It’s the sort of news you can appreciate finding in your e-mailbox on a blustery day, with nine inches of fresh snow on the ground: Toyota plans to introduce all-wheel-drive versions of both the midsize Camry and full-size Avalon sedans.
It will mark the first time Avalon has ever been offered with an AWD package. Camry hasn’t had that option since it pulled the AllTrac system from production in 1991. Unfortunately, if you’re about to go shopping and would like to get that added bit of grip now, you’ll have to wait, both models not set to roll into showrooms until next year.
If you have to weather out the season, however, the new feature just might be worth the wait, Toyota noting that the all-wheel-drive system on the two sedans will be borrowed from the Japanese brand’s wildly popular RAV4 SUV.
“The Dynamic Torque Control AWD system provides effective traction for inclement and slippery weather while minimizing AWD’s typical drag on fuel economy,” the automaker noted in a news release.
The front-wheel-biased system can shunt as much as 50% of engine torque to the rear wheels when needed, whether it senses wheel slippage up front or to help maintain traction during an aggressive launch.
The system uses an electromagnetic coupling system ahead of the front axle that can disengage the rear differential when all the torque goes up front. That’s the key to maximizing mileage. The system reengages all but instantaneously if it senses the need to send torque rearward.
Toyota admits the decision to add all-wheel-drive to the Camry and sedan models was something of an afterthought requiring its Michigan-based R&D team to find a fix. It helped that both sedans are based on the recently launched Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA, a flexible platform that will underpin most of its models going forward.
Nonetheless, there were some updates needed, including modifications to the floor structure of the two models, a switch to an electronic parking brake and even a new, saddle-style fuel tank, rather than the flat tank used in front-drive versions of Camry and Avalon. In the end, it added about 165 pounds of weight on the Camry. The automaker doesn’t say precisely how much more the Avalon AWD adds.
With both of the sedans, the AWD package is offered only when paired with a 2.5-liter inline-four making 202 horsepower on most Camry grades. That jumps to 205 hp with the Camry XSE AWD and both Avalon AWD grades.
While Toyota suggests the 202-hp package will deliver “exemplary fuel efficiency,” it isn’t yet releasing mileage numbers. Pricing also isn’t likely to be announced until closer to the on-sale dates:
· The Camry AWD will be marketed as a 2020 model and arrive in dealerships in early spring – perhaps when some parts of the country still can expect some snow;
· The Avalon AWD will be marketed as a 2021 model and will go on sale next fall.
All of the models will feature the Toyota Safety Sense-P suite as standard equipment, including pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and automatic high beams. Optional gear includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, among other advanced driver assistance systems.