2020 Toyota Avalon TRD Review

Gramps gets a track toy


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Black and red trim pieces add new sportiness to the look, spacious and comfortable inside, sonorous exhaust, taut cornering that belies the Avalon name.
Negatives: Too much piano black, too much front-wheel drive, too much misplaced drama.
Bottom Line: There are some key bits that go into the TRD version of the Avalon that make it a better driver's car, but it's just a stretch for the enthusiast to really enjoy a FWD large sedan with no power bump from stock.
The Avalon used to be a car for older folks. Big, cushy, boring as toast to look at, but as reliable as the day is long, the Avalon was ready to take on bingo halls across the country without skipping a beat. The current Avalon wants to leave all that behind, and for the most part, it has. The TRD trimmed version goes one further and wants to put Grandpa in a racing helmet. Although the engine is the same (and it's no slouch), the rest of it gets beefed up bits to make it handle and sound better. The Avalon TRD uses the same formula as the Camry TRD without drastically changing things (unless they make an AWD version, of course, which could be on its way next year). We drove the new Avalon TRD for a week to see if it could get our pulse racing. Read on for our detailed review.
 

Driving Experience

8.6

 

There's a lot to love about the way the Avalon TRD drives, but something's missing from the recipe. Sufficient power, excellent handling, and a good ride make for the best driving Avalon we've ever piloted. It's just too bad AWD isn't offered (yet). But if you don't need the size, why not just get the less expensive, lighter, and just as powerful Camry TRD V6?

Ride Quality: The ride is noticeably firmer than the standard Avalon thanks to beefed up suspension and 19" wheels, but it's by no means uncomfortable over imperfect road surfaces.

Acceleration: The naturally-aspirated V6 is strong, and the connection between it and the transmission is seamless. 0-60 comes in 6 seconds flat, and that's quick for a full-sized sedan but not mindblowing. It gets up to highway speeds quickly and without drama, but we'd like the addition of AWD to maximize traction when mashing the gas.

Braking: The TRD gets bigger brakes, and it helps bring the big car to a stop quickly and progressively.

Steering: There's a noticeable heft to the steering effort. Precision is about on par with other Avalons, and there's not much feedback. It is excellent in staying on-center.

Handling: The Avalon TRD's stiffer coil springs and anti-roll bars, retuned dampers, and thicker bracing help it corner pretty flat and in a controlled manner. It feels nimble for a car this large.

Technology

7.6

 

Toyota took an evolutionary approach with its in-car tech. The new system looks better and is a bit easier to use, but it still has room for improvement. At least Apple CarPlay is standard on the Avalon, as is the easy Qi-Compatible Wireless Charging System.

Infotainment System: The 9" screen is a little on the dull side, and it's oddly angled for no apparent reason.

Controls: We're thankful for physical buttons for infotainment and climate, but they could be upsized for easier operation while driving. The shift knob is ergonomically excellent, as are the convenient steering wheel control buttons.

Styling

7

 

As much as we love sports sedans, the Avalon TRD actually looks worse than the standard Avalon XSE that still keeps a sporty ethos without going over the top like the TRD. There's just a bit too much going on inside and out. It elicted some giggles from our neighbor who thought it came across like a septuagenarian in compression tights.

Front: The huge black mesh grille actually makes the front end look bigger, not smaller. We're not sure how, but there's just too much mesh.

Rear: We love the twin stainless steel pipes that emit a beautiful growl. The rear skirts at the corners are a bit much, and the red piping sticker peeled off in the cold weather.

Profile: We like the absence of chrome, but the black wheels actually draw too much attention to the long front and rear overhangs.

Cabin: Here's one cabin that doesn't look great with the addition of red because there's just too much of it. The trim on the seats, the seat belts, and the floor mats is overdone. We would've been happy with the contrast stitching on the seats and steering wheel. We also don't like the massive center stack and the pointless hard plastic columns that extend down to the center console.

Comfort

8.8

 

The Avalon carries on the model's spacious interior. The comfort level is very good for four. The fifth passenger doesn't fare quite as well, but there are very few sedans that can pull that off.

Front Seats: The seats are well cushioned and very supportive. They can accommodate even larger folks with ease.

Rear Seats: Rear space is excellent for even tall passengers, but the middle passenger has to sit upright.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Avalon TRD is generally very quiet until you mash the gas and hear that great exhaust note that thankfully isn't piped into the cabin or augmented in any way by the sound system.

Visibility: The rear sightlines are compromised by the big pillars, but otherwise it's pretty good.

Climate: The TRD's HVAC is okay, but the small vents could be bigger for better airflow. It's also too bad the TRD doesn't get ventilated seats.

Safety

9.5

 

The Avalon is about as good as it gets when it comes to crash safety, great safety technology, and excellent standard equipment. It's a top notch family sedan, regardless of trim level.

IIHS Rating: The Avalon scores a coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating. It even gets top scores for headlights and LATCH with an extra rear position for those of you with too many kids.

NHTSA Rating: The federal government gave the Avalon 5 full stars for the 2020 model.

Standard Tech: The Avalon TRD gets the robust Toyota Safety Sense P with a Pre-Collision System Adaptive Cruise Control that works in stop-and-go traffic, Lane Departure Alert w/ Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, a Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.3

 

For a full-sized sedan, the Avalon is good in terms of overall space and storage. The ergonomics of the front row storage could use improvement.

Storage Space: The armrest and door pockets are well-sized and easy to access. Its the weird compartment at the base of the centers stack. Again, those huge plastic pillars just get in the way.

Cargo Room: The 16.09 cubic feet of trunk space used to be good, not great. But now that the Chevy Impala is no more, the Avalon has risen in the ranks. It actually is bigger than the now-defunct Buick LaCrosse, and it eclipses the rather small trunk of the full-sized Nissan Maxima. The load floor is also nicely flat, and the trunk opening is large.

Fuel Economy

7

 

We were actually surprised by the 3,700+ pound weight of the Avalon since cars this size are usually in excess of 4K pounds. Its slippery shape, no doubt, help its good fuel numbers. We were in Sport mode the whole time, so our numbers were less than the EPA estimates.

Observed: 19.2 mpg.

Distance Driven: 143 miles.

Audio

8.7

 

The upgraded sound system gets 14 speakers, a powerful amp and subwoofer for an excellent listening experience. The $1,700 price tag actually doesn't seem excessive because you also get navigation with it. It's a great system that provides clear, powerful sound.



Final Thoughts

We really respect what Toyota is doing with their lineup. Their cars are certainly way more interesting now than they were just a few years ago. The Avalon is a comfortable, capable, and solidly built full-sized sedan that's good to drive. The TRD trim is the sportiest version, but we wish it wasn't so in-your-face with its overstyled look. It's fun to drive without being over the top with power. Call it a civilized big, sporty sedan. We just wish they waited for AWD to execute.
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