I have a confession. I sometimes look longingly at large full-size sedans and think, “Wouldn’t that be really cool slammed to the ground, dressed up with a spoiler, and tuned to tame two-lane backroads?” Am I crazy? Probably, but at least somebody at Toyota was listening to my crazy wishes. They took the grandma-ready Avalon, sent it through its in-house tuners at TRD, and came back with this fly ride. Get onboard the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD.
Racy Luxury Cruiser
Those last three initials stand for Toyota Racing Development. And, our Avalon looks pretty racy with its piano black mesh grille, black spoiler, aero kit, black 19-inch TRD wheels, and red brake calipers peeking through. Around back, check the dual exhaust tips, diffuser, and black decklid spoiler. The Avalon already has sleek lines and elegant body sculpting, but takes on a much more menacing attitude in TRD trim. To some, the black ground affects may be a bit too teenage nightmare, and looked glued on, but my 40-something self kind of likes the look. It’s definitely not boring.
Designers dressed up the interior with sueded leather seats, red stitched dash coverings, and TRD headrest logos. Front passengers enjoy heated cushions, dual-zone climate control, and a power sunroof. I like the center control stack and screen that looks like it came from a high-end custom audio firm. Simple buttons access audio, navigation, phone, and apps. Connect via Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and wireless device charging hidden in the console. Safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto brake, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross path detection.
Smooth V6 Kick
If you’re hoping for a twin-turbo V8 to kick this tarted up limo down-road, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, there’s a Lexus-smooth 3.5-liter V6 delivering 301 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. Especially when routed through a paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic transmission, that’s plenty of power for mortals. Still, I wouldn’t complain if Toyota affixed a couple of turbochargers and all-wheel-drive to conjure 400 horsepower and traction to strangle pavement. But, that’s just me dreaming. I appreciate efficient fuel economy ratings of 22/31-MPG city/highway.
Saying the Avalon was developed for racing may be a track too far, but engineers did commit themselves to amping up the big sedan’s performance. They started by lowering the car 0.6 inches, stiffening the suspension, and enlarging the standard XSE’s 12-inch front brake rotors to 12.9 inches. They went further by adding thicker underbody braces to squelch torsional bending. A drive mode selector allows drivers to engage heavier steering and a more sensitive throttle. Cat back exhaust sounds divine.
The Avalon TRD is far from a sports car, but it seduces drivers with a chassis that balances handling and comfort, enough power to slip it down the road, and interior accommodations on par with legit luxury cars. Rear legroom and luggage space embarrass some crossovers.
Toyota could have created an even more extreme version of the Avalon TRD, and I won’t cry if they add power and AWD, but this is a pretty cool car that should do its job of drawing younger drivers into Toyota’s sedan fold.
So, let’s consider price. The Avalon starts at $35,875 while our TRD came to $45,394 – a pretty good value for all the car offers. Competitors include the Volkswagen Passat, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Kia Cadenza, and Honda Accord Sport.
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD
- Five-passenger, FWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 8-spd trans
- Output: 301hp/267 lb.-ft. torque
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Handling, Style
- Fuel economy: 22/31 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Georgetown, KY
- Base/As-tested price: $35,875/45,394