2020 Toyota Avalon Review

2020 Toyota Avalon - Avalon embraces four-door sedan market.


Serving as the flagship ambassador for Asia's largest automaker, Avalon delivers up a comforting ride wrapped up in quiet quarters; and it's been doing so for the last quarter century. For all those former and current mid-size Toyota Camry owners seeking a bit more room (and many exist), Avalon boasts three additional inches of overall length and a bevy of creature comforts.  Consider Avalon an aspirational mile marker.

The 2020 four-door, front-drive Avalon marks the second year of its fifth-generation effort born in the 2019 model year.  Measuring in slightly longer than Toyota's mid-size Camry, Avalon falls between a large-end midsize or diminutive full-size. This Gen five effort shares many underpinnings (and powertrain) found within the Lexus ES (Lexus being the upmarket division of Toyota) but with a temptingly lower price point.

Generation Five represents Avalon's first foray into high-strength, tighter welds 'Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA),' underpinnings.  This same architecture help launch the totally redesigned, eighth-generation, 2018 Camry.  Already boasting a whisper-quiet interior, TNGA enhances Avalon with seemingly lower decibel levels. Avalon, Camry and the Lexus ES assemble at the company's Georgetown, Kentucky production complex.

Generation Five serves up three additional inches of wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) compared with the outgoing platform while keeping overall length relatively unchanged. Updates from 2019 remain virtually unchanged with the exception of an additional race-inspired trim level.

Total Avalon sales in the 2018 calendar year (which included a smattering of fifth generation efforts) totaled, 33,580, a respectable 3.1 percent increase from 2017 calendar year output.

Future Avalon growth potential remains robust as domestic automakers seem intent upon dropping sedan production all together in the American market in favor of the seemingly limitless crossover craze.  Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Caprice and Buick Lacrosse customers may find themselves gravitating towards Avalon's spacious pull as their once proud rides fade into a forced retirement. As of this writing, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) continues producing the large-framed Chrysler 300 sedan (the division's only four-door choice), but its long-term viability remains highly in doubt.

The sole gas engine returning from 2019 is a 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated (non turbo charged) V-6 cranking out 301 horses, representing an upgrade from Generation Four's 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 generating 268 horses.  Highway fuel estimates break the 30 mile a gallon threshold (31 to be exact). City estimates improve 22 mpg, one better than the previous Gen Four engine.  The 3.5-liter V6 (utilizing regular, 87-octane fuel) connects up with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission with three selectable drive mode buttons (Eco, Sport, Normal) at the mechanical inline shifter's base. Touring trims add an additional Sport Plus mode. Expect a luxury glide, rather than a sporty, gritty experience with Avalon.

Since the 2013 model year, Avalon has offered a gas-electric hybrid offshoot (self-charging, requiring no nightly plug-in). It's one of the only large sedans available with this fuel-extending technology with a minimum price premium (about $1,000 more) when compared to its non-hybrid counterpart.

Trim levels include XLE, XSE, Touring, Limited and new-for-2020 TRD. This marks the first time TRD (Toyota Racing Development) badging and subsequent underpinnings adorn a Toyota sedan body structures.  Both Camry and Avalon promote TRD in-house tuning in 2020. Toyota's pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles have tinkered with TRD upgrades for the past 40 years.

The TRD stamp adds track-tuned chassis to Avalon's XSE trim. Thicker underbody braces increase torsion rigidity and specialized coil springs reduces Avalon TRD's height by 0.6 inches resulting in a reduced center of gravity. Unique shock absorbers complement body control, agility and steering precession while larger front rotors enhance direct feedback. Matte-black alloy wheels remain the most prominent visual cue not including the TRD-specific Supersonic red exterior color option.

The new TRD variant never made the trip to my driveway, but a silver metallic Limited tester did with a $42,100 starting price. The sole option package was a recommended $1,150 radar-driven advanced safety package with cross traffic alert (useful when backing out of a crowded mall parking lot if Christmas shopping) and bird's-eye view camera feed inside the center multi-function screen.  Illuminated inside door sills ($379) and carpet mat ($259) stand-alone extras brought the bottom line to a relatively reasonable $44,818. A base trim XLE starts at $35,800.

The Touring trim exclusively adds genuine interior wood trim, heated leather steering wheel, heated outside mirrors and premium leather trimmed heated and ventilated front seats.

The available advanced safety package works in tandem with Toyota's standard 'safety sense' which includes radar-enhanced full-speed cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams and ten air bags.  The advanced safety package is the sole option package available exclusively in up level Touring and Limited trims.

Inside, the modern dashboard layout welcomes, never overwhelming drivers.   Dials and push buttons remain in logical locations as technology works in tandem with, not against their human cohabitants.  Electronic push-button start comes standard located on the dash just right of the steering column.

The sizeable nine-inch touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay interactivity standard.  Android Auto users must practice patience for the time being as this Smartphone interface is not yet available. Four USB ports are available. The flat screen exchanges an in-dash design for one extending out and above from the stepped dashboard ensconced inside brushed aluminum framing connecting together and reaching the rear-hinged flip-top storage bin between front buckets.

Ten in-row, well-marked push buttons below command a majority of HVAC functions flanked by vertical type rectangular push plates assisting dual temperature functions. Interior horizontal columns of quick-select buttons frame the sides of the color screen. Best of all, two large twist nobs allow old-school ease of operation for station tuning and volume control. Advanced students may opt for secondary steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Toyota's user-friendly audio interactions remain the go-to design when compared to its often-times laborious 'Remote Touch Interface' standard operating procedure in most upmarket Lexus vehicles.

The Lexus design utilizes a flat, square touch sensitive, finger-operated surface between front buckets that moves a curser within the dashboard monitor; patience and practice time required.

Avalon continues with backseat row legroom mimicking many a limousine. Coupled with ample head space, Avalon makes a good case for handling three adults as well as any class competitor (although the number of rivals keeps dwindling).

The outside front end features an extra-prominent lower air dam and narrow headlight housing. Red-tinted tail light housing wraps around and adjoins rear fenders. Activate turn signals (and hazard lights) at both ends employ an artful 'in-motion' lighting sequence with Limited and Touring trims.

Narrow A and C pillars combine with a side profile with several dueling character lines.  The top crease starts at the front fender, crossing through front door strap handles before curving slightly downward below rear door straps. A lower door line employs a straight-across structure.

Dual, chrome inboard framed rear exhausts add a styling flare with Touring trims adding a sport sound tuned exhaust.  Inside, a spacious 16.1 cubic feet of cargo/trunk room awaits along with an always welcome temporary spare tire.  

2020 Toyota Avalon
Price as tested:
Engine: 3.5 liter V-6
Horsepower: 301
Wheelbase: 113 inches
Overall Length: 195.9 inches
Overall Width: 72.8 inches
Overall Height: 56.5 inches
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway.
Curb weight: 3,660 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000-miles
Assembly: Georgetown Kentucky

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.