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Toyota adds fuel-thrifty hybrid to Avalon family

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Move over, Toyota Camry. It's time for Toyota's other sizable sedan, the Avalon, to get some well-deserved attention.

Recently revamped with a stylish body and new features, the five-door Avalon now has an impressive, fuel-sipping, gasoline-electric hybrid model.

Not only does the Avalon Hybrid provide comfortable seating for five, with a roomy back seat, it is rated by the federal government at 40 miles per gallon in city driving and 39 mpg on the highway — the best of any Avalon ever.

These numbers are not unattainable. In regular, not-trying-to-squeeze-every-drop-of-gasoline driving, the test 2013 Avalon Hybrid registered no lower than 36.2 mpg and reached 37.1 mpg in combined city/highway travel.

Also noteworthy: The 2013 Avalon overall is listed as a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, which says predicted reliability should be above average.

The Avalon Hybrid's starting retail price isn't as high as many consumers might assume, given all the standard equipment.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $36,365 for the base 2013 Avalon Hybrid, which is $3,360 more than the base, non-hybrid 2013 Avalon.

But note that the base Avalon Hybrid has XLE Premium trim that includes standard upscale appointments such as power moonroof, leather-trimmed seats, heated and power-adjustable front seats, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker audio system, 6.1-inch display screen, Bluetooth hands-free phone controls, push-button start, keyless remote entry and leather-wrapped steering wheel plus 10 airbags.

Then, there's the fuel mileage comparison. The non-hybrid 2013 Avalon, which has a 268-horsepower V-6, is rated by the federal government at 2 131 mpg, which is 19 mpg less in city driving and 8 miles less per gallon in highway driving than the Avalon Hybrid.

The test Avalon Hybrid, a mid-range XLE Touring model, looked stylish with new, expressive grille and the kind of expressive body lines on the sides that could have come from a Hyundai Sonata.

Overall, the car was attractively proportioned, though the sizable rear parcel shelf would sometimes catch and reflect the sun's rays and detract from rearward visibility using the inside rearview mirror.

Toyota engineers made sure to make the Avalon's ride firmer than before to provide a more dynamic driving experience, even in the hybrid.

The test car didn't handle like a wallowy, floating, big sedan. Rather, the driver felt a palpable connection to the road and body motions were more controlled than ever. The flipside of the more-taut ride is that passengers can notice sounds and some vibrations from road bumps, including recessed manhole covers. And steering still felt a bit numb.

Ann M. Job is a contributing writer for the Associated Press

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