In the bittersweet recent history of the traditional full-size sedan, no move comes across quite as desperate as Toyota’s TRD-ification of the admittedly competent Avalon. No one — repeat, no one — thinks of the Avalon as a taught, corner carving sports sedan, though the model did gain stiffer bones and better handling via its 2019 model year revamp. Frankly, few people think of the Avalon at all.
Which is a shame, as no one loves large, conservative cars more than your author. Add to that the fact that the current inhabitants of the full-size segment have a lot going for them, cargo capacity excluded, and the Avalon is well-known for being among the longest-lasting vehicles on the road.
In donning the Toyota Racing Development badge, the Avalon can’t help but get noticed, though the reaction of passers-by might fall along the lines of “WTF,” rather than “Oh, dammnnnn…” That’s assuming they ever see one.
According to pricing guides seen by Cars Direct, the sportified Avalon TRD splits the pricing difference between the former top two trims: Limited and Touring. With an after-destination starting price of $43,255, the Avalon TRD falls $200 above the Limited and the same amount below the Touring.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to selecting an Avalon, and last year’s test drive of the new 2019 model revealed a concerted push by Toyota brass to push the then-sportiest XSE model to a younger crowd. In this driver’s opinion, a competent chassis and spacious (if somewhat unharmonious) interior was let down by a laggy eight-speed automatic that failed to make best use of the 3.5-liter V6’s 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Dialing up extra firmness was accomplished by a drive mode selector, and indeed, the firmest of the modes was too firm.
If memory serves correct, the Avalon’s perfectly pleasant hybrid variant left a better lasting impression. Regardless, many of the go-fast bits added to the XSE appear on the TRD model, joined by an underbody with extra bracing, upgraded brakes, beefier springs, a 0.6-inch suspension drop, dual cat-back exhaust with look-over-here chrome tips, and lightweight 19-inch matte black wheels. Aero add-ons flourish.
If the Avalon already catches your eye, the ballsiest, most noticeable variant just might be your thing, though the price tag and power specs attached to this front-drive cruiser will inevitably garner the question “why?” should you sign on the dotted line.
After all, a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack offers full-size space, a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 (485 horsepower, 475 lb-ft), and a sportier rear-drive layout for $1,515 less than an Avalon TRD. Different strokes for different folks?
Whatever your bag, the Avalon TRD goes on sale alongside its Camry TRD cousin this fall. Report back if you see one.