2015 Toyota Avalon Limited Review: Budget-Friendly Luxury

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
The 2015 Toyota Avalon: Demure, elegant, filled with luxury but still easy on the budget

How to live like a millionaire on a frugal budget.

Remember the “Millionaire Next Door”- the book that took a look at people who live a restrained life, regularly save money and as a result, end up millionaires? This car is for them: the Toyota Avalon exercises fiscal restraint while pampering its occupants with luxury and some clever technology.

And for image-conscious ‘Millionaires Next Door’ the Avalon is the perfect, too: it’s an under the radar luxury sedan with an elegant and demure exterior that doesn’t scream luxury. But once inside, it’s clear that this car is designed to make you feel comfortable and even a bit privileged.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid in Sizzling Crimson Red. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Taking lessons from its Lexus siblings? Yes!

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Buttons let you turn on or off the blind spot monitors and traction control, open the trunk and on the right raise or lower the rear window sun shade. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

“Wow, this is a really nice car,” my friend, Amy, said when I picked her up in the Avalon for a trip to the hair salon. We had an hour drive ahead of us and while we usually catch up on each other’s lives, she couldn’t stop talking about the car. She settled right into the creamy leather interior, plugged her phone into the USB port and after a few minutes, remarked again at how comfortable the seats were. Then she noticed the leather trim on the door panels and the dashboard; the cream color palette created a light and bright interior with the touchable surfaces covered in cream leather, while the soft fabric headliner (the ceiling) continued the cream-colored theme overhead. Adding to the brightness in the car is the panoramic sunroof- a double panel of glass that lets in lots of delicious sunshine, which is either a bonus or a necessity; if you ask Desiree Miller, who road tripped in the Avalon to escape the cold, it’s a necessity

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The wireless charge pad on the 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid; just put your wireless-charge ready phone on this pad and voila, charging with no wires. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

What it would look like to charge my phone on the wireless pad (if it were enabled). Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

And a note about the cream interior: While my friend Erica Mueller, who reviewed this car, too, isn’t a fan of a cream-colored interior in a family car, I am. And here’s why: leather cleans up nicely. I have two kids, a dog and a clumsy husband and a few years ago made the cream-colored interior choice. Every day, without fail, it makes me happy. I admit, I keep a beach towel in the trunk and I put down extra floor mats but overall, I think that’s small price to pay for happiness, especially with the long, dark winters we have in the Northeast.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Let the sun shine in: the Avalon’s panoramic sun roof keeps the interior bright. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Wireless charging for you phone? Yes, please!

Some phones work better with this feature (Galaxy, for instance) than others do (ahem…iPhone) because the wireless system needs internal induction hardware in the phone, a charging ‘skin’ or special phone case in order to work. I didn’t get to use the wireless charger because I didn’t invest in an iPhone case for this, but if I owned this car, it would be the first thing I’d buy. When you’re set up, here’s how the magic works: get in the car, turn the charging pad on, put your phone on and it and, voila, it charges. With Bluetooth to connect your phone and music you can leave your wires at home with the dog.

Why buy a hybrid when gas is so cheap?

Good question, and there’s a good answer. First of all, even with gas at $2.25 a gallon, you’ll save $400 a year driving the hybrid Avalon versus the standard gas engine version (though it will take you about 4 years to recoup the extra cost of the hybrid engine, which is about $1,720 more). If you’re a very judicious driver and try not to enjoy Avalon’s peppy, smooth acceleration (too much, anyway), you could do much better than that.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Driver feedback includes a center display that allows you to set the information you want to see, and an eco-meter (left) that shows you when you’re operating at max efficiency and returning energy to the battery. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Then, remember gas price spikes? Those sweat-inducing months when the price of gas can climb dollar over dollar, forcing us to recalculate household budgets, adjust vacation plans and or wait in line for 5-cents-a-gallon savings? Well, it’s happened before and all it takes is a refinery fire, a global crisis (like that would ever happen) or a run up in speculative oil trading and boom: prices spike.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The Toyota Avalon Hybrid has a roomy trunk-not all hybrids do; sometimes the trunk is where the battery is stored. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

And when they do, it is SO GREAT to drive by all those SUVs sitting in gas lines, knowing it’ll cost them $100 or more to fill the tank, and smiling because you’ll not only go twice as far on a tank of gas, but it’ll cost you half as much. Again, there’s that Millionaire Next Door thing: the benefit of restraint when it comes to being fiscally conservative, and yet enjoying the ‘Millionaire’ part, too: being pampered by your choices.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The ultimate badge: A “Hybrid” plate on the Toyota Avalon Hybrid. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What We Loved

  • Luxurious leather interior
  • Wireless charging pad
  • Roomy, comfortable back seat
  • Peppy engine
  • Smooth, quiet ride
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automatic windshield wipers
  • Blind spot monitors
  • Panoramic sun roof
  • Heated rear seats
  • Smart key keyless entry and push button starter
  • Uses regular fuel
  • Built in Georgetown, Kentucky
2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The rear view camera’s cross traffic alert system also has guidelines to show you where the car is angled when you back up. Credit: Scotty Reiss for AGirlsGuidetoCars

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The 2015 Toyota Avalon: Demure, elegant, filled with luxury but still easy on the budget

What You Need to Know

  • Base price $36,470; price of the model we drove: $44,535
  • Estimated fuel economy 40 MPG city/39 MPG highway (we averaged about 35MPG)
  • Basic warranty 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Hybrid components 8 years/100,000 miles
  • Driver feedback information screens can help you get better gas mileage

Here is Desiree Miller’s take on the Avalon (not so dissimilar to ours!):

Disclosure: Toyota provided the Avalon for my review; opinions expressed here are all my own, of course!

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Need to know more? The Monroney lists all the features on the 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid that we drove

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss