First Look

2021 Toyota Avalon: First Look

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author photo by Russ Heaps February 2020

As with previous Avalons, the 2021 Toyota Avalon will continue to be the Toyota of choice for members of the tuxedoed set who shun the trappings of wealth. Historically, the Avalon has punched up, offering a near first-class experience for close to a steerage price. When the 2021 Avalon rolls out in fall 2020, it'll follow that formula.

We were treated to an early look at the 2021 Avalon during a Toyota snow-driving event in Utah. Why a snow-driving event? Because for the first time, all-wheel drive will be offered on the Avalon in 2021. It seems that Toyota is doubling down on its sedan effort, making AWD available on the Avalon and, for the first time since 1991, the Camry.

Although Toyota product folks admit that adding AWD to these popular sedans might take a small bite out of the brand's crossover sales, the goal to attract AWD-sedan shoppers to Toyota is the driving force behind the decision. They believe that future Camry and Avalon sales will be between 15 and 20 percent AWD.

Will the 2021 Toyota Avalon Offer AWD?

Toyota can finally answer yes to this question. Thanks to the widespread incorporation of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) technology into its cars and car-based crossovers, Toyota was able to borrow the engine, transmission, transfer case, rear differential and some other underpinnings from its AWD RAV4 for the 2021 Avalon.

To make this swap happen, engineers had to reconfigure the Avalon's floor pan to accommodate a driveshaft and a rear differential. Also, a saddle gas tank replaces the flat one found in front-wheel-drive models.

While FWD Avalons will continue to derive their power from the 301-hp V6 engine found in the current model, AWD versions get the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that powers the RAV4, which in this application delivers 205 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission sends power to the wheels. This doesn't sound like enough horsepower to motivate a sedan that weighs in at 3,751 pounds, but, in fact, it does so without too much strain. Drivers looking for roller-coaster thrills behind the wheel won't be enthused with the 4-banger's pickup, but most owners will be quite satisfied with the performance.

Mileage estimates aren't yet available for the AWD Avalon, which will weigh only marginally more than a FWD version. Estimates for the V6 remain at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in combined driving for the XLE grade. The XSE, TRD, Limited and Touring trims provide 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. We suspect that AWD will shave about 3 mpg from those numbers.

How Will AWD Work in the 2021 Toyota Avalon?

At the heart of the AWD setup in these TNGA-sharing models is Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control AWD system. A full-time, seamless technology, the system transfers torque between the front and rear axles without driver input. Under ideal conditions, the Avalon's front wheels do the heavy lifting. When the system senses the wheels slipping, it can transfer up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. An electromagnetic coupling ahead of the rear axle engages the rear axle when rear torque is required and disengages it the rest of the time. This helps improve fuel economy.

This isn't an off-road system. Ground clearance remains the same 5.8 inches found on FWD Avalons.

What's New in the 2021 Toyota Avalon?

The big news, of course, is the availability of AWD and a 4-cylinder engine in XLE and Limited grades. Beyond that, the 2021 Avalon will remain basically unchanged. Some new exterior and interior colors are the bulk of the changes.

Why Should You Consider the 2021 Toyota Avalon?

Anyone on the hunt for a big sedan is usually looking for comfort, safety and reliability. The Avalon delivers on all counts, and it also provides a surprising amount of luxury for a nonluxury model. With the introduction of AWD, there is even more reason to shop for an Avalon, particularly if you live in the snow belt. We spent some time on a Toyota snow course in Utah behind the wheel of an AWD Avalon. Though big and relatively heavy, it still behaved predictably in the snow.

When Will the 2021 Toyota Avalon Be Available and How Much Will It Cost?

Look for the 2021 Avalon to drop in the fall of 2020. With few changes to the car, base pricing should increase only moderately. The 2020 base XLE rings the register at $36,755, and the top-end Limited prices out at $43,055. Scheduled for release in the spring of 2020, the AWD system in the Camry is going to add about $1,500 to the bottom line. We expect AWD in the Avalon to come in between $1,500 and $2,000. Find a Toyota Avalon for sale

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2021 Toyota Avalon: First Look - Autotrader
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