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Toyota Camry, Avalon cop RAV4's all-wheel drive system for all-season traction

It's been nearly three decades since the Camry offered all-wheel drive, and this is the first Avalon to have power flow to all four wheels.

Toyota Camry AWD
Frozen precipitation? It's snow match for the Camry AWD.

Toyota has read your letters, emails and texts for nearly the past 30 years, and it even read the YouTube comments. All-wheel drive for the Toyota Camry is back. And this time, the larger Toyota Avalon is getting in on the party, too.

The Japanese automaker said on Wednesday that it will add AWD as a standalone option for most trims for the Camry midsize sedan and the full-size Avalon. The move follows a wider trend that's seen more and more North American shoppers opt for AWD as they shift to crossovers and SUVs. It also provides some competition for the Nissan Altima and stalwart Subaru Legacy sedans; the Nissan offers AWD, while the Legacy comes standard with it.

Yet, Toyota realizes that not everyone wants or needs the space of a utility vehicle, but surely appreciates the extra traction in poor weather. Thanks to the automaker's incredibly flexible TNGA architecture, both the Camry and Avalon were able to swipe the RAV4's Dynamic Torque Control AWD system. While that's Toyota's given name, Camry and Avalon sedans with the option will simply sport an "AWD" badge on the rear to denote the option.

The system can send 50% of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, but this isn't a full-time system. To keep things efficient, the AWD system decouples from the rear axle to turn both cars back into front-wheel-drive sedans. This is, obviously, useful during long hauls where four-wheel traction isn't necessary, such as freeway driving. Yet, as soon as the system detects slip, all four wheels are back in action and working.

Just one engine will be available with the AWD systems to help return greater fuel economy, a 2.5-liter inline-four engine with 202 horsepower. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Opt for the sportier XSE trim and you'll get three whole horsepowers more for a total of 205 hp. Despite a few tweaks needed to fit the AWD system (such as a different fuel tank and floor structure changes) buyers won't find an inch of compromised interior or cargo space.

These cars will, however, weigh a little more. The Camry AWD, specifically, gains 165 pounds in the process.

The Camry AWD will arrive at dealers next spring as a 2020 model, and each will come standard with a cold-weather package. Notably, that adds standard heated front seats. The Avalon AWD will be a little longer and hit dealers next fall as a 2021 model. Heated seats are already standard gear in the full-size sedan, so Toyota went ahead and tossed in a heated steering wheel as standard.

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