2021 Toyota Avalon 4-Dr TRD Review by David Colman +VIDEO
It's a ten!
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
I once asked mystery writer Lee Child what he drove. He responded, "I buy used police cars because they're fast and they don't get noticed." Child would love the Avalon TRD because it's plenty fast but won't get you noticed. In other words, it's the perfect sleeper sedan. Toyota's in-house go fast department called TRD (Toyota Racing Development) has done an admirable job of turning the benign Avalon family sedan into something altogether different. The fun begins when you depress the starter button to fire up the hefty 301hp V6. A digital display screen right under your nose flashes a red letter "R" which then morphs into an elongated "TRD" animation just as the 3.5 liter engine settles into its lively idle. The extra sensory motor sound is due to this Avalon's special TRD exhaust system which features enlarged tubing from the catalysts back to the stainless steel tips which protrude through the rear diffuser panel.
TRD equipment improves upon the sedate stock Avalon in unseen, unexpected ways. For example, the chassis is stiffer than stock thanks to thicker underbody braces and a front strut tower brace. Those improvements in turn permit use of stiffer front and rear coil springs, TRD-valved shock absorbers at all four corners, and larger diameter front and rear sway bars. Capping off the whole high performance makeover is a striking set of matte black TRD logo alloy rims measuring 8.5 x 19 inches. These rims mount Michelin Primacy 235/40R19 summer tires with a long life tread wear rating of TW 500. TRD also revises the brake system, with upsized 12.9 inch front rotors clamped by calipers that use two pistons instead of the single piston used on the stock Avalon. The substitution of a unique brake booster improves pedal stiffness and feel. To cap it all off, both front and rear calipers are finished in gloss red which contrasts nicely with the flat black alloys.
The exterior surfaces of the TRD Avalon enjoy similar attention to detail. Our Ice Edge White test car looked particularly understated but striking thanks to a raft of subtle aerodynamic improvements, including a glossy black front splitter, sculpted side aero skirts and a 7 pronged rear diffuser. A sizeable gloss black spoiler tops the rear trunk and caps an aero kit that yields a drag coefficient of just 0.27. Delicate red pin striping draws attention to the wind tunnel improvements. At the rear, the only legible badge reads "TRD" since the Avalon name lettering is buried in the full width rear tail light panel. Inside the cabin, the red/black motif continues, with Softex fabric seating surfaces trimmed with red stitching. Red TRD logos adorn the front headrests, complimenting red safety belts and red bordered TRD floor mats. The front seats are heated, but suffer from lower cushions that are shorter than they need to be.
The V-6 engine is well endowed, with 24 valves, variable valve timing and an 11.8:1 compression ratio that provides instant throttle response accompanied by an enticing exhaust note that is common to all TRD muffled vehicles. Throttle response is gratifyingly instantaneous. Engine speed modulation is handled with 8 speeds available through the Direct Shift electronically controlled automatic gearbox which offers you a choice of swapping cogs by bumping the console shift fore and aft, or using the modestly dimensioned paddles at the steering wheel. Regardless of your choice of activation, the transmission obliges commands instantly, only deferring when it senses that a downshift will over-rev the engine.
There are a couple of minor chinks in the armor of the TRD as a sporting weapon. The first is the overly protective traction control system which seems to have been brought over as-is from the stock Avalon sedan. In practice, this system cuts engine power at inopportune moments when you're putting the TRD suspension system through its paces on a twisting back road. These unexpected cuts in power undercut the high handling threshold this TRD sedan is capable of achieving. If this Avalon resided in my garage, its ultra high mileage Michelin Primacy tires would be replaced with stickier Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber.
The Avalon TRD costs about $7,000 more than a similar stock V6 Avalon but it's worth every penny of that premium and then some. You have to look long and hard for a sleeper sedan this good, but even Lee Child would have to admit that it's the perfect set of wheels for a cantankerous guy like his hero, Jack Reacher.
2021 TOYOTA AVALON 4-DR TRD
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6, DOHC, 24 valves, VVT-i
HORSEPOWER: 301hp@6600rpm TORQUE: 267lb.-ft.@4700rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/30MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $46,074
HYPES: Stealth Bomber
GRIPES: Overactive TC
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10