Posted on August 20, 2020 by Car Critic Steve Hammes
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD Test Drive & Review By Car Critic Steve Hammes
When you think of an Avalon, the last thing that comes to mind is a sports sedan, right? Well, hold on for a minute. The 2019 redesign did away with its AARP Card requirement by taking Toyota’s flagship sedan in a decidedly sportier direction. And now, the Avalon has gone full on TRD to produce something surprising and a little naughty.
Did you ever think you’d hear a factory-Avalon sound like this? The Toyota flagship that used to be synonymous with white belts and Velcro sneakers went on an HGH regimen for its 5th generation redesign and discovered a fountain of youth.
I raved about its new attitude during my first test drive of the top-dog Touring model and now Toyota has swapped out some key chassis and suspension components for TRD parts.
This is a pretty legit package here; sure there’s no engine upgrade but 300+ horsepower is good enough anyway. The TRD treatment includes sport-tuned shocks and lowering springs, stiffer stabilizer bars, firmer body bracing, larger brakes, lighter wheels and a more aggressive exhaust note.
The only obvious missed opportunity comes in the rubber which remains grand touring all-seasons.
Short for Toyota Racing Development, you can purchase TRD parts and accessories to customize a number of Toyotas. But from the factory, the TRD treatment has been exclusive to Toyota’s trucks, until now. The 2020 Avalon and its younger sibling the Camry bring sedan lovers a taste of something racier without going over the top.
The foundation from which these cars are built is perfect for this kind of tuning because it’s so strong and capable…I could feel it during my Avalon Touring test drive – and now the TRD version takes advantage of that solidness to deliver a car that feels spryer and arouses your spirit. The 301 horsepower V6 already provides the ample energy but when it’s lowered with greater body control the Avalon morphs into a sleeper sports sedan you’ll crave driving. Well, with the front splitter, aero skirts, spoiler and rear diffuser perhaps it’s not going to catch as many off guard as you’d think…in Wind Chill Pearl this car is sharp and doesn’t exactly blend in. I love the look with its large car, dark side persona but these side skirts have a hastily added-on appearance that also tend to catch your ankles upon exit.
But perhaps the most surprising TRD change comes in the aggressive sounding exhaust…this is the one area where Toyota really lets it all hang out and it’s most impressive from outside the vehicle. Nothing fake here, there’s enough sound to raise eyebrows from the HOA. But a set of stickier tires would help scrub out some of that understeer that’s still present. Maybe Toyota will add this option down the road.
From the driver’s seat, this Avalon feels noticeably tauter with a constant undertone of exhaust burble. The seats hold you firmly in place and the car bites harder going into a turn and holds a steady line. But the transmission still requires you to paddle shift to take full advantage of the engine’s power…left to its own devices and it’s lazy. But Toyota didn’t sacrifice the Avalon’s luxury status…the ride quality is still buttery smooth just more buttoned down. I really like it and the price seems downright reasonable.
With the Premium Audio and navigation package this Avalon TRD checks in at $45,835. Pricewise, it slots between the Limited and Touring and holds the line on gas mileage, rated at 25mpg in mixed driving on regular unleaded.
The TRD accessories continue inside with lots of red accents, special mats, TRD logos and suede-like inserts in the seats. But staying true to the Avalon’s ethos, this is a very straightforward cabin with very little button clutter, using traditional controls including a real shifter.
The safety tech is complete with auto high beams and dynamic radar cruise control among other less prominent features and the 14-speaker JBL audio system, big touchscreen and wired CarPlay make for a suitable infotainment experience. Sorry Android users.
There are Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes for the 8-speed, auto hold for times when you’re stuck in traffic, a wireless charge pad, heated seats, and a pair of USB ports in the rear.
The rear seats are very long on legroom and the trunk is 2 cubic feet larger than the Camry’s. This TRD appropriately communicates its sportiness from both outside and in – it looks great and feels just as good.
The Avalon TRD is a unique offering from Toyota that lets us have our fun without sacrifice.