2020 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Sedan Test Drive

“2020 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Sedan”
Fifth Gen Avalon Enters Eighth Year


Toyota’s Avalon was a unique midsize offering when it debuted more than two decades ago, bringing class-above roominess and comfort to the segment, positioned between its Camry lineup and models from Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division. It is the second hybrid for the Avalon, which is available as a four-door, six-passenger, top-of-the-line luxury sport sedan for the Avalon stable, which comes in three trim grades: XLE; XSE and Limited.

The fifth-generation Avalon bowed in 2019, with a striking new design that was more coupe-like-than sedan. It is built around Toyota’s advanced New Global Architecture (TNGA). This high-strength TNGA is the ideal foundation for an exceptionally athletic luxury-sport sedan. For the 2020 model year, the Avalon TRD joins the 2020 Camry for the introduction of the first-ever Toyota sedans to wear the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) badge, offering an even more aggressive performance persona. We’ll deal here with the 2020 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid, which delivers EPA mileage estimates of 43-MPG city, and a like amount for the highway.


The 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid has grown in all exterior dimensions except height. The flowing, streamlined design leads off with a large bold grille featuring a Black mesh pattern. It displays wraparound headlamps flanking the grille and frontal air inlets. The profile is low and smooth with simple flowing lines from front to rear, where the greenhouse, with its blacked-out “B” pillar and coupe-like imagery sweeps almost to the trailing edge of the abbreviated decklid topped by a spoiler lip. The rear fascia of the XSE hybrid’s exhaust is nearly hidden from view.


Interior design and appointments underscore the pinnacle of luxury. The Avalon’s cabin is one of the roomiest in the segment and provides a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. Serenity is assured by strategically placed sound-absorbing and sound-insulating materials, including acoustic-type glass used for the windshield and side glass and foam injected into the A, B and C-pillars, as well as the rocker panels.

Quality design touches and amenities define Avalon’s interior, with no detail too small to ensure a high quality feel. The power windows, for example, slow down as they approach the top of the window frames, and the coin box features a damper for smooth opening and closing. The steering column tilts and telescopes. Elegant smoke-toned chrome trim surrounds the center panel, while glossy trim frames the shifter.

The instrument panel utilizes Optitron-type gauges and a 3.5-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) color multi-information display much like an iPad. The leather-trimmed steering wheel features numerous controls, including Toyota’s Entune™ Audio, information display and hands-free phone function. The steering wheel also includes buttons for voice recognition and a vehicle-to-vehicle distance switch for the standard Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (part of the Toyota Safety Sense P system).

The Avalon’s eBin™ electronics storage tray in the center console is illuminated by LEDs at night and can store devices while they recharge. A power rear window shade blocks the sun’s rays for the rear passengers. Shift into reverse, and the shade lowers, and then rises again with the shift into Drive. A standard backup camera improves rearward visibility for all Avalon models. Dynamic guidelines superimposed on the display show approximate distances from objects in the camera’s field of view. Music may be played from nearly every digital source including CDs.


The Avalon hybrid’s motive force comes from a front transversely mounted 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve Dynamic Force 4-cylinder engine with D4S dual injection featuring VVT-iE, VVT-I with Eco, Normal, Sport and EV drive modes, along with two Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motors; Electric Motor Generator: MG1 functions as generator, engine starter and battery charger; MG2 – drives front wheels and regeneration during braking. Max output=118 hp (88kW)

Gasoline Engine Horsepower =176 @ 5,700 rpm, with torque rated at 163 pound feet in a range from 3,600-5,200 rpm. Electric Motor energy is provided by a Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride Hybrid Battery Pack – Nominal Voltage 244.8 V (204 cells, 1.2V/cells) 6.5 ampere hour capacity, 650 volts maximum system voltage. Energy is transmitted to the front wheels via an Electronically controlled Continuously Variable transmission (CVT) with sequential shift mode.


My test 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid came in XSE trim. The base price was set at $39,350., while optional equipment and the delivery processing and handling fee upped the ante to $$42,259. The exterior wore a Silver metallic finish, while the interior was done in Black with grained metallic trim accents.


With more than two decades of global hybrid leadership under its belt, it was only natural that Toyota would make this high-efficiency technology available in its flagship sedan.

The hybrid system is able to switch between the gas engine and electric motor, or to combine the output from both, channeling torque through a unique planetary gear-type continuously variable transmission. An EV Drive mode enables the Avalon Hybrid to drive solely on the electric motor for a short distance at speeds of 20 mph or less. The transition is seamless and the hybrid’s operation is barely discernable from a conventionally powered vehicle. Handling characteristics are velvety smooth yet instantly responsive and the ride quality is firm yet luxurious.

Augmenting the conventional brake system, regenerative braking produced by the electric motor/generator in the transaxle captures the kinetic energy of the wheels, storing it in the hybrid battery. That hybrid intelligence, pioneered by Toyota, permeates the vehicle. For example, because the air conditioning and power steering systems are driven electrically, both continue to operate normally when the car is operating under electric power alone or when the auto start/stop system shuts off the gas engine.

A Hybrid System Indicator that graphically illustrates power output and regeneration is displayed on a thin-film transistor (TFT) color multi-information screen.

Safety fare includes: 10 standard airbags and the Toyota Star Safety System Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop brake-override Technology.

Available Blind Spot Monitor uses radar and the same technology provides a Rear Cross Traffic Alert, designed to detect low-speed cross traffic behind the vehicle when in reverse.


The 2020 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Limited makes for an ideal choice for those who appreciate the value and savings over a similar Lexus Hybrid, and while there are obviously those who will complain about the lack of a V6 powerplant. in reality, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers more than enough power, with the advantage of greater fuel economy.

This Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a jewel of a Luxury sport sedan, and Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against corrosion with no mileage limitation. Hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

In the overall analysis, the Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid is very definitely worthy of consideration when contemplating the purchase of a moderately priced luxury Hybrid vehicle.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2020 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Sedan

Base Price: $39,350.
Price as Tested: $42,259.

Engine Type and Size: 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve Dynamic Force 4-cylinder with D4S dual injection with VVT-iE, VVT-I with Eco, Normal, Sport and EV drive modes.

Horsepower (bhp): 176 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 163 @ 3,600-5,200 rpm

Electric Motor Generators: Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor
MG1 – generator, engine starter and battery charge
MG2 – drives front wheels and regeneration during braking. Max output=118 hp (88kW)
Hybrid Battery Pack: Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride
Nominal Voltage 244.8 V (204 cells, 1.2V/cells) 6.5 ampere hour capacity, 650 v maximum system voltage.
Hybrid Battery Pack: Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride
Nominal Voltage 244.8 V (204 cells, 1.2V/cells) 6.5 ampere hour capacity, 650 volts maximum system voltage.

Transmission: Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with sequential shift mode.

Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine and motors / Front –Wheel drive.

Suspension: Front -Independent MacPherson strut with 27 mm stabilizer bar.
Rear – Dual Link Independent MacPherson strut with 27 mm stabilizer bar.

Brakes: Power-assisted, electronically controlled braking system- four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, BA and integrated regenerative brake system.

Tires: Bridgestone Turanza EL 440 – 235/45 R18 94W M&S mounted on 5-“V”-shaped spokes with shorter dual inside spokes – Painted Black.

Wheelbase: 113.0 inches
Length Overall: 195.9 inches
Width: 72.8 inches – with mirrors.
Height: 57.5 inches
Curb Weight: 3,671 lbs.
Turning Circle: 38.7 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 13.2 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 43 mpg city / 43-mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: 0.28
0 – 60 mph: Not tested

# # #

More from Our Auto Expert