Is the 2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid a Good Car? 4 Pros and 3 Cons

When you think of big, comfortable, old-school cars — we’re not talkin’ vehicles here, we mean cars — maybe you fondly think of James Caan’s sweet Caddy in “Thief,” or Ice Cube’s hydraulic-equipped Chevy Impala from the “It Was a Good Day” video … or maybe even the 6000 SUX from “RoboCop” (just me?). Far more likely in this “you gotta have an SUV if you wanna be with me” climate, you think of your grandpa’s old Ford Galaxie that smelled like stale cigar smoke and hair tonic.

If you’re inclined toward the latter, it’s unlikely the 2021 Toyota Avalon will disabuse you of your bias. But if you still dig cruising around town in a big, floaty land yacht, the Avalon may just be your all-around best option — the hybrid variant in particular.

Related: 2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Review: Big, Classy Efficiency

Versus its few remaining competitors vying to be the last sedan standing in the full-size, non-luxury segment — the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Nissan Maxima — the Avalon offers perhaps the best combination of the qualities large-sedan loyalists value, including roominess, a comfy cabin and a nice ride. But just because it’s good doesn’t mean it’s all good; we have notes for Toyota in both columns.

For the full context, be sure to check out Cars.com Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman’s comprehensive critique via the related link above. For a rapid-fire rundown of the pros and cons, keep reading.

Things We Like

1. Cabin Fit for a King

Interior comfort is everything you want it to be, and maybe more — and the premium appointments don’t fall off as you move rearward. Backseat passengers will find copious legroom, heated seats, power outlets and the same quilted leather upholstery enjoyed by those up front — and behind them is abundant cargo space unaffected by the hybrid’s underseat battery placement.

2. Powerful Powertrain

The Avalon Hybrid’s naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combines with an electric motor powered by a new lithium-ion battery pack to channel power through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Total system output of 215 horsepower may not be a ton for a big car, but the 118-hp electric motor helps drive the front wheels, aiding off-the-line acceleration.

“You’ll never miss the extra engine cylinders you’d find in other sedans, as the hybrid system provides plenty of grunt when called for, then balances it out with quiet electric operation both at lower speeds around town and during steady-state highway cruising,” Bragman notes in his review.

3. Good MPG (If You Can Get It)

The Avalon Hybrid boasts EPA-estimated gas mileage of 43/43/43 mpg to 43/44/44 mpg city/highway/combined, depending on the trim level. If you manage to reproduce those figures during real-world driving (full disclosure: Bragman didn’t on his 204-mile test drive), you’re besting the Avalon’s main rivals by roughly 20 mpg.

4. Palatable Price

The well-equipped Avalon Hybrid starts at just over $38,000 at the base, the highest of the three trims starts at less than $45,000 and the luxurious, loaded-up Limited that Bragman tested totaled $46,717 — all quite reasonable for what you get at each level. (All prices include a destination charge.)

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Things We Don’t

1. Old-Timey Tech

Like the very idea of driving a large sedan for seemingly most of the country, the Avalon’s multimedia system is passe. If for some reason Toyota thinks older buyers who remember the heyday of the full-size four-door will also appreciate the infotainment unit’s outdated graphics, the automaker may want to rethink those teensy-weensy buttons, as eyesight naturally tends to decline as we age.

2. Big Mouth

Look at that grille. The last time we saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it; now we know why creatures from the Black Lagoon eat their young, y’know? Now, now, the Avalon Hybrid’s big black yap ain’t as bad as all that, but it definitely undermines its sophisticated sleekness and the upscale flair of deets like sequential LEDs and multispoke wheels.

3. Steering and Stopping … Not Really Feelin’ It

It looks and feels like a high-grade full-size sedan, and in many ways it drives like one, but the Avalon tips its hybrid hand when it comes to steering and stopping. The wheel feel is light and rather uncommunicative, while the brakes go numb near the end of a stop.

Related Video: 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid Review

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