Getting the RAV4's AWD system underneath the Camry and Avalon required some finesse.
In case you missed it, Toyota is officially introducing its first AWD Camry in the US market since 1991, with plans to offer available all-wheel drive as a standalone option on the Camry's LE, XLE, SE, and XSE trims. The move shows a real commitment to Toyota's North American sedan portfolio as the AWD Camry has been designed exclusively for that market, with development taking place in the US and assembly at Toyota's Kentucky manufacturing plant.
At the same time, the larger Toyota Avalon will gain available AWD on the XLE and Limited trim levels, marking the first all-wheel-drive Avalon ever.
The AWD system going in the Toyota Camry and Avalon, Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control AWD, uses an electromagnetic-controlled coupling to engage and disengage the rear axle in a near-instant, allowing the car to direct up to 50 percent of the total torque output to the rear axle when needed, and completely disconnect the rear axle whenever appropriate.
As a result, the 2020 Toyota Camry AWD delivers an estimated 29 mpg combined (25 city, 34 highway) in LE and SE trim, and 28 mpg combined (25 city, 34 highway) in XLE and XSE. Power comes from the familiar 2.5L DOHC four-cylinder through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Ultimately, it's remarkable that Toyota was able to add AWD to the Camry and Avalon at all, considering that neither model was originally designed to offer it. The cars were developed in-house at Toyota's North American Research and Development facility in Michigan, and made possible by the flexibility of the automaker's TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform.
Making it all work still required a lot of finessing. The AWD Camry and Avalon had to adopt the RAV4's engine, transmission, transfer case, and rear differential, while the RAV4's version of the TNGA multi-link suspension was massaged and re-tuned to suit the sedans. The floor structure had to be modified, as well, the fuel tanks redesigned from a "flat-style" to a "saddle-style," and an electronic parking brake installed. All told, the modifications added just 165 pounds to the Camry, while weight is about the same between the Avalon AWD and its V6-powered FWD sibling, thanks mostly to the 2.5L's smaller dimensions.
Toyota's new AWD Camry will go on sale in early spring as a 2020 model, followed by the 2021 Toyota Avalon AWD this fall.