Two of the most popular features and trends in automobiles today are the push towards greater electrification of automakers' portfolios and extending all-wheel drive to new and existing product lines. So it comes as no surprise that Toyota announced new all-wheel drive options for two of its most successful cars - the best selling mid-size sedan for 17 years and counting, Camry, and, its flagship sedan, Avalon.
This most recent announcement from Toyota broadens their market considerably. In the case of the Camry, and not many people might remember this, AWD was offered as an option until 1991. In the mid to low price AWD sedan category, Subaru offers the only other competing alternative. This should bring many Subaru stalwarts into Toyota dealers. Likewise, where AWD was available only in high-end luxury sedans, an AWD Avalon certainly makes a compelling case against such brands as BMW, Infiniti, and others.
The AWD system to be used in the 2020 Camry and Avalon was developed in-house at Toyota's North American engineering facilities and are being assembled in their Kentucky plant. The system was developed and adapted from the all-new AWD drivetrain and electronics found in the 2019 RAV4. Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control will be available à la carte on the Camry LE, XLE, SE, and XSE trims, and on the Avalon in the XLE and Limited grades. Pricing has not been announced. And while there is no word on whether or not hybrid versions of the Camry and Avalon will one day get an AWD option, with the AWD Prius already on the streets I can't imagine they'll be too far behind.
Under the hood, the AWD package starts with a high-efficiency 2.5 liter DOHC in-line 4 cylinder engine and 8-speed direct shift automatic transmission. Horsepower ranges from 202 to 205 depending on the exact model selected. Pricing and EPA numbers have not been announced so we'll have to wait and see.
Toyota promises a superior balance of traction and fuel efficiency in its "smart" AWD system. Rather than utilize mechanically based units of old with viscous couplings and clutches, Toyota's AWD instantly detects slippage and can direct up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels. And when it's not needed the system electronically disengages the drive shaft to the rear wheels operating as a FWD drive only car to scavenge every available mpg. I'll be looking for both AWD-equipped Camrys and Avalons when they hit the road. Until then, buckle up.