Thanks to sharing the same all-season tire as the Touring, the TRD isn’t too far removed from the Avalon Touring on the autocross. In fact, without the Touring’s adaptive suspension, the TRD falls a smidge behind on refinement during abrupt changes in direction.
On the road, however, is where the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD shines. It’s nearly as comfortable as the rest of the Avalon family, and if you leave the transmission to its own devices, it becomes an incredible long-distance cruiser. It’s also a bit of a statement vehicle, thanks to those 19-inch TRD wheels, darkened exterior, and buzzy exhaust. The bigger question is will any Avalon buyers bite? We shall see, because the Avalon TRD is coming, whether anyone wants one or not. Couldn’t hurt to try though, right?
Toyota insists it was trying to push the Avalon to levels never before achieved with the TRD treatment. So it's probably more of a happy accident that the TRD's soft execution results in it turning out just about right—sportier than any other large front-drive sedan, if only just. While the Camry TRD looks wild and rides like a sports car, yet doesn't deliver much better overall performance than a regular Camry V-6, you can still somewhat "experience the tranquility" in the hopped-up Avalon. Is that worthy of TRD branding, which Toyota also assigns to more hardcore stuff, like its line of TRD Pro off-roaders? Perhaps not, but the Avalon TRD is cohesively executed, drives well, and genuinely looks pretty cool. Grandpa should still like it, but it's okay that the TRD brings a more youthful mind-set to the Avalon.
The skeptics among us would probably be quick to call the Avalon TRD little more than a trim package—I know I did. But truth is, TRD engineers had a crucial hand in shaping this particular Avalon. Using the Avalon Touring as the jumping-off point and with a focus on handling, TRD dropped the Touring model's electronic adaptive suspension in favor of stiffer new steel springs and shocks, lowered the ride height by 0.6 inch, and added new bumpstops. The TRD team also fit its version of the Avalon with dual- (instead of single-) piston front brake calipers with larger rotors, added an electronic brake-based front differential, and rounded the car out with stiffer underbody bracing than is found on the standard Avalon, along with wider, lighter wheels (shared with the Camry TRD) and unique styling.
The chassis reinforcements and suspension tweaks make a noticeable difference out on the road. Although it's still more softly sprung than the Camry TRD, the Avalon TRD is the better balanced of the two cars. There's less impact harshness than its slightly smaller platform mate, and the Avalon's lighter steering feel does a better job of transmitting what little information there is from the front wheels to the driver.
Weirdly though, when driven back to back with the baseline Avalon Touring—like, say, on an autocross course, the Avalon's natural habitat outside the retirement community—it's the Touring model that's more impressive. The biggest difference between the Avalon Touring and the TRD model is the former's Sport + mode, which, when combined with its electronically adaptive suspension, helps keep the Avalon flatter and more neutral through bends, making it easier to put the power down. The TRD model exhibits more roll than the Touring (even if it felt stiffer) and thus doesn't put its power down as well.