Don't Drop Your Coffee: Toyota Unveils All-Wheel Drive Camry, Avalon

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
dont drop your coffee toyota unveils all wheel drive camry avalon

Depending on where you live, the newest variants of the Toyota Camry and its big brother, the Avalon, may arrive too late to help you conquer any wintry weather. This winter, anyway. Slated to arrive in North American markets starting early next spring, the two sedans boast something unfamiliar to owners of these long-running models: All-wheel drive.

In an announcement that took many by surprise, the automaker claims these new AWD sedans can thank the new-for-2019 RAV4 for their existence. A little engineering work later, and here we are. The 29-year drought of AWD Camrys has ended.

If you’re thinking that the AWD Camry and Avalon owe their development to a Lexus ES prototype you read about yesterday, think again. That sedan, tested by Japanese media, employed a hybrid car utilizing an E-axle setup, with the rear wheels operating independently of the vehicle’s drivetrain, a la the Prius AWD-e and the RAV4 Hybrid with E-Four.

These new beasts are gasoline-only models, though one can see that Toyota appears interested in offering a system for hybrid buyers. Stay tuned.

Not only are these new vehicles non-hybrids, but the AWD Camry and Avalon cannot be had with a V6 engine. The only powerplant here is the 2.5-liter inline-four, making 202 horsepower in the Camry LE, XLE, and SE (205 hp in the XSE) and 205 hp in the Avalon XLE and Limited. The company plans to offer this all-weather capability as a standalone option. The only external difference you’ll see is an “AWD” badge on the trunklid.

Unlike that hybrid prototype, both the AWD Camry and Avalon borrow the Dynamic Torque Control AWD system found in their RAV4 platform mate, which employs an electromagnetically-controlled coupling that engages and disengages the rear differential from the propshaft as needed. The system can send 50 percent of the vehicle’s torque rearward if the front wheels lose traction.

Adapting the system to the TNGA-based sedans took a little brainstorming.

From Toyota:

The [engineering] team combined the upper body structure of the Camry and Avalon with the engine, transmission, transfer case and rear differential from the RAV4. The RAV4’s version of the multi-link rear suspension was adapted with some modifications and tuning to suit the sedans. Both the Camry and Avalon AWD use a modified version of the propeller shaft from the all-new Highlander SUV.

Adapting the AWD drivetrain to the Camry and Avalon required floor structure modifications, plus the use of an electronic parking brake and a saddle-style fuel tank with an optimized capacity for AWD models rather than the flat-style tank in the FWD models.

Ride height is unchanged by the addition, Toyota claims, as is trunk floor height. Front suspension, wheels, and tires also carry over, as do standard and optional equipment.

Given that the rear axle will remain inert under most driving conditions, the automaker doesn’t anticipate much of a fuel economy penalty. There is a weight increase, however — 165 pounds for the Camry, while AWD Avalons will sport a heft similar to that of V6 models, the automaker said.

As for the Avalon’s Lexus ES sibling, there’s no word on an AWD version of that model, but today’s news almost guarantees we’ll see one. The all-wheel drive Avalon arrives later than the early-spring 2020 Camry variant; it’ll appear in the fall as a 2021 model. Pricing for the standalone AWD option remains TBD.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Nov 13, 2019

    I was not drinking coffee but I was drinking tea and yes, I dropped my cup of tea. I waited this moment my whole life and now I finally I can buy Camry with AWD and fulfill my childhood's dream.

  • 3800FAN 3800FAN on Nov 14, 2019

    Shoulda called it the All-trac. Bring back the wagon too. Camry all-tracs were the outback of the 80s after the amc eagle got axed.

  • Ehaase 1980-1982 Cougar XR-7 shared its wheelbase and body with the Thunderbird. I think the Cougar name was used for the 1977 and 1981 sedans, regular coupe and wagons (1977 and 1982 only) in an effort to replicate Oldsmobile's success using the Cutlass name on all its intermediates, although I wonder why Ford bothered, as the Granada/Cougar were replaced by the Fox LTD/Marquis in 1983.
  • Ken Accomando The Mark VIII was actually designed before the aero Bird, but FMC was nervous about the huge change in design, so it followed the Thunderbird a year. Remember, at this time, the 1983 Thunderbird was the first new aero Ford, with the Tempo soon following. It seems so obvious now but Ford was concerned if their buyers would accept the new aero look! To get the Lincoln buyers warmed up, they also debuted for the 1982 auto show season the Lincoln Concept 90…which really previewed the new Mark VII. Also, the new 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar debuted a little late, in Nov 1982, so perhaps that’s why they were left out of the full line brochures.
  • Tassos This is yesterday;s news, or even the day before. I reported it here yesterday, and commented on it. Do wake up.
  • 2ACL As far as manufacturers with US operations go? Current Focus or Fiesta. Honda e.As for those with no US operations, I've been intrigued by the Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered and Vauxhall Corsa Electric.
  • Tassos SNAAB shot itself in the foot when it BASTARDIZED its unique brand by BADGE ENGINEERING its vehicles with GOD DAMNED GM, OPEL, CHEVY, LANCIA and who knows what other automotive RIFF RAFF. I know of no Saab Enthusiast (they do exist) who felt sorry when the stupid maker went BANKRUPT.