Just as some manufacturers are embracing crossover utility vehicles at the expense of sedans, others are doubling down on the segment, seeking to carve a firm niche for consumers. Count Toyota in the latter category, a company whose Camry sedan has long been the best-selling car in America.
One thing the Camry and the larger Avalon have lacked is available all-wheel drive. This feature, which is common for premium cars, is often omitted amongst mainstream rivals.
Sure, the Subaru Legacy with standard all-wheel drive is the exception as are certain versions of the Nissan Altima and the soon-to-be-retired Ford Fusion. But beginning this calendar year, both the Camry and Avalon will offer all-wheel drive and as a standalone option on most trims.
Ported from the Toyota RAV4
The new all-wheel-drive system for the sedans comes from the Toyota RAV4, the brand’s most popular selling vehicle. This compact crossover SUV shares a common architecture with the sedan, thus Toyota’s ability to utilize it.
For the sedans, all-wheel drive is available with the four-cylinder engine only; choose the V6 and it isn’t an option.
Toyota’s engineering team had its work cut out for it as neither sedan was originally designed to accommodate all-wheel drive. What they did was to combine the upper body structure of the Camry and Avalon with the engine, transmission, transfer case and the rear differential from the RAV4.
Further, the RAV4’s variant of the company’s multi-link rear suspension was adapted along with some modifications and tuning to benefit the sedans. Notably, the Camry and Avalon all-wheel-drive system utilizes a customized version of the propeller shaft from the new and current-generation Highlander SUV.
But the changes don’t stop there. Indeed, the engineers made floor structure modifications, added an electronic parking brake, and swapped out the standard flat-style fuel tank with a saddle-style tank with an optimized capacity. Consequently, the sedans possess the same rear-seat hip point height as the Camry and Avalon hybrid models. Notably, despite the presence of a rear differential, the trunk floor height is precisely the same as in the front-wheel-drive versions.
Weight Changes and Performance
The all-wheel-drive option adds 165 pounds over the Camry front-wheel-drive model, while the Avalon’s all-wheel-drive weight is similar to that of its front-wheel-drive V6 counterparts.
Toyota developed all-wheel drive for the sedans, but exclusively for the North American market. The cars are assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. Powering each model is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an output of 202 horsepower (205 hp in models equipped with dual exhaust). Power routes to the wheels utilizing an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Toyota dubs the system “Dynamic Torque Control AWD,” which the company describes as providing “effective traction for inclement and slippery weather while minimizing AWD’s typical drag on fuel economy.” It’s an ungainly name to remember, so Toyota simplifies things by adding an “AWD” badge on each sedan’s trunk lid.
Power to the Rear Wheels
The sedans’ all-wheel-drive system is engineered to route up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, in response to step-off acceleration or slippage at the front wheels. Importantly, electromagnetic controlled coupling on the front side of the rear-drive axle can disengage the propeller shaft from the differential to emphasize fuel economy. Further, the system is engineered to re-engage the very moment it is needed. Toyota says the all-wheel-drive operation is transparent to the driver and passengers. Thus, you won’t even sense it kicking in.
The Camry AWD arrives this spring as a 2020 model year vehicle. The fuel economy numbers are 25 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined for the LE and SE trims. For the Camry XLE and XSE, these numbers are 25/34/28. As for the Avalon AWD, it’ll arrive this fall as a 2021 model year vehicle. The fuel economy numbers will accompany its release.
Toyota’s move into the all-wheel-drive arena with its two largest sedans demonstrates the company’s commitment to the segment. Importantly, it gives customers one more reason to stay with a sedan, especially if they’re drawn to all-wheel-drive utility vehicles, such as the RAV4 and Highlander.
Another point to consider is that since Toyota’s common platform can accommodate all-wheel drive, perhaps we’ll see this feature extended to other models, including the Toyota C-HR and Corolla hatchback. The latter, in particular, might prove especially interesting should Toyota develop a performance version to take on the Golf R.
Photo copyright Toyota Motors.