2020 Toyota Avalon Unlimited Review - A Kick in the Gas

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Toyota Avalon Limited Fast Facts

3.5-liter V6 (301 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
22 city / 31 highway / 25 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
10.9 city, 7.6 highway, 9.4 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$42,100 (U.S) / $48,450 (Canada)
As Tested
$44,818 (U.S.) / $48,450 (Canada)
Prices include $930 destination charge in the United States and $1,870 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 toyota avalon unlimited review a kick in the gas

As I wrote in April, the Toyota Avalon has taken great strides in moving from being a snoozer to a touring sedan with a bit of spice up its sleeve.

That was in reference to the hybrid. Try the gas-engine Avalon for a truly transformed experience.

Much of the overall hybrid experience remains true in models carrying the gas-only powertrain – the Avalon is sportier and rides more stiffly, though it remains more of a highway cruiser than a true sports sedan – yet the trade-off of a bit more power for a bit less fuel economy livens the car up even more.

The 3.5-liter V6 adds over 100 lb-ft of torque over the hybrid, and while 267 lb-ft of torque isn’t a ton, it’s enough to make an appreciative difference. The hybrid has enough guts for merging successfully, so add 104 lb-ft, and the extra grunt won’t go unnoticed. All told, the power numbers are 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, and the engine mates with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon is front-wheel drive.

[Get new and used Toyota Avalon pricing here!]

Otherwise, it feels like the hybrid, just stiffened and tightened slightly for just a bit more of a sporty response. It’s not so stiffly sprung that it becomes a chore to pilot during commuting duty.

Others on staff have carped about misbehavior from the eight-speed transmission, but it was generally well-behaved during my time with the car.

Toyota has responded well to criticism of both the Avalon and the Camry as being “too soft.” The last Camry I drove was a well-balanced machine that gave up some fun-to-drive factor to its Honda and Mazda rivals, while this version of the Avalon also strikes a nice balance between comfort and enjoyable engagement.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the interior design, like many Toyota products these days, disappoints. While most touchpoints are class-appropriate, the infotainment switchgear feels cheap for a car priced in the mid-$40Ks, and the screen itself looks so outdated that if you have an iPhone, you’ll be racing to plug it in and launch Apple CarPlay ASAP. The center stack just looks tacky.

Comfort is no issue, at least, although the amount of passenger space felt a bit tight for such a large car. Cargo space is, predictably, not a concern.

Outside, the Avalon’s looks are far more aggressive than in years past, although not so much that the car won’t blend into traffic, even with its big, gaping maw of a grille.

Safety is taken care of, thanks to a standard suite of driver’s safety aids such as pre-collision with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Other standard features included 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and DRLs, dual chrome exhaust tips, navigation, Bluetooth, premium audio, USB, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, heated and cooled front seats, wireless cell phone charging, and a head-up display.

Options included a safety package with sonar, 360-degree birds-eye-view camera, and rear cross-traffic braking, carpeted floor mats, and illuminated door sills.

All told, the price tag was nearly $45K.

I still can’t figure out who the Avalon buyer is – not when the Camry is cheaper and doesn’t give up much in size, and when the Lexus ES is just a bit pricier and offers more luxury.

That said, those who do buy this vehicle will find a nice balance between comfort and sport, in a sleekly styled package that sheds the old-man stigma of before.

Toyota’s Avalon is finally a well-rounded large sedan. Just in time for crossovers to dominate the market.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 26 comments
  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jun 18, 2020

    Man I wish toyota could put this v6 in a car with a manual transmission less expensive than an Evora. I've not driven this car , but our Toyota big six so much creamier than my old VQ powered Infinities.

  • Wfl Wfl on Jun 21, 2020

    People in Rural Areas not close to a Lexus Dealer buy an Avalon. The last luxury ES was the 2006. The last ES without the mouse was 2012. I have owned 4 ES330's and now own a 2012 ES350 and would never buy any ES newer than a 2012. The Luxury factor has gone down since 2006.

  • FreedMike I think Tim has a not-so-secret hankerin' for some VAG iron. Having said that...this ain't cheap, but it's a VERY nice example, it hasn't been modded to death, and the owner has fixed all the expensive stuff that usually breaks on these. These also run forty-plus large new...assuming a) you can find one, and b) you can find one that hasn't been marked up all to hell. And for that money, you get to put up with the Mk8 Golf dash, which is a disaster. You could do a LOT worse.
  • ChristianWimmer For a car with so many miles the condition inside and out looks superb.
  • SCE to AUX I never listen to AM or satellite radio. FM is fine for me in the car.
  • Jeff S I am going to guess in the next couple of years AM will not be offered on new vehicles. My question would be in case of an emergency what will be used for emergency broadcasts? I am not an engineer or an audiophile so I don't know but I do know that is one of the main reasons for keeping the AM band on radios.
  • SCE to AUX I hope the people who voted for Mr Curry did so out of fear of change, rather than support for corruption. Mr Fain's close win is exactly a mandate.Anyway, good luck to Mr Fain. The UAW has no leverage in long-term job retention (except for its brass), but it can defend its members against corporate badness.However, I still think the internet makes most unions superfluous. Today's Oliver Twist can post his complaint online and lawyers and the media will rush to his door.