To listen to some manufacturers, the sedan is dead and needs to be buried. Just don’t tell that to Toyota.
While the segment may have shrunk substantially, the Japanese automaker is happy to pick up the slack as automakers like Ford pull out of the sedan market, Toyota announcing an array of new variants for its three key models, the Corolla, Camry and Avalon.
“We will increase our commitment to sedans, even as some of our competitors walk away from them,” said Cynthia Tenhouse, the automaker’s U.S. vice president of sales. There were still about 4.5 million sedans sold in the U.S. last year, Tenhouse pointed out during a media webinar. “We are committed to making a sedan for every type of customer.”
The automaker did abandon its smallest passenger car model earlier this year, though Tenhouse said the demise of the Yaris was a homologation issue, rather than a lack of commitment to the small sedan market. Toyota is now looking at the possibility of coming up with a lower-priced entry version of the Corolla to fill that gap.
For now, though, the carmaker is focusing its efforts on its three remaining sedan models. Here’s a look at what it’s got coming.
2021 Corolla Apex Edition
The Japanese giant has been pushing back on its traditional, plain vanilla image, adopting more aggressive styling and adding more performance to its products – even shifting the focus of it hybrid models to emphasize the added power electrified technology can deliver.
Performance fans know you “clip the apex” on a corner to achieve the fastest lap times, and the Apex take on the twelfth-generation Corolla pushes further in this direction. Among other things, the sedan is lowered, gets new 18-inch gloss black alloy wheels, a sport-tuned exhaust, a more sporty spoiler, revised shocks and stabilizer bars and more.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter inline-four making 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. Buyers will get the option of either a six-speed manual or CVT, and the package still makes as much as 34 mpg Combined.
Available on both 2021 SE and XSE grades, the Corolla Apex will go into production this month. Toyota expects to produce about 6,000 during the coming model-year.
The traditional foundation of the Toyota family has taken its hits as American motorists shift from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs, but there’s still enough demand for Toyota to pump up the Camry line for the 2021 model year.
Across the board, the sedan gets an updated front end, and there’s more distinction between “comfort-oriented” grades like the LE and XLE from sportier SE and XSE versions. All told, there will be a whopping 17 different variants of the Camry in 2021, including three V-6 models and four hybrids.
That includes the first-ever Camry XSE Hybrid, one of the new models aiming to balance fuel economy with the performance electric motors can deliver. Hybrids already account for 22% of Toyota sedan sales this year “and we think the XSE will grow our hybrid sales even more,” said Tenhouse.
The 2021 Camry also will be the first model from Toyota to introduce the new Safety Sense 2.5+ advanced driver assistance package. The updated system gets new, more far-reaching radar and camera sensors that can see further ahead, as well as deeper into corners. Among other things, it will be able to better detect – and avoid collisions with – bicyclists and pedestrians, even in weakening light.
“At intersections,” the automaker added, “the system may detect an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn and may provide audio/visual alerts and automatic braking in certain conditions.“
Other tweaks to the 2021 Toyota Camry include a revised dash and new “floating” 7- and 9-inch touchscreen displays.
2021 Toyota Avalon
The biggest sedan in the Toyota line-up also gets the longest list of updates for 2021. That starts with the addition of the first-ever all-wheel-drive for the Avalon. The system will be offered on both the XLE and Limited trims and is paired with a 205-horsepower 2.5-liter Dynamic Force inline-four.
The AWD system retains the primary front-wheel bias of the Avalon but can, when needed to enhance traction shift up to 50% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels. Meanwhile, an electromagnetic coupling system disengages the drive shaft under normal conditions to reduce energy-robbing drag. That helps the 2021 Toyota Avalon AWD models deliver 25 mpg City, 34 Highway and 28 Combined.
The 2021 model-year also sees Toyota add the new Avalon Nightshade Edition. Like the Nightshade packages on other Toyota models, it adds a distinctive black hue to such parts as the grille, mirror cap, rear spoiler and badges. There are black-painted 19-inh alloy wheels and even the shark fin radio antenna is blacked out.
Other updates for the Avalon line include a switch from a nickel-metal hydride to a lithium-ion battery pack for hybrid models. The higher energy intensity can serve a variety of purposes, including reducing the size of the pack while yet delivering more energy for such things as operating – briefly – in EV mode. The Avalon Hybrid can get as much as 43 mpg City, 44 Highway and 44 Combined.
The Avalon now adds Android Auto capability, as well as the Apple CarPlay function added several years ago.