Though crossovers and SUVs dominate the new car market as the Sedanocalypse closes in around us, some four-door cars will always be fine. The Toyota Camry is one of them. It may have lost its U.S. sales crown to the RAV4, but no one should worry about its future. Especially after today, when Toyota announced it should get better at handling poor weather.
Toyota says the Camry is getting optional all-wheel drive in the U.S. market for the 2020 model year. It’s the first time this has been available for buyers since the Camry All-Trac of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sadly, no, that name is not making a comeback, which seems like a marketing misfire to me.
To make up for this mistake, I suppose, the bigger Avalon sedan is also getting AWD for its 2021 model year.
Toyota said both sedans get an in-house developed Dynamic Torque Control AWD adapted from the system on the current RAV4. Both AWD models will come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 202 horsepower, or 205 HP on the Avalon and Camry XSE. The AWD system can send up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels in case the front ones start slipping.
Interestingly, Toyota says these sedans were an all-American effort led by an engineering team at Toyota Motor North America Research and Development in Saline, Michigan. Neither sedan was originally planned to get AWD, but they did after some market research, and received several modifications in the process. Those include the engine, transmission, transfer case and rear differential from the RAV4, the propeller shaft from the new Highlander, a new fuel tank, floor structure modifications and more.
All AWD Camry models get a standard cold weather package with heated seats and the like; the AWD Avalon gets a standard heated steering wheel. The AWD Camry gains about 165 pounds, while the Avalon’s weight gain is negligible, Toyota says.
Though neither of these cars are what you’d call thrilling, this move is a pretty big deal. As many automakers move away from sedans and small cars entirely, Toyota is expanding its lineup as if to pick up its competitors’ slack. For example, both the Camry and Avalon got TRD models this year to make them at least somewhat more enjoyable to drive.
Additionally, even if they don’t really need it—and most people should just spring for good snow tires instead—more and more buyers are flocking to AWD vehicles. What was once a niche feature for people in cold-weather states has increasingly become the norm as car owners want to be prepared for everything. Even Nissan recently added AWD to the Altima. But that car is a perpetual also-ran behind the Camry, so I’m sure this feature will add to Nissan’s long list of worries lately.
I also think it’s safe to say this move has punted Subaru’s non-WRX sedan lineup, such as it is, into the trash. And then that trash can was catapulted into a frozen lake.
The 2020 Camry hits dealerships next spring and the 2021 Avalon does the same next fall.