The Toyota Yaris is dead in America, but Toyota doesn’t want you to give up on its other sedans just yet. A lot of other sedans. The automaker announced new versions and features on the Avalon, Camry, and Corolla Wednesday, possibly because it wants to put that whole Yaris business behind it.
First up: an update to the fifth-generation Avalon, which was introduced in 2018. It now is getting an all-wheel-drive option and different batteries in the hybrid version:
Now, for 2021, Avalon’s first-ever all-wheel drive option arrives for drivers who want more grip and driving confidence in slippery driving conditions.
In the Avalon Hybrid, which recently accounts for about a third of Avalon sales, a new Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack replaces the previous Nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery. In addition, a new Vehicle Approach Noise system helps to alert pedestrians of the car’s presence at low speeds. The Avalon Hybrid achieves a remarkable manufacturer-projected EPA-estimated range rating of 44 combined MPG.
Next up: the eighth-generation Camry, introduced in 2017, which will get a new trim, the XSE, the most luxury hybrid trim on offer. That’s in addition to 16 other trims, though it will lose the L. Like now, you will have dealer’s choice of powertrainsm, either the hybrid, a four-cylinder engine, or the V6.
The Camry will also get some new safety features, the first Toyota model to do so, with a system it is calling Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+. That system includes a series of nips and tucks to the Camry’s semi-autonomous features.
For starters, the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), features multiple enhancements. By enhancing the system capabilities, it is now possible for the system to help detect not only the vehicle ahead but also a preceding bicyclist in daytime and even a preceding pedestrian in low-light conditions. TSS 2.5+ also enhances the PCS w/PD system with intersection support. At intersections, the system may detect an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn and may provide audio/visual alerts and automatic braking in certain conditions. Additional PCS functions include emergency steering assist, which is designed to stabilize the driver’s emergency steering maneuvers within their lane while avoiding a preceding pedestrian, bicyclist or vehicle.
Camrys that come equipped with Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), which can activate the feature above 30 mph, have a system designed to perform vehicle-to-vehicle distance controls down to 0 mph and resume from a stop. DRCC also includes a new feature that allows for smoother overtaking of slower vehicles. If traveling behind a vehicle traveling slower than the preset speed, once the driver engages the turn signal with steering input the system will provide an initial increase in acceleration in preparation for changing lanes; after changing lanes, the vehicle will continue acceleration until it reaches the preset driving speed.
Lane Departure Alert is designed to help notify the driver via steering wheel vibrations or audible alert if it senses the vehicle is leaving the lane without engaging a turn signal. When DRCC is set and engaged, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) is designed to assist the driver by providing a slight steering force to help center the vehicle in its lane using visible lane markers or a preceding vehicle.
Additional TSS 2.5+ features include Automatic High Beams, which detects preceding or oncoming vehicles and automatically switches between high beam and low beam headlights. Road Sign Assist (RSA), which is designed to recognize certain road sign information using a forward-facing camera and display them on the multi-information display (MID). With DRCC engaged and activated, RSA can also adjust speed up to the posted speed limit if driving slower or down to the posted speed limit if driving faster than posted.
All of these features seem like the kind of granular improvements that happen over time that you only notice after several years, and you drive a modern car for the first time in awhile and you think, “Hot damn! Technology!”
But, if you did any more than skim the above block of text, you can also see how hard they are to market. Slightly easier to explain: There’s also a new screen.
New for 2021, a floating 7- or 9-inch central touch-screen display, like that of the new-generation Toyota RAV4, combines audio and navigation. Customizable features and smart phone-like touch screen icons ensure familiar and convenient operation.
For even greater functionality, Camry also offers an available 7-inch multi-information display within the instrument cluster. Available on XLE and XSE, a 10-inch color Head-Up Display (HUD) projects vital information, including speed and turn-by-turn navigation directions, onto the lower portion of the windshield.
Anyway, let’s move on to the more EXCITING news. That would be the new Apex Edition of the Corolla.
Toyota says it will only make 6,000 of these, aimed at enthusiasts. Just 120 of those will be manual, though, the rest getting Toyota’s Dynamic Shift CVT, which includes paddle shifters and ten “speeds.”
The Apex Edition maximizes the inherent potential of the Corolla sedan’s high-strength TNGA-C platform, multi-link rear suspension and 169-horsepower 2.0-liter Dynamic Force Engine. A factory-custom body package accentuates the Corolla’s edgy styling, and the new model issues a punchier bark with a sport-tuned exhaust unique to Corolla Apex.
The key to the Dynamic Shift CVT’s distinct performance feel is a gearset used as a “first” gear for start-off acceleration, before seamlessly handing off to the CVT’s pulley system.
That is the same engine you can currently get in the SE and XSE trims, but! The suspension has also been tweaked and the tires look good.
Unique coil springs lower the vehicle by 0.6 inches while the increased spring rate reduces vehicle roll angle and provides flatter cornering and steering response. Specially tuned shocks with internal rebound springs provide increased damping force that controls vertical and roll movement. Unique solid stabilizer bars with increased rigidity help to decrease vehicle roll angle while improving overall agility. Additionally, new jounce bumpers ensure the lowered ride height doesn’t hinder ride quality. All combined Apex Edition suspension changes increase roll stiffness by 47% in the front and 33% in the rear.
The 18-inch flow-formed cast aluminum wheels feature a gloss black appearance, but even more importantly they are specially developed to aid in brake cooling while offering a mass reduction of 2.2 lbs. per wheel. They can be paired with either an all-season tire or an optional summer tire that helps improve lateral grip, steering precision and yaw response. Bespoke electronic power steering (EPS) has been tuned specifically for the Apex Edition to complement its dynamic suspension changes. The new EPS tuning provides a distinctive flavor with a sportier, v-shaped build-up response. All of these changes are paired with a specially developed catback exhaust that features a throatier, aggressive tone at start-up while also providing a bolder, enhanced tone at wide-open throttle. A unique 3.5-inch stainless steel tip was developed to match the vehicle’s styling.
More practically, Toyota said that Android Auto would come standard in the Apex and every other 2021 Corolla, in addition to Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa, which were standard for 2020.
This is the twelfth-generation Corolla, debuting in 2018, and, like Avalon and Camry, right in the middle of its product cycle. So all of these updates and refreshes make sense. Still, there is a doth-protest-too-much feeling to a lot of it, via Automotive News:
“We are making sedans because we are selling them, and we will continue to increase our commitment to sedans even while our competitors continue to walk away from them,” [Cynthia Tenhouse, vice president for vehicle marketing and communications at Toyota Motor North America] told journalists this week. “The car segment still represents a huge piece of the business, and if you look back to 2019, there were more than 4.5 million cars sold in the U.S. And you know, quite honestly, we’re happy to take as much of that as we can.”
It will be over $4,000 more expensive to get in on a new Toyota after the last Yarises are sold here, which is a shame. Toyota will still offer them overseas, though, leaving some hope that maybe, maybe, maybe one day it’ll come back.