2021 Toyota Camry vs Avalon
Finding the right sedan to fit your unique needs can be easier said than done, especially when an automaker like Toyota offers you several good choices. Both the 2021 Toyota Camry and the 2021 Toyota Avalon are built for fuel efficiency and include long lists of standard features. While the Avalon is larger and a little more luxurious, the mid-size Camry comes off as being just the right fit for most buyers. Could it be the one for you?
Only a few tweaks have been made to the exterior and interior styling cues on the 2021 Toyota Camry. Inside, you will find a new option for a 9-inch infotainment display. Some of the driver aids have also been tweaked for enhancement this year. Also, last year's base L trim level has been axed from the line-up, leaving you with six options to choose from: the LE, SE, SE Nightshade, XSE, XLE and TRD. You can still choose from the base 203-horsepower 4-cylinder engine or the optional 301-hp V6, which comes standard on the TRD.
The Camry's standard 4-cylinder engine puts forth a really respectable fuel economy. Its combined 32 miles per gallon (28 city/39 highway) is one of the best showings for this segment, and real world tests reflect the accuracy of these EPA ratings. The acceleration comes off as a bit lackluster though, so be prepared for that. Still, you get an abundance of cargo and passenger space, comfortable seats, a vehicle that you can easily see out of, sharp steering capabilities, and a rather comprehensive suite of advanced driver aids.
As we said, though, acceleration is sluggish on the 4-cylinder. Upgrading to the V6 can improve this, but it takes down your fuel economy. The 4-cylinder is unrefined overall, sounding more coarse than usual for a vehicle in this segment. Also, when you take the vehicle up to speed on the highway, you get unusually high levels of wind and road noise making their way into the Camry's cabin.
So, how does the 2021 Toyota Avalon stack up against its smaller sibling? This year, all-wheel drive is finally available on select trim levels. Smartphone app integration with Android Auto is also now standard across the line-up. High performance tires come on the TRD as well as the new Nightshade Edition of the Avalon. The Nightshade Edition comes as an XSE variant and also adds black exterior trim elements, a built-in garage door opener, and micro suede inserts on the front seats.
All told, the Avalon provides you with a generous amount of standard safety and infotainment features, much like the Camry. The ride quality is insanely comfortable too, and the cabin itself is spacious and serene (a bit more so than the Camry). It is a likable enough vehicle and probably one of the better full-size sedans on the market when it comes to fuel economy. There is a hybrid option available, but even the gas-only version gives you 25 mpg combined (22 mpg in the city/31 mpg on the highway). Real-world estimates even best this EPA estimate, so expect a good enough return on fuel here.
The Avalon does have some downsides though. The biggest problem it has is that it does not offer a whole lot of head room in the second row. Taller occupants will feel the need to duck their heads down since the rear roofline stoops so steeply downward into the rear end. And, like the Camry, the radio volume and tuning knobs are a bit of a stretch for the driver to reach. The low-resolution back-up camera is also massively in need of an upgrade.
Like we mentioned above, the 2021 Toyota Camry is powered by one of two engines. You get the 4-cylinder engine on everything but the line-topping TRD, which comes equipped with the V6. The 4-cylinder comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission and your choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The XSE and XLE trim levels can be optionally equipped with the V6. A sport-tuned suspension gets added to the XSE, as do larger 19-inch wheels.
The 2021 Toyota Avalon is powered by a standard 3.5-L V6 engine that generates a power output of 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. It gets paired up with an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. If you want all-wheel drive, you can now get it on the XLE and Touring trim levels. The catch here is that this AWD system comes with a 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine (which generates 205 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque) instead of the more powerful V6. Also, there is an Avalon Hybrid model available that you can choose if you want to cut down on fuel expenditures.
Toyota has stepped up its game in recent years, making their vehicles a little more exciting to drive than before. Sedans like the Camry and Avalon are meant to be more practical than enthralling, but they do have elements of their performances that lend to their overall drivability rating. When we talk about drivability, we are talking about more than how well a powertrain performs, of course. We are referring to multiple factors, such as how well-tuned the suspension is for comfort, how adept the brakes are when placed under pressure, how nimbly the vehicle steers, how securely it handles all kinds of turns, and how functional and user-friendly its included tech gadgetry happens to be.
The 2021 Toyota Camry comes off as a bit too sluggish with the base 4-cylinder engine equipped. It takes the Camry a slow 8.2 seconds to accelerate up to 60 miles per hour, which is certainly below average for this segment. Around town, the engine does have a little zest, but it does not make for a thrilling initial burst of power. The 8-speed automatic transmission does help smooth things out to an extent with its even distribution of power to the wheels. When you do have to dip into the gas, however, you will experience some two-gear downshifts from the transmission. If you get the SE, you at least have the benefit of a sport-tuned suspension that gives the Camry a more grounded feel. Aggressive driving is not meant for this vehicle, but it handles turns well, and the brakes are easy to modulate even in a panic stop.
The Camry is built for all-day comfort. The front seats are padded to the brim, sculpted for lateral and lumbar support. The climate control system is easy to use and is rather powerful in its air flow. Even when driving in triple-digit heat, the cabin cools down quickly. Live in a cooler climate where you need heat right away in the morning? The system does that well too. Overall, the cabin is pleasant enough. The only problem is that too much wind and road noise make their way in at high speeds. For a mid-size sedan, it is too noisy.
The Camry is not designed with opulence in mind. Rather, it provides you with a toned-down, efficient, versatile design that is all about practicality. Whether you're a single college student or a parent of young children, the Camry is probably a good fit for your lifestyle. The sportier XSE and TRD models cater to a crowd that wants slightly more excitement but does not want to lose out too much on the Camry's good fuel economy. There is an optional 360-degree surround view camera available, but visibility with the naked eye is vast. Also, all of the interfaces are logically laid out with no guesswork involved. The only qualm we have is that the radio tuning and volume knobs are ever so slightly outside of the driver's reach.
Smartphone app integration and Bluetooth pairing come standard on the Camry and are easy to use. The 7-inch touchscreen display looks fine enough, but the new 9-inch option provides clear graphics. Built-in navigation comes on the higher trim levels, but your preferred phone app will work just fine. You can opt for a wireless charger, and three USB ports are equipped.
So, just how does the 2021 Toyota Avalon differ from its sibling? This large sedan has a surprisingly pleasant nature. The V6 is powerful enough, and the 8-speed delivers a smooth flow of power to the wheels. This gives the Avalon a good amount of initial launch power. Daily commutes and long road trips are no-fuss. The brakes modulate with ease in basically any situation you throw at them. Handling is shockingly athletic, something that most full-size sedans are not known for being. You will not feel like you are driving such a big vehicle at all.
Large sedans are, of course, known for their plush comfort levels. And the Avalon does not disappoint. The seats are incredibly well padded and sculpted to fit your spine and legs. The soft leather upholstery feels luxurious, and the ride quality is cozy thanks to the well-tuned suspension. You do get some road noise at high speeds, but the cabin is otherwise pretty quiet.
Leg room is generous throughout the cabin, but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for head space. In the rear, taller adults will need to duck their heads down due to the steeply sloping rear roofline. Aesthetically, the sloping roofline looks cool, but it is far from being practical. We also think the back-up camera is too low-res to really be useful and is in dire need of an upgrade. At least you get clear visibility with the naked eye.
Tech is a highlight here, as it is on the Camry. The Entune system is straightforward, and the 9-inch touchscreen display gives you beautiful graphics. The only downside is that Toyota locks out more apps while you are driving than most other automakers. We know, it is a little obnoxious, but it is a minor qualm. The built-in voice controls are more agitating as they are really hit-or-miss. They don't understand navigation commands almost at all, but they handle radio commands just fine.
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As per usual, Toyota goes all-out on its safety features. Both the 2021 Toyota Camry and the 2021 Toyota Avalon come with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ bundle of advanced driver aids. Forward collision mitigation detects potential impending frontal crashes and will, in some scenarios, apply the brakes to prevent the crash. Lane keep assist will steer the vehicle back into its intended lane if the system detects any straying over the line. Adaptive cruise control sets and maintains a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of your Toyota so as to avoid any possible rear-end collisions. Automatic high beams and a feature that reads road signs also come equipped as standard features.
Upgrades can include a full-speed adaptive cruise control, which means the system can work right down to 0 miles per hour. A blind spot monitor is also available on higher trim levels. The Driver Assist package additionally equips the 360-degree surround-view camera, a head-up display (which is actually standard on any V6 model), rear automated braking, and - how delightful indeed - ventilated front seats.
Which Has the Best Value?
While the 2021 Toyota Avalon is a vehicle we recommend if you are dead-set on getting a full-size sedan, we think the Camry has a little more value. As a mid-size sedan, it is more affordable. And it gives you most of the same features as the Avalon. The only thing that takes away from its value is the base engine, but some buyers will not mind it being a little slow. People buy the Camry for efficiency, not speed.
Which is Better?
We think both of these vehicles are reasonable choices for the average buyer. However, we prefer the Camry since it stays within a reasonable price range and is still quite spacious. It offers a great fuel economy and plenty of features for the price. While a few people might get hung up on the lack of power from the base engine, we do not think that should be a deal-breaker. The Camry has a lot going for it, and we recommend the XSE if you want something that is slightly more exciting but still quite practical.