By on November 13, 2019

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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40 Comments on “Don’t Drop Your Coffee: Toyota Unveils All-Wheel Drive Camry, Avalon...”

  • avatar

    Shame they didn’t make this with the V6 instead.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter, but Toyota offered the all-wheel-drive Camry All-Trac from 1988-1991.

  • avatar

    Toyota to offer AWD Camry and Avalon.


    4 cyl only.

    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

  • avatar

    “the AWD Camry and Avalon cannot be had with a V6 engine.”


  • avatar

    Re: V6/no V6, you still get a 200hp engine. What an amazing time we live in.

    Of course, 200hp, 300hp, or 2,000hp, half the people driving these will still merge on freeways at 10-20mph under the speed of the surrounding traffic.

    Not sure if the artistic stills in this piece are company propaganda especially for the AWD model or if they’re just standard propaganda. The picture of the thin layer of slush on a plowed street in a perfectly flat city is a very dramatic to the traction prowess! This reminds me of the commercial a few years ago with some nitwit soccer mom babbling about needing AWD in the rain… But silly advertising aside, I’m sure that people who have steep driveways or who live at the top or bottom of a hill in snow country won’t mind the extra traction.

    I’m curious if these cars can tow. There’s no good reason a family sedan can’t pull a 20′ boat a few miles through suburbia to the local boat launch… you don’t *need* a Canyonero for that. And when pulling your boat out of the water on a mossy, wet boat ramp, having AWD makes the difference between having to work at it or making it a breeze and not having to get your hands dirty.

    • 0 avatar

      A whole lotta people used to tow their camping trailers with their family sedans and wagons making less HP than that.

      But that was back before we knew it was impossible to tow without a Canyonero.

      • 0 avatar

        “A whole lotta people used to tow their camping trailers with their family sedans and wagons making less HP than that.”

        Back when cars had full length ladder frames, solid rear axles and could be ordered with decent sized engines, towing with your car wasn’t a big deal. Today with FWD, unibody cars, that can’t even take a 5MPH hit without incurring costly damage – it’s a different deal.

        You’d be insane to try and tow with a front wheel biased AWD system, these systems are engineered to move just the amount of weight of the car and max interior occupancy. Even then the majority of these systems no longer help once a single wheel loses all traction.

        I’m all for bringing back decent, frugal, well engineered cars, but Americans are overcharged for simple niceties such as those.

        Not to mention 4.10 rear ends, granny gears, and better suspension lay out.

        • 0 avatar

          My departed ’94 Roadmaster was rated to tow 5000 lb with the tow package.. BoF and V8, as you said, were once a lot more common.

          The Cadillac version of the Roadmaster/Caprice, with its longer frame, was rated even higher. – 7000lbs! – again provided you had the tow package.

          I don’t remember the tow rating for a Grand Marquis – 1500lbs comes to mind but I could be wrong.

          edit: quick search shows 2000 lbs. I don’t know if Ford offered a tow package for the last era of the Vic or Maquis.

          • 0 avatar

            Panthers with tow packages were rated for 5,000 pounds. However, as you noted, the later ones were only “rated” for 1,500-2,000 pounds, a move done on purpose by Ford to drive even more people to their high profit trucks, instead of this capable platform. Comfortable, low rev V-8 with 275-300Lb Ft of torque all day long.

        • 0 avatar

          You need two wheels (one on each axle) to totally lose traction for your typical part-time FWD-derived system to be useless. They can force some torque to the rear axle when the front loses traction, but the diffs at each axle are open.

          • 0 avatar

            Depends on the system, Honda in particular was well known for offering AWD systems with essentially open center differentials(or the Front drive equivalent) causing the vehicle to lose all forward momentum when a single wheel lost traction.

            The best systems as you say would lock or at least limit slippage at the differential, even better ones would limit slip on both axles.

      • 0 avatar

        Considering they use the same chassis (roughly) and powertrain, weigh about the same, and have the same payload, I’d just like to know what special sauce Toyota uses on the RAV4 so it can tow 1500lbs, while apparently the Camry is too fragile to tow anything.

        • 0 avatar

          “I’d just like to know what special sauce Toyota uses on the RAV4 so it can tow 1500lbs, while apparently the Camry is too fragile to tow anything.”

          Yep. Maybe “20 foot boat” is a bit ambitious, weight-wise. But I did say “through suburbia,” which implies flatland and very little additional heat load on the transmission.

    • 0 avatar

      My family towed a 12-15 foot camping trailer with a 1950 Chevy Fleetline. I was too young to pay much more attention, but we went all over in that combo.

  • avatar

    That just means Honda is next.

    First Japanese mainstream car in the modern era was Nissan. Then came Mazda. Now Toyota.

    I don’t see this as a problem. Economies of scale and all that.

  • avatar

    its about time toyota

  • avatar

    Wait a minute. Since when does Toyota offer the four in a non-hybrid Avalon? I thought the two powertrain options were V6 and four-cylinder hybrid.

    • 0 avatar

      You could also buy a four cyl Lacrosse right up until the end.

      I thought that was a stupid powerplant to put in a full size car.

      • 0 avatar

        And the 4 cylinder Impala for awhile. I’d be curious how well that does in everyday life. The 4 cylinder crossovers aren’t terrible, but I wonder if they’re lighter.

        • 0 avatar

          The 2.5 hybrid powertrain works pretty nicely in the Avalon and ES. It’s not notably quick, but it doesn’t feel awfully slow either, and it’s quiet unless you’re really leadfooted. But I don’t think I’d want the standard Camry powertrain in an Avalon.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve had 2.5 NA Impala rentals several times, they actually do just fine. Not much different at all than the same engine was in the previous (porkier) Malibu. It’s very well insulated in the Epsilon Impala so even when you have to cane it, it feels smooth and pretty refined.

          Where it’s NOT refined or pleasant at all is the (mercifully discontinued) 2.5l NA in the base GMC Acadias. Just horrible.

  • avatar

    I’ll take the contrary position. Yes, Toyota needed to do this because it’s what people are demanding but so few people need AWD. Do you live in a rural area in a part of the planet that gets bad winters and you have a job that you NEED to get there on time regardless of conditions? Then maybe AWD but maybe an SUV would work better. But that’s probably only a small percentage of people. I don’t know why we’ve become convinced that AWD is a necessity.

    Also, I’m betting that a majority of people who buy these who live in places with winter conditions will tell themselves that AWD is better than winter tires.

    • 0 avatar

      Realistically this is no different than the AWD crossovers, typically the difference in ground clearance of a crossover to a car is so minuscule that they both are on equal footing. I would bet all of the added ground clearance comes from slightly taller tires on the crossovers.

      But manufacturers have tried relentlessly to distort the lines between crossover to minivan and crossover to SUV.

    • 0 avatar

      AWD is an unnecessary extravagance, its sole purpose being to bless the driver with a false sense of security. Tires, tires, tires. It’s all about the tires.

      • 0 avatar

        The reason I’d like to see the V6 as an AWD is that many reviewers of the V6 Camry have accused Toyota of neutering the car with the electronic nannies that kick in when you stop the accelerator. If Toyota could build an AWD V6 XSE or TRD where the nannies didn’t kick in and spoil the fun as soon as it started that would be something.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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