Fun Designs, Times in the 2017 Avalon

Sometimes the best designs can go awry. Take for example the placement of the trunk button in the 2017 Avalon Hybrid Limited. It’s located on the lower dash panel along with other buttons just to the left of the steering wheel, inches away from the door.

It’s convenient and easy to find once you stop looking for it on the floor, a common place for the trunk lever.  In general, this is a good design choice for this midsize luxury sedan. Where I was concerned, it’s another story.

I realized that one of my habits was not conducive to this location. The first couple of times the trunk door opened “on its own” I thought it was funny. After all, it didn’t open high enough to obstruct my view. But I could see just enough of the top to see it was open when I started backing out of a parking spot. I noticed it when I looked out the rear window when backing up. There is a back-up camera, but I still looked.

I laughed with my passengers and blew it off, figuring I hit a button by accident, yet I didn’t know how. Each time this happened –and it happened a lot –I put the car in park, exited the car, and closed the trunk. Eventually, the humor in it began to subside and the routine was becoming annoying. Especially when it happened on a cold day during snow showers and slushy conditions. I was desperate for front and back seat passengers to enjoy the heated seats.

It was time to investigate. Thankfully one of my back-seat passengers (a teenager with a lot of fun energy) agreed to go close it for me twice in a 30-second period because it kept opening each time I opened and closed the driver door. When the icon on the dash alerted me that a door was open, I asked my passengers to open and close their doors. I did. They did. That wasn’t it.

Eventually, I realized that whenever I had passengers, I placed my oversize purse on the floor between me and the door before driving. Each time I did, I brushed the purse against the button, inadvertently opening the door. I was the culprit! I started doing this to avoid offending my front passenger by hitting them when I threw my purse over my right shoulder into the backseat.

Outside of trying to break old habits, I found the Parisian Night Pearl-colored Avalon to be a graceful ride on mountain highways and seamless when maneuvering in and out of city traffic. The safety conscious Avalon, with a Chrome grille and accents, LED lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, boasts a Hybrid Synergy Drive system that combines output from a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and high-torque electric motor. Toyota reports that the system can easily switch between the gas engine and electric motor or a combination of the two. It also offers sport, eco and EV modes.

As expected the premium features were much appreciated, especially the blacked-out interior with wood and chrome accents. Other amenities include: power/tilt slide moonroof, hidden exhaust with chrome-accented cover, the three-zone climate control with air filter and rear-seat vents, premium leather-trimmed, ventilated and heated front seats, 10-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, 8-way power passenger seat and heated rear seats.

There’s even a power rear window sunshade, which was easy to disengage by touching the button next to the trunk button. Now if I had been inadvertently hitting that button, this would be a whole other story.

2017 Avalon Hybrid Limited MSRP: $42,550; Combined City/Highway MPG: 40.