One of the suggested reasons for the increased popularity of SUVs and crossovers, and for declining consumer interest in sedans in North America, has been the fact that some kind of all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive is typically available on utility vehicles and not on sedans.
Putting that theory to the test, Toyota will be introducing all-wheel-drive versions of the Camry and Avalon sedans for the United States and Canada starting next year. This will be the first time since the 1991 All-Trac Camry that Toyota’s mid-sizer will have power to all four wheels and the first time ever for an AWD Avalon. For the time being, the new all-wheel-drive sedans will be exclusive to North America.
Although most major cities in the United States are at least as far south as Rome and Barcelona, places many Europeans go when looking for a sunny winter vacation (which explains the American passion for effective summer air conditioning in our homes and cars), it still snows a bit north of the Mason-Dixon line. For example, it’s not quite the middle of November and here in southeastern Michigan, we already have about nine inches of white, fluffy stuff.
Toyota’s main North American research and development center happens to be located in Saline, near Ann Arbor, in that same southeastern Michigan region, which may explain why the engineers there were tasked with converting the sedans to all-wheel drive. Neither of those cars was originally planned to have all-wheel drive, but both sedans are based on Toyota’s flexible Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), as is the RAV4 SUV, so the team took the sedan bodies and mashed them up with the RAV4’s Dynamic Torque Control System drivetrain, including a revised version of the RAV4’s multi-link rear suspension.
The work required revising the sedan’s floor pans, incorporating a different fuel tank to make room for the additional AWD components, and replacing the cable-activated parking brake with an electronically-actuated one. Surprisingly, all the extra hardware only added 165 pounds to the front-wheel drive Camry while the new all-wheel-drive Avalon’s weight is very close to that model’s V-6-powered front-wheel-drive version.
The 2020 AWD Camry will go on sale next spring, while the Avalon with all-wheel drive will be available in the fall of next year as a 2021 model. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, though Toyota has indicated that the all-wheel-drive system will be offered as a standalone option on most Camry trim lines and on the Avalon in XLE and Limited spec.
The new AWD Avalon and Camry will get their first public showings next week at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.