My assignment was to select a car. Just any car! Drive it from the west coast to the Grand Canyon, continue on to Tombstone, Arizona skirting Big Bend National Park, and then moving eastward to Rockport, Texas on the Gulf Coast. The trip would conclude back home in Dallas, Texas.
My wife Jo Ann and I were assigned several stories to be completed along the way, and ready for publication upon our arrival home.
After factoring in numerous considerations, I selected the luxurious Toyota Avalon Hybrid sedan. I needed a comfortable, technologically savvy vehicle that was double-dependable and engaging while providing great gas mileage. Avalon was the right choice.
We skirted the Mojave Desert near Barstow after leaving the City of Oxnard, California, then challenged the high mountain passages in and out of Williams, Arizona. The Avalon adjusted easily to coastal, desert, and mountain terrains. It has great acceleration when climbing then purring to a soft rhythm of the downgrade, sipping fuel like desert nectar.
Highway 17 south out of Flagstaff is about 7,300 feet above sea level. It then descends, sometimes rapidly, to the desert floor below where lies the City of Phoenix. Curves were sharp on the downgrade and the landscape was breathtaking. The Avalon shoulder nudged the mountains without a nervous blink from the vehicle or the driver.
Our journey took us through LA, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and San Antonio—often through morning or afternoon rush hour. Heavy city traffic was eaten quickly and digested easily as the Avalon took the fast lane and never relinquished it.
Highway 10 east out of Tucson has a gifted speed limit of 80 mph and a straight shot to San Antonio. The Avalon adjusted remarkably well to hot temperatures, while interesting sceneries flew by with desert lizards, shy armadillos, and cactus that seem to reach into the sky.
At night temperatures plunged to near-freezing as a galaxy of stars and lights of small towns like Ozona and Sonora sparkled through the windows. My wife smiled warmly at the peace and quiet of the desert at night, only to take on a furled brow when I mentioned seeing a coyote near the fence and a cat-like creature bounded across the road.
The Avalon traversed nicely through rain and dust storms and road repairs, dismissing any adverse temperature changes with the smugness of the starting quarterback on a state championship football team. The Avalon survived on an occasional draw from the fuel canteen and encouragement from the passengers, while facing admiring compliments throughout the journey.
We celebrated our occasional pit stops, filling up on Nature Valley Protein Bars, bottled water, and Subway tuna sandwiches.
Including stops for story gathering, we covered 2,506 miles in 10 days while averaging 42 mpg.
The Limited trim is the premium model and my selective choice. It was powered by a Hybrid Synergy Drive, which consists of a 2.5 L 4-cylinder VVT-i Atkinson cycle engine complemented by drive motors and a battery pack. With Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) it delivers 200 total horsepower while achieving an average of 40 mpg combined.
Comfort is paramount for a good travel experience, especially when the pathway is uncharted over a great distance and through a variety of terrains.
The Avalon cockpit is tailored for the driver. Chrome interior accents and door handles, plus aluminum scuff plates lining the base of each door add beauty and charm to an already attractive interior. The 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat has a power seat extension for added leg support.
The leather-trimmed, heated-ventilated front seats made for a comfy morning drive through the mountains and night dark desert. Even the back seat is rich in comfort. Plenty of leg room as well, thanks to a near-flat rear floor.
The interior, especially the attractive dashboard, is surrounded with high caliber electronics like an integrated back up camera, Entune App Suite, and intelligent touch controls. These are simple to use, while helping to provide superb climate and environmentally safe conditions.
Outside, the Avalon is aerodynamically sculpted with wide lines and curves that are integrated into turn signals, and fronted by an attractive bold new grille. The 17-inch super chrome alloy wheels and stylish LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and power tilt side mirrors (memory system) add safety and stunning appeal to both occupants and outside observers.
With Avalon’s independent suspension helping to give you more control, the ride becomes dynamic regardless of sharp, steep, and winding roads that descend quickly, such as Highway 17 south of Flagstaff. The ride becomes unique because the suspension is unique.
Toyota has not neglected your safety with Avalon. The 10 standard airbags, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control work together to make everyone more aware, so you never have to second guess or fear the road ahead. These safety features are standard on the Avalon Hybrid.
I would like to have seen the inside door pockets on the front doors large enough to hold a small can of soda or bottle of water. Just a small suggestion for a vehicle that is already near perfect.
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $41,950.
Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or email@example.com