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The Toyota Avalon might be a vehicle you expect to be practical for everyday driving, not one you would think of as race track worthy. But, with the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) trim level getting thrown into the mix, the 2020 Toyota Avalon line-up is actually pretty darn cool.
What exactly is a TRD, though? And how does it compare to the other trim levels? Is it available as a hybrid, like the two lower trim levels (the XLE and XSE) and the line-topping Hybrid Limited? Are the higher trim levels (the Touring, Limited, and Hybrid Limited) worth their price tags? Of all the trim levels and their variants, which one gives the average driver the best overall deal?
This trim level comparison review will answer those questions and more. Make sure you read on through to the end to see which trim level is the most well-rounded and worth its cost.
Compare the 2020 Toyota Avalon XLE vs XSE - What is the Difference?
The 2020 Toyota Avalon line-up starts with the base XLE. It is powered by a standard 3.5-L V6 engine that gets paired up with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine manages to generate a combined 26 mpg, with 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. It generates 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque and has standard front-wheel drive. The XLE has independent MacPherson struts for the front suspension, which includes a stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is multi-link with a stabilizer bar. Electric power steering, active cornering assist, power-assisted ventilated front 11.65-inch disc brakes, and solid 11-inch rear disc brakes with electronically controlled braking, the Star Safety System, and a hydraulic brake booster all come as standard equipment.
The XSE shares the same powertrain but gets knocked down 1 mpg in the city and on the highway, still giving it 22 combined mpg. The biggest difference under the hood is that the XSE gets a sport-tuned suspension. This gives the Avalon a smoother road performance and a bit more pep.
In terms of the exterior, the XLE and XSE are fairly similar. However, there are some differences worth mentioning. First of all, the XLE has LED headlights and daytime running lights with auto-on/off.The XSE's headlights get smoked chrome bezels. LED taillights come standard on both. The XLE's chrome grille and gray insert get changed to a sportier black grille with a sport mesh insert. The XLE's color-keyed power side mirrors also get turned piano black on the XSE. Also, the XSE gets a standard power tilt/slide moonroof with a sliding sun shade while this is left as an option on the XLE. The XLE's 17-inch silver painted alloy wheels get swapped out for 19-inch black painted machine-finished alloy wheels on the XSE. The XSE also gets a piano black rear spoiler, quad chrome tips on the dual exhaust, and an intake sound generator.
The interiors of the XLE and XSE also have quite a few differences as well as some similarities. Both do come with dual zone automatic climate control, a rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, a 7-inch multi-information display, 60/40 split-folding rear seats with a center armrest that has cup holders, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, 3-mode switch (Normal, Sport, and ECO), the Smart Key System, auto-up/down on all four windows, rear window defogger with a timer, anti-lockout power door locks, an overhead console with the Safety Connect button and map lights, a covered center bin with an arm rest, one 12-volt power outlet, four 2.0 USB charging ports, two extendable front sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, an electric parking brake with brake hold, and a plethora of cup holders (two in the front, two in the back, and a bottle holder on each door).
So, what distinguishes them? First off, the XSE standardizes the XLE's optional wireless smartphone charging pad. It also upgrades you to SofTex trimmed seats with ultrasuede and perforated heated front seats that are 8-way power-adjustable. The tilt and telescoping steering wheel gets wrapped in leather, and the cabin gains aluminum trim. There are also matching aluminum pedal covers. The rear view mirror is automatically dimming and comes with the HomeLink universal transceiver for controlling your garage door, security system, and in-home electrical appliances.
Smartphone app integration is standard on the entire line-up, so you can connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can also use JBL Audio, Alexa, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. With Connected Services, you get a WiFi connection capability, personalized maintenance and vehicle issue updates, emergency SOS, destination assistance, and remote vehicle connection. There is a standard 9-inch touchscreen that lets you access these features. If nine speakers are not enough, you can upgrade to the premium JBL audio system, which gives you 14 speakers.
As far as standard safety features go, the XLE and XSE have quite a few. Standard safety features include the Star Safety System (which has enhanced vehicle stability control and traction control), a tire pressure monitoring system, Safety Connect (which features roadside and emergency assistance), Toyota Safe Sense P (a suite of driver aids including lane departure alert and automatic high beams), blind spot monitoring, hill start assist control, an anti-theft system with an engine immobilizer, and Toyota Care (which has a no-cost maintenance care plan for when you need roadside assistance).
Compare the 2020 Toyota Avalon Hybrid XLE vs Hybrid XSE - What is the Difference?
The Hybrid XLE and XSE are absolutely worth comparing since there is a $3,000-ish price jump between them. They both get the same 2.5-L 4-cylinder and 118 HP electric motor. They also come with a 244.8-volt sealed nickel-metal hydride battery. These trims both have an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT for short). The XLE gets 44 mpg combined while the XSE takes it down to 43 mpg.
Their exteriors are similar to the gasoline-powered variants, save for the fact that these trims both get a single exhaust that is hidden. On the interior, both vehicles get dual zone climate control systems with rear seat vents, a humidity sensor, an air filter, and an electric compressor. Wireless charging is optional on the Hybrid XLE and standard on the XSE. Their multi-information displays show information about their hybrid systems, and both have 4-mode switch. Otherwise, expect them to resemble their gas-only variants.
Compare the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD vs Touring. What is the difference?
Now, the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD represents a big change for the automaker. A lot of car gurus have been skeptical about how closely the TRD would resemble the Touring, which it is based off of. While the TRD team was developing this trim level, they would take it to the race track (actually, there were three different tracks they used) to test out its capabilities. You can imagine how much work that took! Just note that there will only be about 2,600 units manufactured for the 2020 model year, so you'd better get yours while you still can.
That being said, here is what the TRD has to offer. It gets the same 3.5-L V6 engine that comes on the other gas-powered trims and has the same automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. However, the TRD has thicker under-body braces, a track-tuned suspension, 12.9-inch power-assisted ventilated front brakes, and 11.06-inch rear disc brakes (with fancy red calipers, red painted fronts, and specially-designed pedal stiffness and a brake booster). The engine nets 25 mpg combined with 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
The Touring is given the sport-tuned suspension found on the XSE, an adaptive variable suspension system, and smaller brakes. It gets the same fuel economy but loses the thickness of the under-body braces.
The exterior features a piano black front grille with a sport mesh insert, TRD piano black splitters, piano black window trim, piano black side mirrors, aerodynamic front tangential venting, 19-inch TRD matte black alloy wheels, a black center cap with the red TRD logo slapped onto it, an acoustic noise reducing windshield, high solar energy absorbing glass, a red TRD badge, a TRD rear spoiler, polished stainless steel tips on the TRD dual exhaust, and an intake sound generator. A sport sound-tuned exhaust is optional.
The Touring loses all the TRD signature details but gains some nice features. It gets fully integrated LED daytime running lights, upgraded LED taillights, driver's side auto-dimming on the side mirror, 19-inch black painted machine-finished alloy wheels, a piano black rear spoiler, quad chrome tips on the dual exhaust, and the sport sound-tuned exhaust.
The TRD's interior has standard features like the wireless charging pad, seats with unique red stitching and inserts, red seatbelts, red stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, red stitched accents with the aluminum trim, a black TRD shift knob with red stitching, and all the rest of the bells and whistles you will find on the XSE. The Audio Plus sound system comes standard, as do all the safety features you get on the XSE.
The Touring offers active noise control, engine sound enhancement, 4-way power lumbar support on both front seats (and memory settings for the driver's seat), heated rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, Sport+ mode, and a 10-inch head-up display. Optional features include a 360-degree surround-view camera. The premium audio system with built-in navigation comes standard, and intelligence clearance sonar with rear cross traffic braking can be added on with the Safety/Convenience Package.
Compare the 2020 Toyota Avalon Touring vs Limited - What is the Difference?
The Limited is the Avalon's line-topping trim, and it certainly has a lot to offer that you cannot get as standard on the lower trim levels. While the engine is the same as the Touring's, it uses the suspension system found on the XLE. That alone should let you know it is not meant to be driven as a sport vehicle. Instead, it focuses more on luxury. The two vehicles do share the same sized brakes though.
On the outside, they share the same headlights and taillights, but the Limited's front grille gets a dark gray insert. The side mirrors are color-keyed, and there are 18-inch super-chrome alloy wheels equipped. Also, the dual exhaust gets chrome tips. On the inside, the seats get upgraded to premium leather, the steering wheel loses the Touring's paddle shifters, has 3-mode switch, and is given genuine wood trim. All of the safety and infotainment features remain the same.
Compare the 2020 Toyota Avalon Limited vs Hybrid Limited - What is the Difference?
As you can imagine, the Hybrid Limited is a bit different from the gas-powered Limited when it comes to the powertrain. The Hybrid Limited has the 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine and 118 HP motor that generates 215 hp and 149 lb-ft of torque. This gets matched with the ECVT and 244.8-volt battery.
The Hybrid Limited's front grille has an active grille shutter, which the Limited does not possess. Also, the Hybrid Limited has the single hidden exhaust. Inside the cabin, there is the dual zone climate control system with the humidity sensor, 7-inch multi-information display with hybrid performance details, 4-mode switch, and a 10-inch head-up display with a hybrid system indicator. It has the same infotainment and safety features as the Limited.
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Which Trim to Choose?
The 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD is truly outstanding. It takes all the things that drivers like about the Avalon and fixes the things they don't like as much. It has a lot more growl to it, giving it an ultra-cool aggressive edge. Plus, it sits right in the middle of the line-up and, for a vehicle of its ilk, is reasonably priced.
Unfortunately, the TRD is limited in its production number. So, if you cannot get one, which trim level should you buy? Go for the Touring if you can swing the cost. The Limited is far too similar to the Touring for it to make much of a difference, and the price is not one that a lot of drivers will want to pay. The XLE and XSE are fine enough trim levels, and the XSE is preferable for its sporty performance. However, the Touring will likely be the most enjoyable to drive next to the TRD. Pick from either of those two trim levels and get a rather exciting driving experience.
• Compare the 2019 Toyota Avalon Trim Levels