavian Flick ★

              Oh, I definitely saw some very tasty looking cookies…

              • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

                [youtube 6nSKkwzwdW4 youtube]

      • jeepjeff

        I tend to skim these reviews and confirm that "nope, not an interesting car".

        As long as I can (completely seriously) post a Gremlin to the Fantasy Friday thread (great idea, BTW), and get a good round of BSing and discussion, we're nowhere near the panic point.

    • Furthermore, what if this was a review of a '83 Buick Regal sedan?
      All stock, all original, a large sedan commonly purchased by people for the means of comfortable transportation between home and work, sometimes with other people and/or belongings.

      What if this was a review of a brand new '83 Buick Regal sedan, in 1983? What would your reaction be then?

      • Feds_II

        What if this was a review of a brand new '83 Buick Regal sedan, in 1983? What would your reaction be then?

        WHOA MAN! Look what came up on my IMSAI 8080! I was just trying to hack into NORAD!

        • Peace and love… peace and love.

          • SSurfer321

            This whole thread is why I love this site. Constructive opinion of review is met with respect of others and others respectfully offer a counterpoint. Not a counterpoint refuting original posters opinion, but merely a counterpoint indicating an alternate way to view the article.

            Job well done to all and thanks for being awesome.

            • Sjalabais

              Agreed. I am one of those who don't see much of a point of reviewing Rolls-Royce or Aston Martin at the Redusernab, I aired this concern, and feel it was heard in some way. Doesn't mean I want those reviews to stop, I just think they are the odd ones out. But I'd rather see more Avalon-ish tests around here. At the same time, there is some room to inject wit and hooniversal attitudes into reviewing this Toyota – this is a very business-like enumeration of features above.

              • That was actually intentional – I knew the common readers wouldn't care for this car, so I wrote in a way that someone search the interwebs would get the most use out of it.

                • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

                  Totally useless to me though, no one has confirmed whether it's true that the electricomagneticomechnamical fields convert paczki to pączki effectively!

                • Sjalabais

                  Aaah…I see.

    • Devin

      I think that something like this is good because, honestly, many of us have aunts. Said aunts will ask us about cars, because we have a reputation in our respective families. Now we can say to our aunts, yes, that Avalon Hybrid looks like it would be lovely for you.

      In all seriousness though, a consistent perspective is more important than focus, and the perspective is the same whether it's a new Avalon or an aged Lada, it's better to not be constrained by some manifesto and instead be focused on what the people behind the site want to write about.

      • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

        I recommended a car Saturday! A Rover SD1! I have a reputation after all. I don't get asked often, but I cherish the rare moments when unexpecting people seek my recommendations for vehicles appropriate for their wife. Turns-out he was looking to lease sadly.

        • Rover1

          If you ever wish to see the person again, never recommend a Rover SD1 to anyone who is after an ordinary car, that can do ordinary car things.

        • Vairship

          You didn't send them to their local Rover dealer? 😉

    • Maymar

      If I'm honest, I'm far more cool with a review of a big soft hybrid sedan than I am with any review of a crossover that concludes that however much better a minivan is, the people who buy 7 seaters don't want to be seen in a minivan, so this minivan with a useless 3rd row and AWD/ground clearance that'll never go to use is pretty great.

      Then again, I have a soft spot for the Avalon. Not entirely sure I can explain it.

    • wunno sev

      if i could take a moment to totally agree with Feds_II here, i'd like to point out automobile magazine's officially-stated founding principle, "no boring cars". it is not a coincidence that automobile is the only mainstream american car magazine i bother to read. though the good writing helps, the no-boring-cars policy is reflected in how they treat the cars they do take on. if you start watering down your review fleet with milquetoast, you're going to have milquetoast reviews, and that will show in your reviews of interesting cars. keep the cars interesting, and you won't forget why you like them.

      i don't think that boring cars are poison. sometimes we have to drive boring cars. maybe we can even have fun in them. but hooniverse doesn't specialize in boring cars. the people who are interested in reviews of the avalon hybrid (and those people may include hooniverse readers!) know that hooniverse is not the best source for this. kamil, i know you and i are on the same wavelength: the story of your GS-R made me want to go buy a fifteen-year-old honda. (i really did hit up craigslist a couple times after that.) so when you're talking about the angles to which the rear doors of the avalon hybrid open, i can sense that this car bored you witless, and i don't for a second believe that this is a review consumer reports' reviewbots wouldn't do better.

      far be it from me to try to describe a cohesive editorial policy, and i don't mean to suggest that 99.9% of the work here on the 'verse isn't outstanding. kamil's story about the acura is far from the only one to make me shed a tear of appreciation. there's a reason i'm here many times per day too. i also know there may be stuff behind the scenes to which we readers aren't privy, i don't know what balance you guys have to strike to keep the site financially viable, and don't believe that those of us who comment on the regular make up a particularly significant chunk of hooniverse's regular audience – i think there's too few of us to justify the sheer volume of content you put out. so i don't mean to suggest that what i'm saying or what Feds_II said is what's "right for hooniverse". i just want to provide some back as a reader. again, i really appreciate what you guys do for us.

      • I just saw this now. Thank you.

  • stigshift

    I remember when cars used to have only one grille. It was a good idea.

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      But now, when they try to connect them……

      <img src="; width="500">

      • Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who likes the new Predator grille. The old IS got a little too friendly looking compared to the original Altezza design. It looks even better on the GS. No longer like a bloated hippo.

        • Sjalabais

          I understand that the predator grille is supposed to be aggressive, but I think it lacks "natural" proportions – ending up ugly. At the same time, I applaud that a big player goes against the "new pleasantness without resistance"-wave that Audi and BMW surf on.

        • Scandinavian Flick ★

          Grilles are like a-holes. Every car has one, but I don't want to see it gaping wide open in my face.

          Really though, I agree with what Sjalabais said. I'm glad they dared to do something different. Really. I don't hate it, but… ehhh…

          • Sjalabais

            <img src=";

            Then again…who of the regulars here is honestly considering to buy a brand new Lexus/BMW/Audi?

            • Scandinavian Flick ★

              Funny you should mention that now… I was actually just talking with some friends last night over BBQ and beer about how if it wasn't for the mileage limitations, I would actually consider a lease on a new BMW. It's not that much more than my current monthly car payment, and BMW includes all maintenance/repair costs.

              That would be once seriously hooned lease…

              • Sjalabais

                Haha, teaches me once more not to make solid assumptions…leasing in Europe is just another way of burning money, an efficient one:

                You make a solid downpayment (typically 10% of the car's value in ten years), pay a fixed sum per month (typically around 300-500$ for a decently sized car) and end up not owning it 3-4 years later. I could afford the expenses, but not the result.

                Is that more favourable in the US?

                • Scandinavian Flick ★

                  I admittedly hadn't looked into it. Since you prompted me to do so, I now realize it's about the same here. A 328d sedan (can't lease a coupe, convertible, or M, so might as well at least get a diesel…) is $3,824 Cash due at signing after $2,750 Down payment, and some stupid "acquisition fee." Then it's $320 a month after that. Also only 30K miles allowed over 36 months.

                  So yeah… fuck that.

                  • Sjalabais

                    I'm relieved that there is one car-related theme that is not significantly better in the US than in Norway…a Subaru-salesman told me that if I had little money for a car, or wouldn't want to spend much, leasing should not even be considered. On top of the planned expenses a leasing contract often expects you to return a flawless car – no dents or scratches – which is at odds with real life. The leasing party often ends up with some repair cost on a car they still don't own.

                    Back to buying ten year old econoboxes then.

                    • Scandinavian Flick ★

                      Even further putting me in the "hell no" camp in terms of vehicle leasing…

                • jeepjeff

                  If you are somehow self-employed in the US, and you use the car for business purposes only (commuting), you can write off the costs of the car. By 'write-off', I mean you get to deduct the down payment and monthly lease fees from your gross income as part of calculating your net income. The IRS calculates taxes based on net income.

                  Basically, this makes sense if you have a weekend/fun car (don't need to explain that here) that you don't want to commute in, and you want a nice comfort cruiser to keep up with the other Joneses at the office. If you are the kind of self-employed person considering a leased vehicle, this probably amounts to a 30% break on the price of the lease. And then when the lease ends, you lease a new car. So you always have a relatively new car.

                  (While I'm a contractor, I have no use for a work-only vehicle nor does anyone offer leases on anything I'm interested in…)

                  • Sjalabais

                    Agreed. Taxation loopholety creates an incentive to waste money on leasing because it goes out of a company pot, subsidised by the taxation pot. In the end, even a single-person-company comes out on the side.

                    I for one would advocate for a more efficient tax system, but this is probably the wrong spot. 🙂

                    Just read the other day that 60% of Volvos in Norway are sold to companies. Even private party leasing is registered this way.

          • wisc47

            What is it with you and anuses?

            • Scandinavian Flick ★

              That's a question I never expected to get asked on here…

              • wisc47

                I never expected to type the phrase "Anal Every Joy Pop" on here, but these things happen.

          • Yeah I would probably agree with that as well. It's just not… "off" enough for me to really see it as a bad design.

      • stigshift

        I t looks like a '61 Plymouth. Seriously. …

      • Jay_Ramey

        A google image search for "spindle" brings up nothing that looks like this.

        It does, however, bring up illustrations of virus cells and old sewing machines.

    • PotbellyJoe ★★★★☆

      <img src="; width=550>
      Grille? What is this grille you speak of?

      • topdeadcentre

        I remember when Mercury was layering on the space-age high-tech advertising prose about their "backlit polycarbonate grille"….

        • PotbellyJoe ★★★★☆

          I remember owning one and having a hell of a time replacing bulbs when they burnt out. I liked the Mercury for the aerodynamic look, but the Taurus didn't have that issue thanks to the solid grille, haha.

        • Jay_Ramey

          Not even Star Trek: The Next Generation threw around technobabble like that back then

      • Vairship

        And yet the Chevy Volt has a grille, because the designers/managers were to bored/scared to actually come up with some other use for that front panel

  • BobWellington

    This is a great car…if you're looking to die of boredom…

    I hear they have an option on these that reminds you to breath.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Sounds like an impressive accomplishment, if you're just looking for a sedan that does its job and won't embarrass you. It's pretty handsome, and the dash seems to have integrated the nav screen better than most, with good positioning for buttons and knobs.

    I generally avoid Toyota's because they're mostly pretty boring, if durable and economical. I got to rent an Avalon a few years back in euroland. The guy at the rental counter was smirking, because he'd saddled me with the boat in his fleet rather than the Focus I'd asked for. But the Avalon with a five speed manual, and a low-level interior, was more than just fine. With two up front, a six foot blond slept comfortably all the way across the country. I don't think I'd seen that much rear legroom since a Checker Marathon. I'm not sure what engine we had – there was never a reason to raise the hood, but it hardly used any gas, and the trunk was immense. This new Avalon looks about two generations improved on that one.

    • Maymar

      Avalon, or Avensis? Wikipedia suggests there was never a manual Avalon (although that's an idea that intrigues me beyond belief).

      • Van_Sarockin

        It was a big four door Toyo sedan, with a five speed. Looked pretty much like a Camry. Grey outside. Grey inside. And I'm shit shifting with my left hand.

      • Vairship

        You're asking him to remember a newish Toyota? They're designed to be forgettable!

  • Sjalabais

    I think it is pretty.

    <img src=";

    • dr zero

      That's probably because it's not garishly over-styled like so many modern cars.

      • Sjalabais

        Agreed. It is pleasant and avoids sharp, provocative edges. No useless LED-bombardement either.

    • Vairship

      I think that grille looks like it's sucking on a lemon. Kinda like certain Ford grilles, but at least with Ford you can say that "looking like it's sucking on a lemon" is part of their heritage design <img src="; width=600>

      • Sjalabais

        Well, who would complement the Edsel? I judge this Avalon as a Toyota. They get a "design is a low priority"-discount*. Had this been an Alfa, it would certainly be a desastrously bad design. As a Toyota, it is pleasant, nice, not bragging. Especially the interieur is well-done.

        *Fun fact: When Peter Horbury started at Volvo, design as a development goal was #9. Try to think of 8 more important concepts…

  • wisc47

    Hey, I'm pretty impressed with that interior. If that was the sort of thing I cared about I would think about considering it for someone I know who wanted a new car!

  • Scoutdude

    I'm not sure that you could say that the styling says Toyota. Up front I see a mix up of an Fusion grille and an Acura beak. The rear profile is a mix up of a bit of BMW styling crossed again with the current Fusion.

    For the record using the AC in a Toyota or Ford Hybrid won't significantly affect your MPG, what will kill it is having to use heat in the winter combined with the longer time it takes for the engine to get to the temp where the system will shut if off.

  • topdeadcentre

    Words fail me when I try to describe the hideousness of that front bumper/grille design.

  • TX_Stig

    I rented one of these on a trip from Texas to Florida a year or so ago. It was a pretty nice car, I'm rather embarrassed to say. It was comfortable, smooth, fast enough, and more efficient than I expected. It was pulling around 30-32 mpg while running at around 80 mph. 4 adults, although 2 of them are short, had more than enough room. Not exactly a car I would want to buy, but honestly, for a daily driving and road trip car, I could see having one. Plus, in its steely gray color, it was decent looking and invisible to the po. Always a good thing.

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