Shawn L. Ciers
It’s always the perfect weekend.A group of friends that I’ve known since college get together annually for a trip away from home to pay homage to our hometown team, the Detroit Lions. Each year brings a new destination and adventure for the crew. This year we chose to watch the Lions take on the Carolina Panthers at Bank of American Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. An addition was added by Automotive Rhythms to spice up the next few days. Upon arrival at Charlotte Douglas Airport a 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid was patiently awaiting to escort us around the South Eastern region.
At first glance the Toyota hybrid appeared to have all the basic appearance needs for a sedan. But all that changed when we stepped into the vehicle. A contemporary feel along with a bevy of color modifications to interior pieces, cupholders and arm rests, along with a keyless starter took precedence. Comfortable, stitched leather-wrapped seating and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with essential, hands-free controls at the driver’s fingertips were opportune. It was now apparent the Avalon Hybrid was not just your average sedan.
A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with EV, ECO and Sport modes is the key ingredient for Toyota’s hybrid recipe. Initially leaving the airport I questioned the power of the Japanese vehicle, but only up until I was able to get beyond the stop signs and lights. In Sport mode for example this sedan adds performance to the interior style and comfort. Yep, this Avalon was truly impressive.
Cruising around Charlotte I was able to take in some of the impressive sights days prior to the planned tailgating and game. With the commitment to healthier eating habits and a more active lifestyle for me this year I wanted to find some great locations in the city to enjoy vegetarian and vegan options. And since I’m driving clean I might as well be eating clean. One establishment located was Luna’s Living Kitchen. Nutritional dishes and smoothies were the intended alternative to the past traditional and life degrading foods. The avocado and basil sandwich with the kale salad was amazing!
Making sure the weekend of fun-filled activities didn’t derail my continued training for the upcoming half marathon back home in Detroit, I was able to continue running during my stay. The Avalon navigated me to the appropriate training facilities. Similar to the Maryland terrain where I now live, the hills of southern Charlotte definitely continued to challenge my fitness enhancement. An early morning 6.35-mile run provided just the boost I needed to continue focus on set goals while simultaneously enjoying the weekend with the guys.
Located downtown Charlotte, Bank of America Stadium was a sight to see for those who hadn’t visited the city. So we ventured there before Sunday to check it out and scout the perfect position for our Toyota. The Avalon Hybrid delivered impressive gas mileage in conjunction with excellent handling. Its standard Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system, Traction Control (TRAC) and P215/55R17 tires offered comfort during the tour through the city. Optional P225/45R18 tires would add even greater performance if that is your wish.
The style, design and functionally of the interior components take form in all the places Toyota has intended. For example, the JBL audio system (11 GreenEdg speakers) allowed for a quick setup of my iPhone through both USB and Bluetooth connections. Certain improvements could have been adjusted in the wheel volume button and tuning components as it relates to the premium 7” high-resolution touchscreen HDD navigation system, but the overall functionally was enough enjoyment to get past this personal aesthetic.
Another impressive standout for the Avalon is the spacious cabin. Four of the ten adults in our crew rode in comfort with me and ranged from 6’ to 6’4”. Most of the guys work for different vehicle manufacturers so hearing them give compliments to the Avalon was a surprise. With 10 standard airbags and 3-point seatbelts for all seating positions, the safety of the Avalon would not be sacrificed for comfort.
Game day would find us enjoying amusing times around the stadium. Panthers fans were entertaining to say the least. All of us reveled the back and forth comparisons between teams and their respective stance and positions in the division. The presence of real football fans was felt as we relished the game and the venue, but not the outcome. It was painful to watch our beloved team lose 7-24, but as true Lions’ fans, we are still resilient in support of our team.
This weekend was truly a great experience with the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid. The performance and fuel consumption was an impressive aspect of the weekend drive. I tested the various modes including ECO and Sport with both providing great output, decisive maneuverability and handling around Charlotte. Averaging up to 42.5 mpg during the 4-day the Avalon only used just under a half tank of fuel.
Good times, good friends and a trusty companion for our 2014 fellowship weekend. Thank you Toyota. We’ll see you next year!
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