This is what happens when you let Toyota engineers off the leash.
"Avalon has been an amazing car for Toyota, but let's face it, it's never really shed its family sedan image...until now," says Ed Laukes, group vice president of Toyota Division Marketing. Part of that is down to the fact nobody actually expected it to shed that image. As we've mentioned before, the Avalon does its job well in the Toyota lineup but it's never been and never will be an enthusiast's sport sedan. However, we're thoroughly entertained by the idea of turning the Avalon into a track monster, and Toyota let its engineers of the leash to create the 2020 Avalon TRD Pro Concept. And, we're not kidding here, it's fast and fun. It's also on show at SEMA 2019 this week.
According to Toyota, by the time the engineers were done with the Avalon's makeover, it laid down a remarkable 1 minute and 25.3 second lap time at the 1.8-mile Streets of Willow Springs track in California. Toyota claims its full-size front-wheel-drive sedan outpaced specialist sports cars like the Porsche 911 Carrera and Audi R8.
To achieve this, and earn the TRD Pro badge, Toyota wanted the concept to be at home in the hands of a race car driver or professional drifter, and still be competent as a daily driver. To do that, Toyota brought in the performance outfit Dan Gardner Spec (DG-Spec) to work with Toyota Racing Department (TRD).
Toyota says that DG-Spec treated this project like a professional race program and the car was thoroughly tested across four different race tracks. The 3.5-liter V6 engine takes advantage of a DG-Spec cold air intake, and a three-inch exhaust fabricated from Burns Stainless components to bump its output to an estimated 330 horsepower. Specialists from OS Giken were pulled in from Japan to help develop a custom Super-Lock limited-slip differential, and DG-Spec Motion Control Suspension (MCS) coilovers with remote reservoirs and three-way adjustability now replace the factory suspension. That's then been tuned using adjustable DG-Spec/Progress rear camber arms and a Progress adjustable rear stabilizer bar.
Suspension parts were also replaced with lighter equipment, and a Stoptech ST40 big brake kit with four-piston billet aluminum calipers was adapted for the Avalon project. Under the wheel arches are 18x9-inch full carbon-fiber barreled Lacks wheels that weigh just 15 pounds each. The total weight loss for the Avalon is 150 pounds, including the added aero and ducting. The composite duckbill spoiler at the back then adds 100 pounds of downforce at 100 mph.
"At DG-Spec, we're always taking on platforms that most people don't typically think of as track-worthy," said DG-Spec's Dan Gardner, "We've been around enough talented Toyota engineers to know that they create amazing canvases, regardless of the intended target. It's been our honor over the years to help Toyota turn the volume up to 11. It's safe to say this really is the quickest FWD full-size sedan on the planet."
We're doubtful about that claim, to say the least, but this could be the most thorough SEMA build this year.