Toyota Racing Development has been around since 1979 and is best known for offering performance parts and off-road packages for its production vehicles. The most recent Toyota’s to get the TRD treatment are the 2020 Tacoma and 4Runner, however, Toyota has now been expanding its TRD offerings to cars, as well. There is a TRD version of the little GT86, a Camry and most surprisingly the Avalon, Toyota’s’ somewhat sleepy large sedan.

So what does Toyota do exactly?…..well the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD gets stiffer coil springs and larger front and rear sway bars, upgraded shocks, and it’s lowered by 0.6 inch. Toyota also adds some rigidity with new under-body braces, the downside meaning the rear seat backs are fixed in place, making a trip to Home Depot for a long piece of wood slightly trickier. The good news is this increases both front and rear stiffness by a considerable amount.

The Avalon surprises with tidy handling and a raspy exhaust

To make it corner better the TRD Avalon comes with Active Cornering Assist, a brake-based torque-vectoring system that slows the inside wheel in a corner to help the car rotate and turn-in more and it works when we showed it some twisty mountain roads.

To keep it stuck to the road Toyota fits 19-inch alloys, with 12.9-inch front rotors stopped by two-piston calipers instead of the single piston units on the standard car. I wish my tester had summer tires, however, it came with Michelin Primacy all-seasons, a good grippy tire but not a Pilot Sport.

Sadly nothing has changed under the hood, not that the 3.5-liter V6, making 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque is a bad engine, I just wish they hadn’t held back in this department. The eight-speed automatic transmission is good holding all the way to the red line in Sport mode ( I ignored Eco and Normal) while listening to the raspy TRD-specific cat-back exhausts, which adds to the fun.

During my week I averaged 23.7 mpg which is remarkable considering I was always in Sport mode and not driving slowly.

Is it good on the twisty bits?

Indeed it is, the TRD treatment has elevated the standard Avalon into something of a canyon carver. Tearing around San Diego’s back country is always fun but even more so in the current climate when no one is really driving anywhere. This is the best form of isolation!

The V6 picks up speed well, off the line the front tires will chirp if you stomp on it, but once on the move it’s a very enjoyable drive. Power delivery is so linear and easy, and once you hit that first corner you notice it stays fairly flat but body roll does become noticeable.

It’s quick to turn-in, under-steer is there but it’s pretty tame, and the chassis always feels composed no matter the road conditions. It’s pretty hard to get yourself in trouble, and easy to maintain a cruising speed.

Steering in Sport is quite heavy but decently precise and it does ride quite firmly due to the suspension upgrades but not enough to cause concern. Brakes provide plenty of stopping power, I never felt like they were going to fade despite being driven hard for a week.

It could use more power and we know Toyota has a turbo six available…hint hint

Will it wade through rivers?

In a word, yes, and because we’ve had a lot of rain here in San Diego one of our favorite roads was flooded and the signs said Road Closed, so naturally we ignored that and drove through, several times in fact. No harm was done to any water borne creatures and the TRD loved it, as well as receiving a much needed wash.

Inside

The red pin striping, red stitching and red seat belts are hard to miss when you open up the door for the first time, but the seats and comfortable and provide plenty of comfort and support. The pedals are aluminum, the gas pedal is floor mounted and it’s stuffed full of that safety and communication tech that everyone wants these days. It’s huge inside too, with tons of room for rear seat passengers, the only complaint is poor quality of the cabin materials with some hard scratchy plastic where it shouldn’t be.

The standard 9.0-inch infotainment screen is easy to reach from the driver’s seat, and there are a host of back up analog controls, but I can’t help thinking the overall design looks like it was tacked on over the existing vent treatment. The Avalon TRD has the usual standard Toyota Safety Sense-P bundle of driver aids including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. My tester had the optional Premium JBL Audio system ($1,760) taking the total price to $46,287 in destination.

Does it’s looks do it justice

It looks quite badass actually, quite a few people stared at me when I drove by, it has a certain presence the standard Avalon just doesn’t have. There’s a black spoiler at the back, some piano black exterior trim, those cool 19 inch rims and of course, the massive huge gaping grill. I like it.

Bottom Line

Toyota has slightly missed the mark here in not offering more power to go along with the rest of the TRD package. It’s a good car, it drives very well, looks aggressive, it just needs an extra dash of cayenne.

2020 Toyota Avalon TRD Numbers

BASE PRICE: $42,375
AS TESTED PRICE: $46,287
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
ENGINE: DOHC 24-valve V-6
POWER: 301 hp @ 6600 rpm
TORQUE: 267 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
0-60 MPH: 6.0 sec
TOP SPEED: 131 mph
CURB WEIGHT: 3,704 lbs
CARGO VOLUME: 16.09 ft³
EPA COMB/ CITY/HWY: 25/22/31
OUR OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 23.7 MPG
PROS: Capable handling, fun to drive, engaging exhaust note, red seat belts
CONS: Needs more power, interior could use better quality materials