2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE

Big size sedan that's comfortable with great gas mileage
By Durhl Caussey
Durhl Caussey
Durhl Caussey
November 13, 2020Updated: November 13, 2020

The Avalon comes with two powertrains. The standard 3.5-liter engine provides 301 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque, and this power is harnessed through an 8-speed automatic transmission and sport-tuned suspension. But I wish to focus on my tester, which is the Avalon Hybrid. It is powered by a tag team of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, coupled to an electronically controlled CVT. The whole hybrid drive train can produce up to 215 horsepower.

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Gasoline-powered Avalon and Avalon Hybrid. (Courtesy of Toyota)

My XSE had more than sufficient power, generating great acceleration climbing freeway on-ramps and passing in general. The estimated EPA mileage is rated at 43 mpg highway/city/combined, but on a recent trip to Galveston that took the coastal highway to Corpus Christi on the way home to Dallas netted me 48 mpg.

The final remains of Hurricane Beta were still along the coast when we started our journey. A steady rain accompanied us until we got about half way to Galveston.

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The rear view. (Courtesy of Toyota)

After a stunning, fulfilling lunch at Sam’s Restaurant in Fairfield and the arrival of the sun, the Avalon continued to hold the roadway well despite acres of off-road water nearby. The sense of safety provided by the XSE trim was bolstered by the finely crafted suspension.

Yet, if I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen the more luxurious trim. The line-topping Hybrid Limited trim would have provided larger and less fitted seats. Of course losing twenty pounds of gut would have solved the problem entirely.

The standard Audio Plus infotainment system sports a 9-inch touchscreen and 8 speakers. Modern connectivity support includes Bluetooth wireless, USB port with iPod connectivity, Amazon Alexa, and Apple CarPlay.

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The interior of the Avalon Hybrid. (Courtesy of Toyota)

We never could get the nav to work properly. The map showed some side or insignificant roads, but rarely major highways. When major roads were visible, identity could never be discovered when scrolling to other views.

However, the inside was roomy and materials were of quality origin. The 16.1 cubic feet of trunk storage was most helpful. In fact, the wife’s seven suitcases plus my small night bag and ice chest filled it perfectly.

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Available Qi-compatible wireless charging. (Courtesy of Toyota)

The only hindrance with the interior was the noise. I attributed it initially to the rain and slick roadways, but although the weather cleared and roadway became dry, the noise persisted. Not sure if it was caused by the engine, styling, lack of damping features, or unsealed doors or windows, but it was annoying.

Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite of driver assistance systems were profoundly helpful, especially along the coast with numerous small roads connecting narrow roadway and people everywhere. Standard features include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Defection, Lane Departure Warning with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Although not a part of TSS-P, Blind Spot Monitor with Cross-Traffic Alert is also included. The systems all work well together.

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Premium Audio with JBL sound system. (Courtesy of Toyota)

Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE carries an MSRP of $39,500. The test vehicle also had the $1,720 Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation and JBL sound system.

3 years/36,000 miles Bumper to Bumper Warranty
5 years/60,000 miles Powertrain Warranty
8 years/100,000 miles Hybrid Component Warranty
5 years/unlimited miles Corrosion Perforation Warranty

Durhl Caussey writes a column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or [email protected].