Road Test: 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE


by Kivi



Impressive Fuel Economy: Premium Experience

Toyota’s fifth generation 2020 Avalon offers two engine options—hybrid and non-hybrid. Clean Fleet Report’s week in the hybrid reminded us why Toyota has, worldwide, sold more hybrid vehicles than any other car company. The Avalon, which was all-new in 2019, is a testament to why sedans should be on more consumer’s shopping lists, especially a full-size one that flirts with 50 miles per gallon.

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
The big boy delivers in style

Smooth Operator

Powering the 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine running on 87 octane gasoline that, along with twin electric motors, combine for 215 horsepower. The electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) smoothly drove the front wheels (all-wheel drive is not an option). While the EPA fuel economy rating of 43 mpg city/43 highway/43 combined is impressive, Clean Fleet Report knew we could do better. In 354 miles driving throughout Southern California in the Eco drive mode, we were pleased to see we had barley used half of the 13.2 gallon fuel tank as we averaged 49.1 mpg.

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
Under the hood is a gas engine and two electric motors

The hybrid part of the Avalon Hybrid is the nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery. Charged through regenerative braking, which is an energy recovery system taking the usually wasted friction and heat from braking or coasting, and converting its kinetic energy into stored energy. The process of using and restoring electricity to the battery can be watched in real time on dash gauges.

Aiding this fuel efficiency is the Avalon Hybrid’s 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which is the by-product of two systems that operate invisibly as you drive down the road. The active grille shutters, located in the lower part of the front grille, close to help the engine run more efficiently and to reduce air flowing through the engine compartment, which causes drag. Second, tangential venting directs air flows through the vertical vents on the outer edge of the front grille through the front tire wells before exiting out along the sides of the car. These, along with a sleek body, helped the Avalon Hybrid slip through the wind.

Hitting the Road

Planning on taking any road trips or vacations? How about a daily commute? The Avalon’s driving comfort on long trips translates well for your daily driving. This is a very good sedan, with driving attributes that will make you go Ahhh. Acceleration was strong and smooth, and selection of the Sport drive mode helped the hybrid power plant climb a long grade. Going a bit slower up a mountain is a welcome trade-off for getting nearly 50 mpg in a five-passenger sedan.

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
The Avalon pushes into premium territory

The 2020 Avalon has a supple ride and its 3,671 pounds never felt heavy. The electric power steering was not so light as to remove feel for the road, allowing easy in-town driving and parking. Handling is exactly how it should be for a car designed for comfort, as it never had a floaty or soft feel. The Avalon Hybrid isn’t marketed as a sport sedan, so don’t expect it to do what it isn’t meant to do. However, on sweeping mountain corners the Avalon Hybrid was confident and never gave a feeling of being out of control or losing grip. Overall, it offered a satisfying quiet driving experience that was aided by the acoustic noise-reducing windshield and front side windows.

If you are looking for a sportier version, check-out the new-for-2020 Avalon TRD, which comes with larger tires and brakes, sits lower, has a sport-tuned suspension, an aero kit and a sexier exhaust note. Show-up to the yacht club in this and heads will be turning.

Our Avalon Hybrid came with 18-inch, dark gray-painted, machine-finished alloy wheels and 235/45 all-season tires. Having its hybrid batteries located under the rear seat, it is nicely balanced with a feeling of being planted to the ground. The ride is more akin to a highway cruiser begging for that first post shelter-in-place road trip to be mapped out.

Stopping is greatly influenced by the regenerative braking, where one of the twin electric motors slows the car and captures that energy in the battery. The anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution produced straight and consistent stops with a pedal that offered a medium-hard pressure, which was easy to modulate for smooth and predictable stops.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
Lower slung and more aggressive

The 2020 Avalon is the flagship sedan for Toyota, just a bit larger, more luxurious and expensive, than the Camry, but also about $5,000 less expensive than the Lexus ES Hybrid, which comes from Toyota’s upscale division. Toyota says the Avalon exudes “sophisticated essence” that begins with a low-slung presence. The front end sports what is probably the largest grille on any sedan, a feature that isn’t appealing to all. Clean Fleet Report has grown accustomed to the Toyota and Lexus signature grilles as they make a statement of being bold, stating: “Hey, look at me!” If the grille is a touchy point, then get your Avalon Hybrid in a darker color, like ours painted in Parisian Night Pearl, as the grille will not be quite as noticeable. There are many cars that don’t stand-out so, sadly, if you want complete anonymity, then the Avalon Hybrid may not be for you.

The piano black grille has no chrome, with the Toyota badge in blue to indicate this Avalon is electrified. The dark front end draws the eye to the squinty-eyed LED reflector headlights, wrapped with a smoked chrome bezel. The sleek roofline, with a power tilt and slide sunroof, is only interrupted by the color-keyed shark fin antenna. The trunk lid has a very subtle spoiler. LED tail lights sit below with dual exhaust tips peeking out each side of the lower fascia.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Avalon’s interior is built with high craftsmanship, tailoring and an attention to detail. The XSE package came with gray, perforated SofTex front seats with Ultrasuede inserts. SofTex is a synthetic leather seat material designed for wear, easy cleaning and spill resistance; it uses a manufacturing process that is more environmentally sensitive than conventional synthetic leather. The power eight-way adjustable, heated and ventilated driver seat, combined with the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel column, made it easy for the driver to find a comfortable driving position.

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
Making rear seat passengers at home

The cockpit design is driver-friendly, featuring large gauges for easy reading and controls for easy access. Interior systems include a dual-zone automatic climate system, power windows, door locks and mirrors, electronic parking brake, Smart Access with push button stop/start, multiple power outlets, folding heated power side mirrors with turn signals, and a Qi-compatible wireless charging system.

The rear seats comfortably hold three adults, which split 60/40 and fold flat, feature a folding armrest with cup holders. Behind the seat is a large trunk that can hold all the gear for four on a weekend road trip. Two 2.1-amp charging ports are found at the rear of the center console as well as air vents.

The 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE had the Premium Audio infotainment package, featuring a 9.0-inch touchscreen prominently commanding the center of the dash. Here you will find controls for the JBL audio system and navigation with Entune. The 14 speakers, with a subwoofer and a 1,200-watt amplifier, produced high-quality sound for the AM/FM/HD radio, Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay and SiriusXM. There are two USB ports and a 12V/120W up front. Toyota’s Safety Connect includes Wi-Fi by Verizon with a six-month trial. For those long, fuel-efficient road trips, having Wi-Fi for multiple devises will keep back seat passengers happy and quiet. A big thank you to Toyota for having radio volume and channel selection knobs.

The leather-trimmed, multi-function heated steering wheel has controls for audio plushands-free Bluetooth telephone operationand voice controls. The frameless rearview mirror is HomeLink equipped. The aluminum pedal covers and aluminum door trim with illuminated “Avalon” are nice touches.


The 2020 Avalon comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense, which has active and passive safety features including 10 air bags, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control. Additional safety features include a tire pressure monitoring system, hill start control, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and the previously mentioned four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
A sleek look

The 2020 Toyota Avalon has earned a Top Rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Good rating, while the US Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded it their highest rank of a Five Star rating.


The 2020 Avalon Hybrid comes in three trim levels, with these base prices including the $930 delivery fee.

  • XLE                     $37,930
  • XSE                    $40,430
  • Limited               $44,230

The Avalon Hybrid XSE Clean Fleet Report drove, including options totaling $5,596 and the $930 delivery fee, had an MSRP of $42,836.

The 2020 Avalon Hybrid comes with these warranties:

• Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles        

• Basic – Three years/36,000 miles    

  • Corrosion Perforation – Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Maintenance/Roadside Assistance – Two years/25,000 miles 

Observations: The 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XSE

The 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, built in Georgetown, Kentucky, was redesigned for 2019 using the Toyota New Global Architecture (TGNA) platform that can accommodate different vehicle sizes. The styling is sharp with an elegant, comfortable and spacious interior that can seat a family of five while hauling their luggage on road trips.

2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE
Oh, the places you’ll go

For how nice all that is, the icing on the cake for the 2020 Avalon Hybrid is its stellar fuel economy. There will be no second guessing your decision to drive home in a sedan rather than a crossover SUV, after spending time in this very well-built and designed car. You will gladly be taking-up Toyota on their slogan of “Let’s Go Places.”

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Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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