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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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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.

  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!