2021 Toyota Avalon TRD review: Weird in theory, awesome in practice

Mamma mia, what a great thank you you have.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Toyota’s normcore veneer splits every so often, letting weird things out of the woodwork, like a skunk Prius rally car or a Yaris with too much power. One such car that is bound to elicit a double grip from most anyone is the Avalon TRD 2021. I have no idea who this car is, but I’m very glad it exists.

I do not like

  • Expensive
  • It could use an extra skosh of power and maybe all-wheel drive

Aesthetics for the young at heart

“Hello”. This is what I said when I first saw the Toyota Avalon TRD. That’s … a lot to process. All Avalons carry that massive grille up front, but on the TRD it seems to make more sense, with the weird levels of aggression oozing from every other corner of the car. Pointed lips and protrusions surround the underside of the body, while 19-inch alloy wheels suitably fill the wells. Most badges and trims on the Avalon are blacked out, which makes the TRD’s cat-back exhaust stand out even more. The entire sedan also sits 0.6 inches lower than the ground.

Sure, the car looks like a casual aftermarket tuning shop, but the Avalon TRD is fun in a way that Toyota’s larger vehicles so rarely are. Like the aforementioned rally Prius, I love it when cars are pulled out of their stereotypical elements and made to fit in some weird new world. What fun is life if you can’t get a little weird?

Inside, things are a little lighter for the senses. The interior of the Avalon TRD is quite close to the standard model, with some notable exceptions such as red contrast stitching, TRD logos in several places and some very loud floor mats. Oh, and the seat belts are bright red too, just like in Mercedes-Benz sports vehicles, if you want to try and spin it positively.

For all the boy-driver frills, the Avalon remains a great family sedan at heart, so its usability stays in that direction. There is a metric utility truck here. The center armrest and door compartments are huge, the flat tray in front of the cup holders is great for phones or masks, and the rear seats have plenty of room for even taller adult passengers. The Avalon’s 16-cubic-foot trunk is large enough for golf clubs, groceries and suitcases galore, beating the cargo capacity of the Nissan Maxima, although it lags a little behind the Dodge Charger.

Driving dynamics especially for the young at heart

The Avalon TRD does a good job of approaching a sports sedan without becoming a whole pig. Its 3.5-liter V6 delivers the same 301 horsepower and 267 foot-pounds of torque as any other variant, and that power is routed through the same old eight-speed automatic gearbox directed only to the front axle. There is more than enough forward movement for the switchbacks and freeway access ramps, and while the TRD specific exhaust sounds good across the rev range, I wish for around 50hp more, which would barely be enough to feel properly lively.

Under the sheet metal, Toyota added stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, wider wheels, larger brakes and optimized static dampers. In normal driving, the TRD feels just a little stiffer than usual, bringing a few more road undulations into the cabin, but it’s still 100% Avalon here, with a priority over a quiet cabin and a sufficiently smooth ride. This sedan is fun to spin and stays pretty flat, but most of these changes don’t fundamentally alter the experience. Michelin all-season tires have the same limitations as any other Avalon, while the lack of AWD and a limited-slip differential means those front pigs will scream and struggle to get the whole thing going. Adding either of these two elements would be a welcome injection of character, and borrowing the Avalon Touring’s adaptive dampers could give it a better-of-both-worlds vibe.

The Avalon TRD is the least efficient Avalon on offer, but not by much. The EPA rates it at 21mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway, numbers I find quite achievable, and it’s just a hair less efficient than the base and XLE variants.

Put some summer tires on this bad boy and you could have a blast.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Technology for everyone

I’m a huge fan of automakers who aren’t ashamed of inferior finishes with shrunken screens and obscene bezels, which is part of why I appreciate the Avalon. All trim levels, TRD or not, come standard with a 9-inch touchscreen that includes both Apple CarPlay is Android Auto, plus satellite radio and four USB charging ports (one USB-A and one USB-C per row). Navigation is optional, part of a $ 1,720 package that includes more vibrant JBL speakers. The whole system works quite well; the graphics are dated and a bit large format for my taste, but they have everything most buyers will want, and they work well enough to keep youngsters from getting mad.

On the safety front, every Avalon is also equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense P package, a suite of active and passive driving aids. Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Automatic High Beam and Full Speed ‚Äč‚ÄčAdaptive Cruise Control are all present and accounted for. Everything works perfectly like on any other Toyota. The only thing I wish the Avalon TRD had is parking sensors, as he’s a big guy and no one wants to screw up that big old grille. That said, they are available on other finishes.

Toyota’s UI is a little dated these days, but it’s still functional.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

Down to brass pins

While a few key updates to the Avalon TRD would really wake it up, in my opinion, I’m not so sure the price would handle it. As it stands, the 2021 Toyota Avalon TRD starts at $ 43,870, including $ 995 for destination and handling. This puts it above every other Avalon trim, save for the tippy-tippy-top limited hybrid. Considering you can get a Dodge Charger with a 485hp V8 (and superior infotainment system) for nearly the same scratch, you have to really they want the Avalon TRD to give a solid financial cause.

But if sporty Japanese sedans are your bag, then the 2021 Toyota Avalon TRD is sure to scratch the itch. It might not stand out in a way that truly sets it apart from the rest of the Avalon crowd, but it’s a fun four-door that counteracts the idea that Avalon are basically shepherds carrying their grandmother from Boca Raton to Pearly Gates.

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