Much has changed this year for the Toyota Avalon lineup, and the model that sums up that change the best is the 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid. By fitting its Hybrid Synergy Drive system that's already used throughout the Toyota Prius models, as well as on the Camry Hybrid and others, Toyota has enabled a very impressive 40 miles per gallon EPA Combined fuel economy rating for this spacious, comfortable, and quiet sedan.
The standard Avalon is somewhat better-than-average in fuel-efficiency among large V-6 sedans, at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, but those wanting top fuel economy should skip right to the Avalon Hybrid and its phenomenally good EPA ratings of 40 mpg city and 39 highway. To the point, the 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, 40 miles per gallon has never been so serene.
The comfort and quiet, and the hints of luxury throughout, of the previous Avalon have been carried over to the 2013 Avalon lineup, but nearly everything else has changed. Design-wise, the new Avalon is hardly extroverted, but it at last looks styled for those who haven't yet reached retirement age. It stays true to the intent of Toyota's CALTY design house in California, where it was conceived, in looking far more elegant and athletic than its predecessor, with a handsome, aerodynamic, and even somewhat sporty profile, combined with an interior that pairs a futuristic capacitive instrument panel with luxury-level detailing.
Toyota has completely retuned the suspension, resulting in ride and handling that feel and respond much like a Lexus product. In particular, the excessive queasiness and bounciness of the former model have been quelled, and with a precise, natural feel to the steering, the Avalon drives like a smaller sedan than it is. We've even noted that we think the Avalon Hybrid stops with more confidence than the V-6 versions—largely because the Hybrid has a firmer brake-pedal feel—as well as better balanced because its 150-pound nickel-metal hydride battery pack is mounted in back.
While the Avalon Hybrid isn't quite as quick as the V-6 versions, the Hybrid manages 0-60 mph times of just 8.2 seconds (conservatively, we think) out of its powertrain, combining a lean Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with the battery pack plus two motors tucked into the transaxle, with continuously variable gearing through the tried-and-true planetary power-split setup. Plus, this is one of the smoothest, most responsive versions of Hybrid Synergy Drive yet, with no rough transitions; with the climate control or the sound system turned on, your passengers likely won't be able to tell the difference.
Just as with the standard 2013 Avalon, interior appointments have been much improved—particularly in back, where the seats are among the best we've sampled in a large sedan, with excellent contouring for adults. Taller adults will need to tuck their heads to get in, but once inside it's a luxurious space. Cabin materials are superb, and a class above the Camry—nearly Lexus-quality, really. Ride quality is on the firm side now, but not harsh, and you'll have a hard time finding another interior this quiet combined with a ride so controlled.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid starts at as little as $1,750 more than the V-6 Avalon, and because of its incredible fuel gains—nearly double the miles per gallon in the city—its smoothness, and Toyota's reputation with hybrids, we see no reason not to choose it. Hybrid models are offered for all of the Avalon lineup except for the base XLE. Well-equipped XLE Touring models are the ones to focus on if you want the top tech, including a Blind Spot Monitor with Cross Traffic Alert, while Limited models pile on true luxury features like heated-and-ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a rear sunshade.
For more details on the Avalon Hybrid, see the full review of the 2013 Toyota Avalon on our companion site, TheCarConnection.