2016 Toyota Avalon Driving Impressions

The standard 3.5-liter V6 is smooth and strong. It’s the most popular choice.

Avalon Hybrid uses a combination of motors, batteries and a four-cylinder engine to produce 200 horsepower.

Underway, Avalon feels composed, capable and controllable. The ride quality feels refined, sorted, firm but not harsh, with the just enough compliance to filter most road roughness.

It’s also very quiet inside. It’s quiet while cruising, with no noticeable engine noise. Only during hard acceleration does the Hybrid model reveal itself with a more coarse engine note. The only other exception is a bit of motor whine that makes its way inside in the Hybrid, when in Sport mode or making quicker takeoffs.

The 3.5-liter V6 puts out 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The 6-speed automatic offers a sport-shift mode, and incorporates throttle blipping for smoother downshifts. Paddle shifters are standard. Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes adjust steering, throttle, and shift feel. Toyota says the V6 versions hit 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds, which is fairly quick.

The Hybrid uses a four-cylinder engine, a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle, teamed with two motors tucked into the transaxle, which are fed by nickel-metal hydride batteries. Power is routed through a planetary power-split continuously variable transmission. The system combines for 200 horsepower and coaxes 0–60 mph times of 8.2 seconds out of the Hybrid four-door, which is competent performance but not quick. Three driving modes are offered: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode allows running on battery power alone at speeds of up to 25 mph, while Eco mode cuts down on throttle response and HVAC output. Sport mode sharpens the Avalon Hybrid’s throttle and transmission responses to feel quicker, even if it’s not actually much quicker.

The efficiency of the Hybrid works well in stop-and-go traffic, and it can go 680 miles on a tank of Regular gas.

Avalon drives like a smaller car than it is, with a precise, natural feel even on curvy, imperfect surfaces. Sport mode firms up the steering somewhat on V6 models, more dramatically in the Hybrid.

Special shock absorbers and large anti-roll bars result in supremely capable and controllable handling. The suspension has been retuned for 2016 on all models, with the XLE and Limited versions getting a comfort-oriented setup and the Touring getting its own unique sporty calibration.

The brakes provide strong stops, but the pedal felt spongy on the V6 in particular.

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