Rethinking Flying: Road Testing the 2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

A Girls Guide To Cars | Rethinking Flying: Road Testing The 2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid - Sbcavalonfeature

Taking the 2016 Toyota Avalon hybrid for a ride.

Ever since the ban on liquids on airplanes, travelers have had to rethink what they bring when they fly. So when my husband and I were invited to a wedding in Cincinnati for a couple of craft cocktail lovers, I knew the perfect present (for a wedding that specified no gifts) was a bottle of homemade bitters.

The issue, of course, was transport, so we decided to turn the weekend getaway into a week long road trip, and incorporate some fun stops along the way: Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, and Pittsburgh.

The 2016 Toyota Avalon hybrid was the perfect car, offering great gas mileage and a smooth ride so we had no spills. In fact, I wound up bringing along a few jars of another type of bitters I had started making. Most of the bitters I’ve made have been a two week process, but the fig bitters I started in mid-July required four weeks – and every day someone had to shake the jars. My cat sitter doesn’t even scoop the litter box, so getting her to evenly distribute the aromatics and herbs in my overproof bourbon seemed like a lost cause.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

We went green with the Toyota hybrid; the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh is also going green. Photo: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Who this car is for

  • Environmentalists who require creature comforts
  • Small families who want the latest safety features
  • Geeks who like to ‘beat’ the estimated mpg
  • Techies who need wireless charging and Apple CarPlay

Plenty of room

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

The roomy back seat of the Avalon. Photo: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

We had the luxury of space in the car, since none of our children were able to join us. Our trip included a couple of days exploring the architectural gems of Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands and a couple of days with old college friends in Pittsburgh – all sandwiched around that wedding in Cincinnati.

But the car was really the perfect size; we drove my brothers-in-law to the various family functions around Cincinnati and our friends around Pittsburgh and there was plenty of leg room. I liked not having a car that was too large, and getting great gas mileage with a hybrid.

Filling the trunk

One knock on a hybrid is often the teeny trunk, but we had two large suitcases, two small bags and a couple of extra bags for my husband, whose food insecurity leads him to pack giant boxes of food for even the shortest trips. But the trunk space came in handy – we also had the back seat that we could have filled.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid

No problem fitting suitcase in the trunk. Photo: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

When we found out it was tax-free shopping week in Ohio. We hit the mall and end of season sales and wound up with several large bags of clothes. In Pittsburgh, we explored the markets in the Strip District the day before we headed home, and I loaded up at an impossibly cheap Italian specialty shop ($20 for a gallon of the extra virgin olive oil I buy at home for $20 a liter!) and a farmer’s market where local blueberries were a dollar a pint.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Tax free buys fit in the Avalon’s roomy trunk. Photo: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Filling the tank

The 2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is supposed to get 40 miles per gallon, but we actually got 41.7, according to the trip computer that tells you how far you’ve gone and what your mileage is. A lot of hybrid drivers like to geek out and see if they can ‘beat’ the estimated mpg, so we were pretty pleased with ourselves. We mostly ran the air conditioning, which can reduce fuel economy – but closing the windows reduced drag.

We did have some complaints from my brothers-in-law that the back seat air conditioning was not strong enough. Since they tend to keep their house about 15 degrees cooler than we keep ours, I’m not sure how much stock to put in that. Our friends, who may have been more polite than family said they were comfortable; it was also cooler in Pittsburgh than in Cincinnati.

The long and winding road

The narrow winding highways put the Avalon’s handling to the test, especially with large trucks barreling along at 70 miles per hour (the actual speed limit) or more. The Toyota was agile and responsive, and the blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert made passing slower traffic a breeze.

The Avalon also had Toyota’s Safety Sense package, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detect, lane departure alert with steering assist, auto high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.

Quirky navigation

For the most part, the navigation system worked fine. But occasionally it was not up to snuff.  At one point, the voice prompts simply stopped.  I went into setting, turned off voice prompts, turned them back on and we were in business…until the voice prompts stopped again. Another time, I entered an address in Pittsburgh manually: 600 1st Avenue.  Not found. So I tried 600 First Avenue.  Not found. Finally, I entered the business name and voila! Up popped my destination: 600 1st Avenue. Quirky is something I look for in romantic comedies, not navigation systems, but we were able to find our way every time. And I like the way Toyota models add a little bell, just before a turn, so you don’t have to wonder exactly where that upcoming turn is.

2016 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Summer surprise in New York City: parking in front of our house to unload the car. Photo: Judy Antell for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What I loved

  • Great gas mileage- we got almost 42 miles per gallon
  • Heated and ventilated seats
  • Two 12 V power outlets
  • Wireless smartphone charging
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Rain sensing wipers – we never needed them but I love to know I have them
  • Power moonroof

What you need to know

  • Base price: $41,950: price for the model I drove, with extra safety features, $43,285
  • Fuel economy: 40 miles per gallon in the city, 39 mpg on the highway (we actually got closer to 42)
  • Takes regular gasoline
  • Our 2nd row passengers complained that the A/C wasn’t adequate in the rear

2016ToyotaavalonhybridNote: Toyota provided the Avalon for the purposes of this review; opinions expressed are my own. My homemade bitters survived the 1,000 mile trip and are delicious!

Judy Antell, who is's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell