Review: 2021 Toyota Avalon Gets AWD

Toyota’s largest car has received some upgrades this year, all of which are great to see. The Avalon is Toyota’s full-sized sedan, sitting above the Camry as the top-end of Toyota’s lineup of cars. The current generation was introduced in 2019, keeping all of the things that made the Avalon a favorite. For the 2021 model year, though, the Toyota Avalon is getting some much-needed updates.

Those updates include all-wheel drive, something most sedans now require in order to stay competitive with the crossovers that have slowly been replacing them. Also added this year is standard Android Auto (still no Apple CarPlay), more USB ports, and high-performance tires for the TRD and Nightshade Edition models. Of these updates, the AWD addition is the greatest boon.

The 2021 Toyota Avalon’s AWD addition comes at a significant cost, however, and this price might make some balk. The cost isn’t in money paid, though, it’s in power lost. The Avalon AWD is only available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes 205 horsepower. About 100 HP less than the V6 model that’s vastly more popular with this sedan.

That’s a real bummer and it definitely will mean lost sales for Toyota here. What’s worse, the AWD drivetrain also cannot be had with the hybrid model. Another downer as Toyota has made great strides in utilizing electric powertrains to add AWD to front-wheel drive hybrids.

There are five trim levels for the 2021 Toyota Avalon, not including the Hybrid model. These trims are the XLE, Touring, XSE Nightshade, Limited and TRD. The V6 engine (301 horses) is standard in all of those trims, but the XLE and Touring trims are both available with AWD and the less powerful 2.5L that comes with it. Yes, that means that to get the Avalon with all-wheel drive, you must go with the lower trim levels of the car as well as lose that 100-ish horsepower.

The Avalon is otherwise a great sedan. It comes with a full suite of safety technologies and equipment, a lot of goodies like LED headlamps and simulated leather upholstery as standard equipment. Engine stop-start, adaptive cruise control, a 9-inch touchscreen (albeit with an outdated interface), and four USB ports are also standard. So are dual-zone climate, heated front seating, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

These types of inclusions and the Avalon’s nice everyday feel are high points that have kept the car popular for years. Sadly, Toyota’s implementation of a much-needed AWD option was not very well thought out. It drives well and is a good option, but the weak engine and limited availability for the option are serious downers.

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at