Toyota is making another move to keep its cars relevant in today’s SUV-dominated market by giving sedan shoppers the option of all-wheel drive on its flagship Camry and upscale Avalon sedans. Both cars also just added performance versions from the automaker’s Toyota Racing Development arm. AWD will be a stand-alone option for the 2020 Camry, though not until this year’s snow has melted in the spring. The Avalon will get the option for the 2021 model year, available in fall 2020.
It’s an AWD first for the full-size Avalon and brings it back for the mid-size Camry, which has lacked the option since the Camry AllTrac went away after 1991. The hardware, including a modified rear suspension, is mostly from the redesigned 2019 RAV4 SUV, which moved to the same new global platform used for the sedans. The system can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels, as well as fully disengage — essentially reverting to front-wheel drive — in cruising situations for better gas mileage. Among the Camry’s mainstream rivals, the Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Ford’s soon-to-depart Fusion also offer AWD. Among Avalon’s remaining mainstream full-size car rivals, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger offer the option. AWD among sedans is common on the luxury side, where many cars are otherwise rear-wheel drive — a less ideal setup in cold-weather states.
There are trade-offs, however. AWD will come exclusively with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic, which means buyers will have to forego Toyota’s satisfying 3.5-liter V-6 that’s offered on some Camry trim levels and comes standard for Avalons with FWD (excluding the Avalon Hybrid). The AWD Camry’s four-cylinder puts out 202 or 205 horsepower depending on trim level. The option of AWD, still to be priced, will be available for the Camry LE, XLE, SE and XSE trim levels and on the Avalon XLE and Limited.
Toyota says AWD will add 165 pounds to the Camry — about 5 percent more curb weight — with the Avalon’s weight about the same as the current V-6 sedan. The automaker also says it made structural changes to the floor and used a saddle-style the fuel tank so AWD models would retain the same backseat and trunk-floor height.
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The individual trim levels retain the same suspension tuning, wheel sizes and options as the front-drive versions. AWD models for the Camry also will offer a Cold-Weather Package that adds heated seats and mirrors on the LE; heated seats, mirrors and steering wheel on the SE; and a heated steering wheel on the XLE and XSE, which already have the other features. On the Avalon, the XLE and Limited AWD grades will get a standard heated steering wheel.
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