2013 Toyota Avalon

2013 Toyota Avalon Credit: Handout

Competes with: Volkswagen Passat TDI, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Looks like: The new, gaping-maw Avalon with hybrid badging and a blue-tinted Toyota logo

Drivetrain: 200-horsepower (combined), 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two electric motor-generators and electrically variable transmission; front-wheel-drive

Hits dealerships: Fall 2012

Toyota fans may recall the automaker's plans two years ago to launch six new hybrids by 2012. One of them will be the 2013 Avalon, which gets a hybrid variant — a first for the full-size sedan. Toyota didn't say when the Avalon Hybrid will go on sale, but we expect it to be close to the regular Avalon's on-sale date later this year.

As with the redesigned Camry Hybrid, the Avalon Hybrid employs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that has two electric motor-generators which add power and regenerate energy for the battery, which rests behind the rear seats. Trunk capacity is 14.3 cubic feet, about a 10 percent drop from the regular Avalaon's 16.1 cubic feet. Both new versions of the Avalon come with a fixed backseat, so that shouldn't be a deterrent for folks opting for the hybrid.

Toyota says the system combines for 200 hp and should be good (the EPA estimates) for 40 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, for a combined 40 mpg. Driver-selectable Eco and Sport modes emphasize efficiency or responsiveness, while the EV mode increases the thresholds for electric operation so you can cruise gas-free at low speeds for up to a mile.

Details on interior or exterior changes are few, but exterior photos show requisite hybrid decals and blue-tinted Toyota badges. Full-size cars seem an unlikely candidate for hybridization, but the Avalon's recent weight loss — dropping more than 100 pounds with this 2013 redesign — may have helped the case. Toyota says the 2013 Avalon Hybrid weighs just 97 pounds more than the 2013 Avalon, which makes it lighter still than 2012's regular Avalon.

The Avalon Hybrid has no direct competitors, but shoppers might also consider a large family car like the Volkswagen Passat TDI (30/40 automatic; 31/43 mpg manual) or an entry-luxury sedan like the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (mileage still TBD). As we know more, we'll pass it on. For now, check out the photos below.

2013 Toyota Avalon

2013 Toyota Avalon

2013 Toyota Avalon

2013 Toyota Avalon

2013 Toyota Avalon

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