Toyota is taking a two-pronged attack with its redesigned Avalon, replacing its rather vanilla sedan with a model that has two distinct personalities: sophisticated and sporty.

There are essentially four versions of the Avalon, divided among trims—or equipment levels. The XLE and Limited target a mature driver, emphasizing comfort. The Touring and more dramatically styled XSE have more youthful demeanors, emphasizing driving fun. In addition, there’s a hybrid powertrain that provides improved fuel efficiency.

Prices range from $35,500 for an XLE to $42,800 for a Hybrid Limited.

We rented two sedans—a V6 Touring and a Hybrid Limited—from Toyota to get an early taste for this new car and its different flavors. 

2019 Toyota Avalon

What we drove: 2019 Toyota Avalon Touring; 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited
Drivetrain: 301-hp, 3.5-liter V6 with eight-speed automatic; 215-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with hybrid drivetrain and continuously variable transmission. 
MSRP: $42,200-$42,800 

2019 Toyota Avalon front driving

How It Drives

The ride is the distinguishing characteristic. With the Limited, it doesn’t take long for the smoothness to impress, especially in contrast with the previous generation. (Despite a midcycle update, the outgoing Avalon never recaptured the pampering ride that the model was known for.)

The Touring is fitted with an adaptive suspension, which can alter the ride stiffness according to road conditions and driver demands, but the overall impression is a firmer ride, partly due to the large, 19-inch wheels on our sample car, than that of the Limited.

More on Sedans

With either version, the result is a more agile sedan that can be enjoyable to drive, an impression reinforced by the well-weighted steering. 

The V6 engine has ample power, with a gentle onset of acceleration that makes it responsive and befitting a luxury sedan. Once underway, passing power is readily available, accompanied by an exhaust growl that might seem initially out of place in an Avalon. The eight-speed transmission delivers crisp, timely shifts. Based on our initial experience, the gearbox seems even better in the Avalon than the similar transmissions we experienced in the CamryHighlander, and Sienna.

Toyota explained to CR that great effort was placed in development to create a muscular sound with the V6. Some testers thought it added welcome character, and others felt it intruded on an otherwise serene driving experience. 

The hybrid powertrain in the preproduction car we drove sounded surprisingly gruff when the engine kicked in. We observed 40 mpg overall on the trip computer. 

2019 Toyota Avalon interior

Inside

The sedan has large front doors, but they open so wide that it can be a far reach to pull them closed. Note that the sedan’s lower stance requires more ducking to enter compared with the previous Avalon.

The spacious cabin has an upscale feel, featuring soft materials with intricate stitching and attractive open-pore wood trim. The leather upholstery on our sample vehicles is more supple than what’s found in most mainstream brand models. The seats are wide, and we like the four-way lumbar control. But taller staffers wished there was more support for their long legs.

The optional head-up display makes it easy to see the speed and warnings from the driver-assist features. The center cluster, positioned between the two main gauges, provides a convenient way to scroll through information. 

The rear seat is large and comfortable. The seat base is a bit lower than before, adjusting for the lower roofline. Our cars had heated rear seats and two convenient USB ports for the second-row passengers.

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

The Avalon comes with the comprehensive Toyota Safety Sense P suite of advanced safety systems and driver assist. The features include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. 

Bottom Line

The 2019 Avalon shows significant improvements in ride, handling, interior quality, and amenities, giving it a more upscale demeanor, including more sophisticated styling. Based on the two versions we drove, our team favors the V6 Limited for letting the car’s newfound refinement and agility shine. The new Avalon seems to be not only a formidable competitor to the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, and Kia Cadenza but also a worthwhile, pragmatic alternative to a Lexus sedan. 

2019 Toyota Avalon rear