Toyota introduced Wednesday an available all-wheel-drive powertrain on the 2020 Camry and 2021 Avalon in a bid to compete with more popular crossovers and SUVs.
It’s the first time the Avalon sedan is available with AWD, and the first time AWD has been offered on the best-selling Camry mid-size sedan since 1991.
Derived from the RAV4 compact crossover, the traction improvements will be offered on all but the base L and hybrid versions of the Camry. Most Camry models come with a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter inline-4 with 8-speed automatic that makes 184 pound-feet of torque. With the new AWD system, up to half of that torque can be used to power the rear wheels if the front wheels slip or are buried in snow, or at takeoff. It's not likely to be a performance option; the V-6 Camry will not be offered with AWD.
Toyota added that the all-wheel-drive system shouldn’t be a drag on fuel economy because the rear axle can be disengaged when cruising. The AWD system is automatic and adds 165 pounds to the overall weight, which may ding fuel economy when estimates are released by the EPA.
Interior space should be the same as the hybrid models, and the rear differential shouldn’t cut into the depth of the trunk, according to Toyota.
Even though the Camry hasn't had AWD since 1991, it hasn't hurt it much as the best-selling sedan in America. Sales of mid-size sedans like the Camry are waning, and the return of AWD can only help. Offered only in North America, the new AWD version makes the Camry a more compelling choice. Mid-size sedans with all-wheel drive include the aging Dodge Charger, and redesigned models of the Nissan Altima and Subaru Legacy, which comes standard with AWD. The Mazda6 is reportedly getting an AWD option, and the Kia Stinger offers AWD. The Honda Accord only comes in front-wheel drive.
The 2021 Avalon AWD comes in XLE and Limited trim, and comes standard with a heated steering wheel. It goes on sale in fall 2020. The extra cost of the AWD system wasn’t announced, but customers should expect an upcharge of about $1,500. An optional Cold Weather package with heated seats and other items is offered on the Camry AWD. Pricing will be announced closer to when the 2020 Camry AWD arrives in dealers in spring.