2020 Toyota Camry AWD 3

Toyota Camry & Avalon AWD: Nice Option But Do You Need It?

  • Toyota Camry and Avalon now have all-wheel drive as a standalone option.
  • Different components from the RAV4 and Highlander were used for the sedans.
  • Although a nice option, all-wheel drive may not be necessary for some buyers.

Toyota’s research team in Saline, Michigan came back from the drawing board with an all-wheel drive option for the 2020 Camry and 2021 Avalon. With more room in the market as players like Ford and GM exit, Toyota is making a seemingly simple but crucial addition here with all-wheel drive. In short, both cars will be more capable in snowy weather, but if you are a longtime Camry or Avalon buyer, is all-wheel drive worth it?    

How Does All-Wheel Drive Change Things?

According to Toyota, buyers will notice little, if any, change between the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive Camry and Avalon. Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) allows the all-wheel drive models to retain the same suspension tuning, wheels, and tires as the front-wheel drive versions. In other words, you might only notice all-wheel drive in slippery or snowy conditions (if that, since most systems on the market today are fairly seamless).

Otherwise, for all intents and purposes, Toyota claims the cars ride like their front-wheel drive cousins. 

Blending Two Vehicles Together

Since TNGA is a flexible platform for Toyota, engineers had the freedom to incorporate the components necessary for the all-wheel drive Camry and Avalon. When Toyota started planning for the addition, they looked at the RAV4 as an eligible bachelor since it is also based on the TNGA platform. It may feel like an unconventional pairing, but Toyota seems to believe this true love encounter will produce the ruggedness of an SUV in an affordable sedan.  

Toyota took the upper body structure of the Camry and Avalon and combined it with the RAV4’s multi-link rear suspension. From there, the RAV4’s suspension was adapted with specific modifications and tuning to suit the sedans. The RAV4 wasn’t the only SUV on Toyota’s radar either. They put a modified version of the Highlander’s propeller shaft in both the all-wheel drive Camry and Avalon. 

2020 Toyota Camry XSE with all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive components account for an additional 165 lbs. versus a front-wheel drive Camry. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
2020 Toyota Camry XSE with all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive components account for an additional 165 lbs. versus a front-wheel drive Camry. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Engine & Powertrain  

Both the all-wheel drive Toyota Camry and Avalon have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a dual overhead cam. The engine, complete with an aluminum alloy block and aluminum alloy heads, is paired to an eight-speed automatic. The Camry delivers 202 horsepower which is more than enough for your daily routine. The Camry XSE and Avalon bump things up a little bit with 205 horsepower and dual exhaust. 

How Does AWD Work In The Camry & Avalon? 

Up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque can be directed to the rear wheels by the electromagnetic controlled coupling. This coupling engages and disengages the propeller shaft from the differential depending on if the situation demands all-wheel drive. During acceleration and slippage at the front wheels, all-wheel drive will kick in to distribute power more effectively, but then disconnect during long highway stretches or casual cruising to conserve fuel. 

2021 Toyota Avalon Limited with all-wheel drive. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
2021 Toyota Avalon Limited with all-wheel drive. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

What Is The Fuel Economy?

EPA-ratings for the all-wheel drive Toyota Camry LE and SE are 25/34 city/highway and 29 combined; whereas the XLE and XSE return the same city/highway numbers, but one mpg less combined at 28.

A quick look at the Carmy shows it is a bit behind its all-wheel drive competitors like the Nissan Altima and Subaru legacy. Both the Legacy and Altima with all-wheel drive have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the same displacement as the all-wheel drive Camry. The 2020 Altima gets an estimated 26/36 city/highway and 30 combined. By comparison, the 2020 Legacy comes in at 27/35 city/highway and 30 combined.

Standard Safety Features

All 2020 Toyota Camry and Avalon models are standard with Toyota Safety Sense-P (often written as TSS-P). The package includes:

  • Automatic High Beams.
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.
  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection.

Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is available for the Camry, but standard on Avalon. Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross Traffic Braking is available for both cars.

2020 Toyota Camry interior layout.
2020 Toyota Camry interior layout. While the contents varies slightly by trim level, a Cold Weather Package is available for the all-wheel drive Camry and Avalon. It adds things like heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Should I Buy My Camry or Avalon With AWD?

We know well in Michigan how desirable all-wheel drive sounds, especially when the forecast is predicting one winter storm after another. Drivers often gravitate toward trucks and SUVs for reasons like this. There is, after all, an added sense of security a 4×4 vehicle can provide.  

But if you are more at ease driving a car, a Camry or Avalon with all-wheel drive might be a better option. Versus a “normal” front-whee drive sedan, you will have more traction during snowy and icy conditions without having to make the switch to an SUV or a truck. If you live someplace where it doesn’t – or rarely ever – snows, then you probably don’t need all-wheel drive.

If you are on a shoestring budget like me, the front-wheel drive Camry is more attractive. The front-wheel drive version has the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and with some gasoline versions pushing 40 highway mpg, it’s just more affordable in the long run. Those with extended work commutes will benefit the most from the front-wheel drive Camry, as will weekend road-trippers.

2020 Toyota Camry XLE with all-wheel drive.
2020 Toyota Camry XLE with all-wheel drive. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Pricing & Availability

The 2020 Toyota Camry is available now, with all-wheel drive as an option on four trim levels: LE, SE, XLE, and the sportier XSE. The all-wheel drive LE starts at $26,370, while the XSE begins at $31,405. The all-wheel Avalon arrives this fall as a 2021 model year. Pricing and fuel economy figures will be announced closer to that time.

Both the all-wheel drive Camry and Avalon are only available in North America, and are assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.

Emily Pruitt is fascinated by the current changes in the automotive industry, from electric cars and infrastructure, to fully autonomous vehicles. Outside of the automotive world, she can be found writing poetry or unraveling the latest mystery novel.

Photos & Source: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.