Driven

Quick Spin: 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD

What’s your first thought when you hear Toyota Avalon? If you grew up in the 90’s like we did, it might go towards luxury, comfort, and a certain age group of customer. This new generation of Avalon aims to break all of those preconceived notions. And for the first time ever, the Toyota Racing Development team seeks to raise the bar even higher with an improved driving experience from an all-new TRD version. Can Toyota create something here that can really excite?

Let’s look at what has Toyota done to their full size sedan to make it TRD worthy. Starting with the new Avalon, which we already like, and turned up the boy racer a little bit; a black ground effects kit with red pin striping, new lighter and wider wheels, lowered and stiffened suspension, additional underbody bracing, and a TRD exhaust. Inside, there’s red stitching, TRD badges everywhere, and red seatbelts. So what did all this do to the overall package? Truthfully, and surprising to us, this is a fairly fun car. It blends everyday comfort with increased driver involvement in a large sedan package. The stiffer suspension doesn’t negatively impact the daily commute, but it does assist with the handling in corners. When driving some local back roads, you realize that the Avalon TRD in general is a fairly entertaining vehicle. We wouldn’t go as far as saying that it’s a sport sedan, but it’s not far off. The stiffer body and larger contact patches are definitely noticeable, as is the extra noise of the TRD exhaust. For a first try, this is a valiant effort. We haven’t sampled the TRD version of the Camry, but we can only imagine that that platform would be even more entertaining. The 3.5L V6 is still rated at 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque and is also mated to the eight speed automatic. It’s plenty potent for the application but won’t set you back in your seat too much.

Inside is typical Avalon, comfortable, well appointed, and packed full of the latest features. Toyota Safety Sense is here as standard, and our test car had the up-rated navigation and premium audio, which was quite good. That TRD exhaust only makes its way into the cabin when you’re fairly high up in the rev range and doesn’t drone at all. The seats are comfortable and keep you fairly in place when the going gets twisty. We don’t love all black interiors, but the red accents and stitching break it up enough to make it acceptable.

The last big item to discuss is the overall look of this Avalon. The large front grille is love it or hate it, but I found it acceptable. It worked well with the white paint, wheel combination and black ground effects. The side profile is fairly mundane, but offset by the aforementioned wheels and sideskirts. The rear end has a full light bar and lip spoiler with twin exit exhausts. It looks aggressive and definitely a good update compared to the previous generation Avalon.

Overall the Avalon TRD is a puzzling piece of equipment, but not one that we suggest looking past. After all, with the explosive growth of crossovers, how much longer will full size sedans be on the market? We’re also not sure how long this TRD trim is going to be available. But if you favor a sporty drive, a comfortable and quiet cabin, and loads of safety tech, the Avalon TRD should at least be on your list.

-Scott Villeneuve

2020 Toyota Avalon TRD$42,300
Premium Audio w/ JBL and Dynamic Navigation$1,760
Special Color$425
Paint Protection Film$395
Destination Charges$995
As-Tested Price$45,835

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