Think of it as the Toyoda trickle-down effect.
The Avalon TRD is a sporty take on the full-size sedan. TRD is short for Toyota Racing Development and more often seen on trucks like the Tacoma and 4Runner along with high-performance parts offered for the Supra and 86 coupes, although you can also get a Camry TRD these days.
The Avalon is a behemoth that competes in the slowly shrinking full-size sedan class and often finds its way into service as a livery vehicle. The TRD likely won’t be used for that duty, but it would be cool if it was. The model features the same 301 hp 3.5-liter V6 as the rest of the lineup but is equipped with a lowered and stiffened suspension courtesy of unique springs and dampers, larger brakes, an aggressive grille and a body kit with piano-black accents and a very throaty exhaust.
Inside, the TRD gets a set of deeply bolstered bucket seats with suede-like inserts, red seatbelts, a chunky leather steering wheel with paddle shifters and plenty of racy red stitching scattered around a well-appointed cabin that has just enough hard plastic to remind you it’s not a Lexus.
At a starting price of $43,870, the front-wheel-drive TRD comes loaded with automatic emergency brakes, lane-keeping assist, radar cruise control, a wireless charging pad and an Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Amazon Alexa-compatible infotainment system.
The changes don’t turn the Avalon into a car you’d take to the track but one that constantly makes you think that you could. The combination of a heavy steering feel, firm ride and a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission gives the impression that the car means business and there’s more than enough power to provide some fun in short bursts.
On the other hand, the Avalon is longer than a Land Cruiser, which is great for passenger space, but less so for parallel parking. It’s not in love with rough city streets, either, which is too bad because it looks pretty snazzy slinking around downtown.
The open road is where it belongs, however, and while I can’t say how many will actually get there, its 31 mpg highway fuel economy rating isn’t bad for something with its size and power and fully in step with the economical side of Toyota’s ethos.
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD
Base price: $43,870
As tested: $45,835
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door front-wheel-drive sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Power: 301 hp, 267 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 22 city/31 hwy