UMBRELLA NAME RAISES EXPECTATIONS: whenever TRD, the abbreviation for Toyota Racing Development is appendaged to a production Toyota street vehicle model.
Except that in 2015, TRD stopped marketing superchargers, their only bolt-on power enhancements. As for tuning the brand’s most recent sports car the A80 2020 Supra, Toyota relies on BMW and Gazoo Racing, a division of Toyota Racing Germany, which does Yaris World Rally Cars.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE STREET: is that TRD, of late, has been slapped on Toyota’s off-road prepped, showroom stock light trucks.
COMMITMENT TO CARS: As pudding for proof of sticking with the 4-door sedan, the latest TRD applications are the V6 powered Camry and Avalon. Toyota sent along a sample of the latter, a dripping sanguine 2020 Avalon TRD. Strapping in, Roadblazing.com editors wondered what retina arresting red seatbelts might portend for this big lug’s street respect.
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2020 Toyota Avalon TRD highlights:
• Starting price, including destination = $43,255 front-wheel drive. As tested = $45,394 suggested retail price.
• Standard Power (shared with non Hybrid, non-AWD Avalons): transverse 3.5L DOHC 24V DI SFI gas V-6 = 301 hp/ 268 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transaxle, steering wheel shift paddles; 4 Drive Chassis Modes = Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and customizable mode
NOSE, BUTT & THIGHS JOB [to other Avalons]:
• Finally a head turning TNGA-K Avalon. If the TRD unique Supersonic Red hue isn’t sufficiently blood curdling, there is a Mack the Knife’s almost imposing extension of a thin upper grille to a piano black, lower chain link, full width monstrous maw. Darth Vader finally found a nice family car to butt heads with. Darkened creased corner faux brake ducts and a lower valance splitter fill out the rest of the nose. Obviously no door nor wing mirror chrome has been left standing without blackening. Exaggerated blackened side skirts caught editors’ shoes a bunch of times. Other than altering color schemes and a right lower trunk lid red “TRD” emblem which is masked by the red hue, the back lid spoiler bumper cover expanse remain the same as Touring. Avalon TRD adopts single rather than dual exhaust tips. The 7 tuning fork spoke, 19″ rims, done in matte black are in search of rash from curbs.
GET A LOAD OF THOSE SEATBELTS:
• The cabin is pulled intact from the last 2019 Avalon Touring tested by Roadblazing.com. That includes an elegantly trimmed, if not bespoke, tiered dashtop, a floating center stack with prominent raised tablet infotainment display, TFT analog gauges, intuitive secondary controls and steering wheel spoke buttons for menu perusal, and an expensive headliner webbing. Seams are uniform and tight, while control inputs make the precision placement and low effort action cut.
• Variances to the inner parlor Avalon TRD are confined to red contrast stitching on all soft panels and surfaces. Bolstering asiprational simulated leather+ microsuede seats with excessive thigh lift, are ripped intact from the Touring model. Red bordered floor mats, front headrest “TRD” stitching and red seat belt webbing are sufficient for a place of ill repute.
• There’s a standard 9.0″ glossy tri-pane touch tablet integrated atop the center stack. Try holding steady and tap the far right side while in motion. To that end there are workable learning voice command controls. Settings menus are a simple one layer deep. Graphics aren’t among the sharpest but response time is quick. Available dynamic navigation is perfectly conversational while the optional 1200 watt JBL audio system could benefit from a concert hall mode.
• Standard Entune Apps, including weather & traffic, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and WiFi by subscription fill entertainment duties. Qi inductive charging is standard within a deep center stack bin. 2020 Avalons haven’t been tapped by the Android Auto wand yet.
BOAT OF A SPORTY SEDAN:
• Avalon TRD remains a Pullman carriage next to subway cars in terms of cabin and cargo space in the segment. 60/40% split folding rear seatbacks are part of the package as well. However the trunk lid disappoints with nary a pull down handle and thin carpeted walls. Deep concealed storage as well as power service in the aft floating center stack render mostly make amends for miserly door pockets.
• Naturally aspirated V-6’s are an endangered species but this one manages a creamy torque flow with hints of naughtiness. Don’t bother searching for the exhaust rumble switch. Bark from the TRD cat back dual resonators, certain to offend the stereotypical Avalon set, should intoxicate the enthusiast set. Avalon TRD is not blindingly quick though there’s gusto aplenty. While the smooth 8-speed torque converter, paddle shifting slush box is preferrable to most any CVT [talking about you Nissan Maxima], sport mode begs for more authoritative shifts.
At the Pump: observed 25 Miles Per Gallon EPA combined fuel economy
ROAD HUG RECIPE:
- √ Higher rates springs combined with Avalon Touring’s 27 mm stablizers render a 0.6″ lowering and +44%:+67% front to rear roll resistance.
- √ 0.9″ larger front brake rotors clamped by 2-piston sliding calipers
- √ 18 lbs. total lighter 19″ alloy wheels for lower unsprung mass
- √ Thicker underbody bracing
That stiffer springing loses lots of lesser Avalon’s ponderous traits. There’s less imminency of side to side buffet or nose heavy brake dive. An unchanged steering rack is hampered by the ordinary dry grip of fitted Michelin touring all seasons. (The similarly powered, $10k cheaper Camry TRD, can be factory spec’d with summer tires.) Thus there persist a whiff of ambivalence and imminence of understeer, partly remedied by cornering torque vectoring. Owing to the deft adaptive dampers, a noticeably tauter ride doesn’t trade in too much of Avalon’s storied ride composure. Front brake upsizing really only rewards with improved clamping past mid-way pedal travel.
• IIHS Safety Pick Plus; √ 10 Airbags; √ standard comprehensive Toyota SafetySense P driver assistance and autonomy includes pedestrian avoidance, blind sport warning and fully adaptive cruise control to lane tracing and auto high beam lights.
• Power and heated everything and illuminated everything. Even illuminated door sill plates.
• MAJOR OPTIONS = enhanced voice command HDD GPS Navigation, power moonroof
-1 Missing Avalon Touring’s power tilting & heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and Perimiter View camera.
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD PROS:
- Vociferous V-6
- Real exhaust rumble
- 8-speed conventional automatic
- Lowered stance
- Tauter without compromising comfort
- Standard SafetySense P advanced driver assistance
- IIHS Safety Pick Plus
- 9.0″ touch LCD media display
- Intelligently placed controls & setting menus
- Android Auto & Amazon Alexa projection
- Free Entune apps include weather, traffic, fuel, sports, cinema, stocks, Yelp search
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD CONS:
- Summer tires not factory option (unlike Camry TRD)
- In your face grille not quite sleeper
- Idle exhaust rumble not for faint hearted
- Limited door pocket space
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD = Sleepy Sleeper eats up open road, enlivens daily commute, but no [Taurus] SHO.
ANY COMPETITION: Dodge Charger: +1 Infotainment, available AWD; Nissan Maxima SR: +1 seats, steering
(Contributing Editor: S. Frissell)