2021 Toyota Avalon
- Starting in the mid-$30,000s
- Fall 2020
What to expect
- All-wheel drive available on the Avalon for the first time
- Paired exclusively to a four-cylinder engine
- Part of the fifth Avalon generation introduced for 2019
What is it?
Large sedans have declined in popularity over the last few years, while SUVs took over as the go-to choice for families. Some entrants, such as the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, have been on sale for nearly a decade without a substantial redesign. Others are on life support (Chevrolet Impala) or have been discontinued entirely (Ford Taurus). So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Toyota is doubling down and offering more versions of its popular full-size sedan than ever before. For the first time in the nameplate's history, the 2021 Toyota Avalon will be available with all-wheel drive.
There's a catch, however — the new drivetrain will not be paired to the existing V6 or hybrid powerplant. Instead, the all-wheel-drive Avalon will borrow the 205-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder from the Camry for motivation. That's a loss of about 100 hp, and we'll likely see a significant loss in torque as well. We're not ecstatic about the choice since this engine is rougher around the edges than we'd expect from a near-luxury car such as the Avalon. To top it off, its competitors with AWD are almost exclusively powered by V6 engines, so buyers in cold climates might feel let down by its lack of oomph.
Why does it matter?
Adding power to the rear opens the Avalon to parts of the country where all-wheel drive is a must. While they have offered AWD for a few years now, most of the Avalon's rivals are based on old platforms and aren't the most competitive vehicles in the segment. Now, buyers needing four-wheel traction can get it in what we think is the best full-size sedan on the market.
What does it compete with?
There are only a few choices if you want a large sedan with all-wheel drive, but all are more powerful (though likely thirstier) than the Avalon. The Buick LaCrosse, along with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger stablemates, is available with all-wheel drive in conjunction with its V6 engine.
If you can do without their larger back seats, there are numerous choices in the midsize sedan category that offer AWD as well. These include the Buick Regal Sportback, Ford Fusion, the Kia Stinger, the Nissan Altima, the Volkswagen Arteon, and, also as of 2020, the Toyota Camry.
Naturally, every SUV in the Avalon's price range either comes standard with AWD or offers it as an option.
There's no doubt the all-wheel-drive option will broaden the appeal of the 2021 Toyota Avalon. All-weather capability might be enough to overcome our reservations about its four-cylinder engine.