Pros-Racy look. Roomy. Strong acceleration. Nice ride. Sharp handling. Safety features.
Cons-Wide-opening front doors hard to close. Space-eating front console. No Android auto integration.
Bottom Line-Athletic upscale sporty sedan.
The 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD has special cosmetic and mechanical features and is the first Avalon to carry the automaker's tough "TRD" designation.
With the demise of the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus, two major Avalon rivals are gone, leaving it one of the few full-size sedans left to confront the SUV onslaught. The $42,375 2020 Avalon was redone for 2019 as the fifth-generation model and thus there are few changes for the 2021 TRD version. One is the addition of Android Auto.
The Avalon is Toyota's top sedan and comes in a variety of models. But Toyota says the TRD is rather exclusive, with 2020 production limited to "2,600" units. This front-drive car has a coupe-like silhouette and is a little over an inch lower than the regular Avalon, which could make it a bit more difficult for some folks to enter. Also, heavy, wide opening front doors call for a long arm stretch to close after being opened all the way.
However, the Avalon TRD is aimed at generally more nimble younger buyers who want a large, spacious athletic luxury sporty sedan. It easily seats four tall occupants despite a large front center console, although the center of the rear seat is best left to the fold-down armrest, which has dual cupholders.
This 195.9-inch-long, 3,638-pound sedan is easy to maneuver and park. Plenty of glass area enhances a driver's ability to view surroundings and brightens the interior.
The quiet interior is upscale, not far off from a Lexus, with no cheap materials. It had faux heated leather seats (comfortable for long drives) with ultra suede inserts and red accents. The thick, easily gripped, leather-wrapped steering wheel also has red stitching. The gauges can be quickly read, and the touch screen is easily used. There are large knobs for the audio controls, and clearly marked small manual controls line the lower dashboard. Items such as a pushbutton starter and dual climate controls are expected-and gotten-on a car such as the Avalon TRD.
Cupholders can be easily reached, and the console has a large covered storage area.
The spacious trunk has a low, wide opening, and rear seatbacks flip forward to increase the cargo area, although the pass-through opening from the trunk to the back set could be a little larger.
My test car was painted an appropriate "Supersonic Red," which is an exclusive exclusive Avalon TRD color. Other colors offered are Midnight Black Metallic, Wind Chill Pearl and Celestial Silver Metallic.
Special Avalon TRD features include an extremely low front splitter, side aero skirts, a trunk lid spoiler and a rear diffuser near the large dual exhaust outlets. Tasteful red pin striping was on my test car's aero body elements. There' were even unique TRD floor and trunk mats.
Mechanical Avalon TRD features include thicker underbody braces and a track-tuned suspension with stiffer springs and stabilizer bars. Handling is athletic, with precise, nicely weighted steering. The ride is firm, but comfortable. Front brakes are larger, and the 19-inch black matte alloy wheels look sporty and visually set off red brake calipers. However, my test car's brake pedal had to be kept firmly held down when the car was stopped or it would creep forward a bit.
A smooth 3.5-liter, 301-horsepower V-6 with 267 pound-feet of torque has a nice sound and works with a seamless 8-speed automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted. It provides strong acceleration off the line and during passing on highways.
A driver can select "Eco," "Normal" or "Sport" modes with a console control. "Normal" works best for routine daily use, but "Sport" affects steering, suspension, engine and transmission actions for, say, driving on curvy roads. However, "Sport" mode doesn't make things uncomfortable even during normal driving on regular roads, although it adversely affects fuel economy due to increased engine revs for faster throttle response.
Estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways, and only 87-octane fuel is called for to fill the 15.8-gallon fuel tank.
This is basically a family car, so the Avalon TRD's safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, cross-traffic alert, integrated backup camera, heated outside mirrors with turn signals and a blind-spot monitor.
The Avalon TRD's V-6 is hidden under a large plastic cover, but the oil filler dipstick is squarely at the front center of the engine compartment. Checking the engine oil level is generally the most common thing motorists do, so the filler's location shows that Toyota designers paid attention to the little, but important, things.