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2021 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Review

Amy Plemons | January 13, 2021
2021 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Review

This week I bring you the 2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, a vehicle that makes up about a third of Avalon sales. Also in 2020, sales of the Avalon hybrid were up slightly from 2019. The XSE trim is the sportiest of the three-trim Avalon hybrid lineup, in terms of looks and ride.

What’s new

For 2021, Toyota swaps out the previous nickel-metal hybrid battery for a new lithium-ion battery pack. 2021 also sees the addition of a new Vehicle Approach Noise system, designed to help to alert pedestrians of the car’s presence at low speeds, and two USB-C ports replace USB-As in the front and rear console box. All-wheel drive is also available for 2021. An Avalon Nightshade edition is also part of the lineup.

Exterior

The XSE looks terrific in Ruby Flare Pearl with gloss black accents and 18-Inch dark gray painted alloy wheels. LED headlights feature smoked chrome bezels. A sporty front end features a piano-black grille with a sport mesh insert and an active grille shutter. Lateral vents help with aerodynamics. Gloss-black heated power outside mirrors adorn the sides along with color-keyed door handles. The tail end book ends the sporty look with aero-fin-style LED tail lamps, single hidden exhaust, rear spoiler, and black Camry Avalon lettering.

Interior

The XSE’s available Cognac and Black interior is stylish, well-designed and roomy. Soft-touch materials adorn the multi-layered dash and doors. Real aluminum trim and glossy black accents give the cabin an upscale look.

SofTex-trimmed seats with ultrasuede insert seats and contrast stitching look upscale and are comfortable. Both front seats are heated and 8-way power adjustable. The driver’s seat adds 2-way power lumbar. Aluminum pedal covers greet your feet. A tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped steering provides paddle shifters and various controls. Above you find an overhead console area and a power tilt moonroof. The center console houses a leather-wrapped gear shift along with an electronic parking brake and brake hold. The console armrest bin is nicely padded. Back seat room is impressive. There is plenty of leg- and head-room, but beware of a high hump in the floorboard for the middle passenger.

Back seat passengers get their own A/C vents and USB ports.

Opening the trunk remotely from a key fob reveals an impressively spacious cargo area, one of the largest in its segment, at 16.9 cubic-feet.

Technology

Like the Camry, the Avalon’s technology hasn’t made the move to all-digital, like you find in the Hyundai Sonata Limited hybrid. A well-lit, easy to read 7-inch digital display sits between analog dials.

A responsive 9-inch multimedia touchscreen supports Apple CarPlay and Alexa-enabled device connectivity along with new for 2021 Android Auto. A backup camera offers dynamic gridlines. Dynamic navigation is embedded with the optional 14-speaker JBL sound system package, which I recommend if music is important to you. It sounds great and replaces a standard 8-speaker system.

Wireless charging is standard in the XSE and you also have two USB-A and two USB-C charge ports.

Powertrain

Car Pro Show host Jerry Reynolds calls Toyota’s hybrid powertrains the best out there today. The XSE hybrid powertrain produces 215-horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque for this 3,685 pound sedan. Acceleration was okay, but if you want more oomph you’ll want to go with a gas-only V6 302-horsepower model. The engine is mated to an electronically controlled variable transmission (ECVT) with Eco, Normal, Sport and EV Drive Modes.

Ride and Drive

The Avalon XSE handles well and the ride is on the firmer side compared with the 2021 Camry SE Nightshade Edition I drove recently as well as my parents’ 2020 Camry XLE. That’s due to a sport-tuned front and rear suspension. The cabin is quiet in terms of road noise but I was surprised by the amount of wind noise at speeds around 40 mph and higher. Fuel economy is 43 mpg across the board.

Safety

The Avalon XSE is equipped with standard Toyota Safety Sense P, a great driver assistance system with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. The XSE adds standard Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Standard features and options

Standard XSE features include an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual zone climate, auto engine shut off, power tilt and slide moonroof, push-button start, remote keyless entry and remote illuminated entry. Options aside from the JBL sound system include carpeted floor mats ($259) and illuminated door sills ($379).

What you’ll pay

The XSE hybrid starts from $39,500. Options on my test model including the exterior paint and JBL sound system take it to $43,278. I’d love to see some technology upgrades, a larger multimedia screen for example, included for the price point.

Verdict

If fuel economy is a priority for you, you’ll want to test drive the 2021 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid. It’s comfortable, roomy, stylish (and those who prefer a firmer ride will enjoy the XSE trim). If horsepower is more important to you, a gas-only V6 model will be more up your alley.

2021 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid Review

  • What I liked most: Multi-toned comfortable interior.
  • What I would change: Wind noise.
  • MSRP: Base price $39,500: $43,278 as equipped
  • Fuel Economy: 43 city/43 highway/ 43 combined.
  • Official Color: Ruby flare pearl. ($425).
  • Odometer reading when tested: 2,536 miles.
  • Weight: 3,685 pounds.
  • Spare Tire: Temporary spare.
  • Length-Width-Height: 195.9” long/ 72.8” wide/ 56.5” high.
  • Towing Capacity: N/A.
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
  • 2021 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid in a few words: A stylish and comfortable sedan for the fuel-efficient minded.
  • Manufacturers website: Toyota
  • Warranty: 3-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty; 5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection; 60 months/unlimited miles Corrosion; 96 months/100,000 miles Hybrid System; 120 months/150,000 miles, Hybrid Battery. Toyota Care no cost maintenance and roadside assistance.
Tags: 2021 Toyota Avalon, Toyota, Sedans, New Vehicle Reviews, 2021, hybrid, electric vehicles
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