2020 Toyota Avalon

2020 Toyota Avalon Test Drive Review: Making The Family Sedan Cool Again

by Jared Rosenholtz

One day in 2017, Toyota president Akio Toyoda walked into the office and told his employees: "no more boring cars." Well, it probably happened in an e-mail, but you get the idea. Since then, Toyota has been on a tear, releasing more interesting cars like the Corolla, Camry, Supra, and yes, even the formerly humdrum Avalon. For the first time ever, these cars were no longer beige appliances used by ordinary people to commute to work. They were actually fun to drive. There was just one thing missing - that extra cool factor.

The Toyota Avalon entered its fifth-generation for the 2019 model year, completely obliterating any preconceived notions you may have felt towards it beforehand. Once the official vehicle of Florida retirement communities, the Avalon is now a fun full-size alternative for buyers who want to shun the SUV craze. For 2020, Toyota has added a sporty TRD model to the Avalon range and we were sent one to test for the week.

2020 Toyota Avalon Changes: ๐Ÿš™Whatโ€™s the difference vs 2019 Avalon?

The Avalon has always been the Comfort-King among full-size sedans, but for 2020, Toyota has added some spice to the lineup with the new TRD model we find ourselves testing. Alongside the Camry TRD, the Avalon TRD is the first Toyota sedan to bear the TRD badge. Based on the TNGA-K sedan platform that underpins the Lexus ES, the Avalon retains its 301 horsepower V6 engine across the range, but the TRD version gets enhanced suspension for more lively handling, along with an assortment of exterior and interior styling cues to live up to the Toyota Racing Development nomenclature affixed to the new variant. There's also a TRD cat-back exhaust, helping that V6 sing a little louder. Aside from the TRD, the rest of the Avalon lineup soldiers on as-is for 2020 - it was fully redesigned for 2019, so it's still pretty fresh. While Toyota has announced an all-wheel-drive version of the Avalon, it's unfortunately only arriving as a 2021 model towards the end of the current year.

Pros and Cons

  • Sips fuel, despite 301 hp on tap
  • Capacious trunk can swallow almost anything
  • Long list of standard features
  • Still the king of comfort
  • Spacious cabin with high-quality appointments
  • TRD's cat-back exhaust sounds great
  • High levels of standard safety
  • No all-wheel-drive until 2021
  • TRD's gearbox tuning isn't sporty
  • No additional power for the TRD model
  • Android Auto still missing from the infotainment suite
  • Base model's high price may scare away customers
  • The big grille is controversial

Avalon Exterior

When the fully redesigned Avalon launched for 2019, the bold styling caught everyone by surprise - no more bland designs from the Japanese manufacturer, this one was a looker! 2020 sees the TRD model introduced with a few bespoke styling tweaks. These include 19-inch matte black alloy wheels, an exclusive TRD aero kit including a front splitter, side skirts, a trunk lid spoiler, and a rear diffuser housing dual stainless steel exhaust tips, while red pinstriping serves to highlight the additional aggression. Like the XSE, the TRD gets a piano black mesh grille in place of the standard chrome item on the XLE, but the TRD also gets piano black window trim. As for the rest of the range, the XLE rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, the XSE and Touring on black 19s, and the Limited on 18-inch super-chrome finish alloys. All-LED lighting is standard across the range and a power moonroof is standard on all but the XLE on which its optional. Dual exhausts are standard across the range, but the XSE gets four tips as opposed to the two on other variants.

2020 Toyota Avalon Front View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Front Angle View CarBuzz
See All 2020 Toyota Avalon Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Competing in the full-size sedan segment, it comes as no surprise the Avalon covers a fair amount of real estate, measuring 195.9 inches long and riding on a 113-inch wheelbase; both of which represent increases of a couple of inches over the midsize Camry. All models measure the same 72.8 inches wide and share 5.3 inches of ground clearance, but it's the TRD that stands the lowest, its revised suspension resulting in a height of 55.9 inches compared to the rest of the lineup's 56.5 inches. Curb weights vary substantially, ranging from 3,560 lbs on the XLE to 3,704 lbs on the Touring spec.

Exterior Colors

Nine colors make up the exterior color palette for the 2020 Avalon, up from last year's eight options thanks to the inclusion of the new Supersonic Red as a TRD-exclusive option, albeit for a fee of $425. This joins Celestial Silver Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, and the $425 Wind Chill Pearl as the only four hues available for our test car, but it's the hero color we feel looks best. The remaining fives hues, Harbor Gray, Opulent Amber, Brownstone, Parisian Night Pearl, and Ruby Flare Pearl - the latter also bearing a cost of $425 - are available on all remaining trims, with the exception of the XSE and Touring variants that make do without Opulent Amber.

  • Celestial Silver Metallic
  • Harbor Gray Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Brownstone
  • Opulent Amber
  • Parisian Night Pearl
  • Wind Chill Pearl
  • Ruby Flare Pearl
  • Supersonic Red, *PRICE TO FOLLOW*

Avalon Performance

The big news for 2020 is the addition of a performance-oriented TRD trim to the lineup, boasting bigger 12.9-inch TRD brakes, TRD track-tuned coil springs, and XSE/Touring-spec 27mm front and rear sway bars for improved body control. But the TRD misses out on the adaptive suspension found on the Touring trim, which we noted in our first drive as having a greater influence on the Avalon's dynamic capabilities out in the real world where most of these sedans will be driven. But while the TRD gets uprated brakes and suspension, it makes do with the same 301-horsepower V6 engine and automatic gearbox combination as the rest of its stablemates. It's not exactly slow, with 0-60 mph being recorded at a little over six seconds in multiple real-world tests, but we'd be lying if we said we didn't wish it had a little more grunt to match the note of aggression from the TRD's cat-back exhaust system.

What's more disappointing, though, is that Toyota has teased us with an AWD version of the Avalon. But that will only reach production as a 2021 model, which means until then, the Avalon is only available in front-wheel-drive guise, unlike rivals such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, which are available not just with AWD, but as RWD tire-killers, too. That AWD model will also be the first non-hybrid Avalon to be offered with a four-cylinder engine.

2020 Toyota Avalon Rear Angle View 1 CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Exhaust CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

Toyota's venerable 3.5-liter V6 does duty beneath the hood of the Avalon, sending outputs of 301 hp (one less than it develops in the Lexus ES) and 267 lb-ft of torque via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to the front wheels; at least until an all-wheel-drive variant joins the range in 2021. Unlike rivals that have made the switch to forced induction, the Avalon's unit retains its naturally aspirated disposition, meaning peak torque only arrives at a heady 4,700 rpm and peak power at an even headier 6,600 rpm.

After driving so many new cars with turbocharged four-cylinder engines, it is so nice to hop back into a car with silky smooth V6 power delivery. Toyota's current V6 is a gem, offering smooth acceleration with quick responsiveness. The eight-speed automatic isn't exactly a "downside," but it falls flat as a sporty transmission in TRD guise. If left to its own devices, the transmission constantly upshifts earlier than we wanted and there is no true manual mode, so the paddle shifters are essentially for display only.

This new TRD model also includes a cat-back exhaust, which sounds excellent from the outside of the car. Sadly, not much of that exhaust note makes its way into the cabin with the windows rolled up, so onlookers will enjoy this feature more than the driver. The Touring model, on the other hand, features computer-generated exhaust noise that is pumped into the cabin for the driver to enjoy at the expense of feeling genuine.

  • Engine
    3.5-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

We have driven the Avalon TRD back-to-back with the Touring model on an autocross course and for our money, the Touring trim is the better overall option. The TRD might be minutely sharper on the limit but both cars feel pretty large and heavy. The Touring trim benefits from Toyota's first-ever adaptive suspension, which manages the Avalon's weight through the corners while also offering a smoother ride over rough pavement. It also includes a Sport + mode, which is lacking on the TRD model.

No matter which Avalon you choose, you have to hop in with the right frame of mind. In the full-size sedan segment, the Dodge Charger and Kia Stinger eat the Avalon's lunch in regards to sporty feel but the Avalon is more pleasurable to drive than the Nissan Maxima and feels slightly more engaging than the Volkswagen Arteon. The steering is pretty direct on-center but starts to feel more vague off-center. Once you are on the move, the Avalon starts to feel less massive than it actually is. There are few sedans in this price range that feel as engaging as the Avalon, which is why we enjoy driving it so much.

Avalon Gas Mileage

Where the Avalon scores highly is that its 3.5-liter V6 is not only an ample performer but a frugal sipper as well. In its most efficient form, the XLE will sip at a rate of 22/32/26 mpg city/highway/combined according to the EPA, while all other derivatives, including the TRD we drove, are claimed to consume 22/32/25 mpg. That makes the Avalon up to two mpg more efficient overall than a Nissan Maxima, and three mpg better on the combined cycle than a similarly V6-powered Dodge Charger. More than just being efficient, the Avalon doesn't necessitate filling up with premium gasoline, making it cheaper to top up the 14.5-gallon tank on XLE models, or the 15.8-gallon item on the rest of the trims. Despite sipping slightly more than the XLE, the larger tank on our TRD equates to a higher estimated range of 395 miles in mixed conditions.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    14.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 22/32 mpg
* 2020 Toyota Avalon XLE

Avalon Interior

In its current form, the Avalon has seen a huge step up in interior design and quality compared to older versions of the marque, with the impressive levels of internal space amplified by the broad center console and cascading design of the touchscreen and climate controls. But despite the size of the console, all buttons and controls are clearly visible and easily within reach, and the use of high-quality, soft-touch materials lends the Avalon a sense of luxury, especially compared to the Camry that so often tempts buyers away from the Avalon. Loads of room, both up front and in the rear, is mirrored by a capacious trunk.

Our TRD tester receives unique embellishments to separate it from the rest of the Avalon lineup, unfortunately forgoing ventilated leather for the sake of black and red leather and suede appointments along with red seatbelts, TRD trunk and floor mats, TRD logos on the shift knob and steering, and red stitching on the latter to provide a sense of excitement.

2020 Toyota Avalon Dashboard CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Infotainment System CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Front Seats CarBuzz
See All 2020 Toyota Avalon Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The biggest reason to buy an Avalon over a Camry is rear legroom. Whereas the Camry only offers 38 inches to back seat riders, the Avalon boasts 40.3 inches of legroom. Headroom is slightly less impressive, with just 37.5 inches offered to back seat passengers. Most SUVs will offer more head space in the back, but as far as sedans go, the Avalon bucks the trend of crushing your hairstyle for the sake of a swooping roofline. During our time with the Avalon, our average-height back seat passengers noted that they had plenty of head and legroom for a long journey. Even though the Avalon TRD features unique seating upholstery, Toyota hasn't made any changes to the seats themselves. This means you can plop down into the Avalon's comfy chairs, which do not have any additional side bolstering to hold you in the corners.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Toyota made sure that the TRD Avalon stands out above other trim levels. The TRD treatment includes black and red leather/suede seats, plenty of red stitching, red seat belts, and TRD floor mats with red piping. We slightly prefer the ventilated leather/suede seats found on the Touring trim but the TRD interior certainly looks more aggressive. As the Avalon is positioned as a more luxurious vehicle, even the lower trim models include Toyota's SoftTex man-made leather material with the option for Ultrasuede on sportier trim levels like the XSE and Touring. Higher trim luxury models like the Limited get real leather. Toyota offers its SoftTex in beige, black, and grey while the interior with Ultrasuede can only be had in gray or black. The leather interiors are offered in gray, cognac, and beige.

Avalon Trunk and Cargo Space

Toyota is one of the few brands that can lay claim to being masters of packaging, taking a full-size sedan with measurements more-or-less equal to those of rivals, and somehow fitting more within that footprint than others do. 16.1 cubic feet is made available for storage in a broadly shaped trunk, marginally less than found in a Chrysler 300, but nearly two cubic feet more than in the Nissan Maxima. In the trunk alone, seven carry-on suitcases can be stowed back there, but dropping the 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks allows for up to 18 similarly sized packages to be crammed in.

Internal storage is equally generous. Up front, two large cup holders and a cavernous storage bin ahead of the shift lever are mighty practical, while beneath the center armrest there's a long, relatively deep storage bin for extra convenience. The glove box is large and practical in shape, and in the rear, the center backrest folds down to reveal two extra cup holders, an armrest, and an extra storage slot. All four doors boast large door pockets.

2020 Toyota Avalon Seat Folded CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Trunk Space CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Avalon Trunk Space 1 CarBuzz
  • Trunk Volume
    16.1 ft³

Avalon Infotainment and Features

Features

While a high base price might initially scare customers away, the Avalon is a genuine cornucopia of features, even in base form, with standard equipment including dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, heated front seats with eight-way power adjustment, adaptive cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and keyless entry and push-button start. There's more to be had, though as you can optionally equip a power moonroof and wireless device charging - standard on every subsequent trim - while on the Limited you'll find ventilated front seats, and from the Touring you get heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Limited and Touring also get a ten-inch head-up display and the option of a 360-degree camera system to aid parking. The Toyota Safety Sense-P suite of active safety systems ships standard with every Avalon, too, ensuring that you have standard access to a pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and assist, automatic high beams, and blind spot monitoring, relegating parking sensors as the only option in terms of safety.

Infotainment

Toyota's Entune infotainment system doesn't offer anything new here for 2020, although it does finally include Apple CarPlay compatibility. Housed on a nine-inch touchscreen, Entune now features crisper graphics and better touchscreen response than previous iterations. Even though the 2020 Camry and several Toyota SUVs now offer Android Auto, the Avalon has been inexplicably excluded. Android users will have to rely on Toyota's built-in navigation, which is optional on most trims but standard on the Touring. An eight-speaker audio system comes standard on Avalon but the optional 14-speaker JBL package with a subwoofer is well worth the $1,760 cost to listen to Sirius satellite radio, HD radio, FM/AM radio, and Bluetooth streaming devices.

Avalon Problems and Reliability

Now in its second year of the current generation, the Avalon is recall-free for 2020 at the time of writing, although two recalls affected the 2019 model, including one for a faulty airbag ECU. Aside from these minor blemishes, the Avalon looks to stay true to Toyota's reputation of reliability, with warranty coverage from the Japanese manufacturer granting peace of mind for 36 months/36,000 miles under the basic warranty, while the powertrain and restraint systems are covered for 60 months/60,000 miles.

Avalon Safety

Safe as houses, that's the Toyota Avalon in a nutshell, with an overall score of five stars out of five from the NHTSA and a 2019 Top Safety Pick + award from the IIHS with the uprated headlights of the Touring and subsequent trims. What's more, in the IIHS's testing, every test yielded best-possible scores of Good, with use of the LATCH anchors receiving Good+.

Key Safety Features

Toyota Safety Sense-P ships as standard on every Avalon, a suite of safety features that incorporates pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, full-speed dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams. This is supplemented by a full range of ABS brakes with EBD, stability and traction control software, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and no fewer than ten airbags including dual front knee airbags and rear seat-mounted side airbags. Safety can be further bolstered with optional parking sensors and a surround-view camera system.

Verdict: ๐ŸIs the 2020 Toyota Avalon a good car?

Toyota will only build 2,600 examples of the Avalon TRD for 2020 compared to 6,000 examples of the Camry, meaning it is rarer than a Lamborghini Urus. If you put one of these in the driveway, it is almost guaranteed that you won't see another one in your neighborhood. In fact, we are quite sad that our Supersonic Red tester may be the last TRD Avalon we see for a while. For the sheer cool factor alone, it might be worth it to opt for the TRD but we think the more well-equipped Touring trim is still the one to get.

If you are in need of a large, comfortable family car but don't want an SUV, we implore you to at least consider the Avalon. Rewind to just a few years ago and we could never imagine ourselves recommending a Toyota Avalon as the "cool" family option but with nearly everyone opting for a boring crossover these days, sedans have become the dark horse for people who still enjoy driving. This TRD Avalon may not be the sportiest sedan on the market right now, but we believe it is cooler than the vast majority of SUVs.

๐Ÿš˜What's the Price of the 2020 Toyota Avalon?

While the Toyota Camry is generally seen as affordable among its peers, the starting price of the Avalon might scare some prospective buyers away, especially with a base price of $35,875 for the XLE trim, excluding the mandatory delivery and handling fee of $955. That's more than $10,000 more expensive than a base Camry. However, the Avalon is loaded with value, and as such, it's only a small step up to the XSE with an MSRP of $38.375. The Limited breaks the 40k barrier at $42,175, while getting behind the wheel of our TRD tester will cost just $42,375. A top-of-the-range Touring model will ask just $200 more at $42,575 - placing it on par with similar range-toppers from rival brands.

2020 Toyota Avalon Models

The Avalon range of full-size sedans comprises five trims: XLE, XSE, Limited, the new for 2020 TRD, and the Touring. All are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 301 hp and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The base model carries an exorbitant asking price, but backs it up as a feature-filled offering, riding on 17-inch alloy wheels and equipped with LED reflector headlights. It boasts standard dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, heated eight-way power front seats, keyless entry, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Toyota Safety Sense-P suite of safety features is standard, and infotainment is taken care of by a nine-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, HD Radio, SiriusXM, and eight speakers.

Stepping up to the XSE equips sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch alloy wheels, along with a power sunroof. It gets sports front seats and aluminum trim throughout the cabin, while the feature-count is bolstered by a wireless charging pad.

The TRD gets sport-tuned TRD springs, bespoke styling, bigger brakes, and 19-inch alloy wheels. Additionally, smatterings of red throughout the cabin, a TRD cat-back exhaust, and fabric/Ultrasuede combination upholstery are added.

Limited models start adding luxury with LED projector headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated leather seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 10-inch head-up display, and genuine wood interior trim. They also receive a premium 14-speaker JBL sound system and onboard navigation.

The Touring ranks top of the pile, with an adaptive suspension, sport-tuned exhaust, and sportier styling, but is otherwise similarly specced to the Limited.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
XLE
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$35,875
XSE
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$38,375
Limited
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$42,175
TRD
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$42,375
Touring
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$42,575
See All 2020 Toyota Avalon Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

While most specification is bundled into trim brackets, several packages and standalone options are available to improve your chosen Avalon trim. The XLE gets access to a Moonroof Package for $1,000 to add the moonroof present on all subsequent trims, while a $1,720 Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation package adds onboard navigation and a 14-speaker JBL sound system to the mix. The TRD gets access to this same package, but the XSE gets the option of an enhanced version of the same that also includes active noise cancellation and engine sound enhancement for $1,760.

Exclusively available on the Touring and Limited variants, the Advanced Safety Package carries an asking price of $1,150 but adds a bird's eye view camera and parking sensors with rear cross-traffic braking.

๐Ÿš—What Toyota Avalon Model Should I Buy?

With a starting price of $42,300, the Avalon TRD is just $500 less expensive than the Touring trim level. When you opt for the JBL package with navigation and the awesome shade of Supersonic Red, the TRD's price jumps to over $45,000 ($45,410 in the case of our tester). Instead, we'd opt for the Touring trim with the Advanced Safety Package for nearly the same price as our TRD tester. It may be a trade-off in rarity and you'll miss out on that awesome cat-back exhaust, but the Touring makes up for these losses with ventilated front seats, a 360-degree camera, adaptive suspension, and more, all for the same sort of money.

Check out other Toyota Avalon Styles

2020 Toyota Avalon Comparisons

Lexus ES Lexus
Toyota Camry Toyota

2020 Toyota Avalon vs Lexus ES

When sister-brands share their toys, it's often worthwhile exploring if the premium brand can justify the extra cost associated with the badge. In the case of the mechanically identical (except for the one horsepower bonus on the Lexus) Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon, the Lexus-badged version asks an extra $4,000 over its Toyota counterpart. However, it justifies this immediately with an interior that's definitely the more upscale of the two, with soft leather instead of the cheaper materials found on the Avalon. That's essentially the main difference between the two, as they perform identically, sip the same amount of fuel, and both can be equipped with almost all the same features. So it comes down to this; if you're after a truly luxurious experience, you'll spend big on a top-spec Lexus ES with fancy Mark Levinson sound systems and the 12.3-inch infotainment display. But if like us, you're in search of a great deal, an Avalon Touring hits the sweet spot between luxury, performance, and value, saving several thousand dollars in the process.

See Lexus ES Review

2020 Toyota Avalon vs Toyota Camry

Many have questioned the Avalon's raison d'être when the stellar Camry is only marginally smaller, just as safe, and can be yours for $11,000 less in base guise. But the difference between the two Toyota sedans is all about their intended purposes. The Camry is the smaller, nimbler, and sharper-focused between the two, but it's also more budget-conscious, which is why it features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine sipping up to 29/41/34 mpg compared to the Avalon's 22/32/26 mpg from its 3.5-liter V6. But you can have the same engine in a Camry, at which point you're paying just $1,300 less than the Avalon. At this point, the Avalon carves a clear case for itself, with more equipment, more passenger space, a more upmarket interior and a trunk with an extra cubic foot of storage capacity. The Avalon is more comfortable, too, a lounge set on wheels by comparison, which makes it a compelling alternative. Truthfully, it's the better car, but if finances don't permit, the Camry won't feel like a cut-price alternative.

See Toyota Camry Review

Toyota Avalon Popular Comparisons

2020 Toyota Avalon Video Reviews

$35,875 - $42,575
Price Range (MSRP)
Toyota Avalon
Popular Tags Cars