Should you buy the priciest AWD Camry or the Avalon for the same money?
Before Toyota decided to add all-wheel drive to the 2020 Camry and Avalon sedans, your AWD mid-size four-door choices were fairly limited. The Toyotas double the options, so provided you’ve moved past the Nissan Altima AWD or the Subaru Legacy, which makes more sense? The 2020 Toyota Camry AWD, or the 2021 Toyota Avalon AWD? Load up the Camry with options, and you’ll find yourself spending just as much as you would for the half-size-larger, base-model Avalon XLE. So, which should you pick?
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After driving both, we pored over the standard and optional equipment lists and then dove into Toyota’s online configurator. We selected the $31,920 Camry XLE AWD as our starting point instead of the slightly pricier XSE AWD ($32,460 to start) because Toyota does not yet offer the AWD option on the equivalent Avalon XSE (or Touring or TRD trims), so the luxe-oriented XLE makes for the best comparison.
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From there, we threw everything major that cost money at the Camry XLE AWD: The Navigation (which includes a premium nine-speaker JBL audio system with subwoofer for $1,810) and Driver Assistance packages (Bird’s-eye-view camera with Perimeter Scan, Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking, multi-stage ventilated front seats, and a 10-inch color head-up display for $2,375). Those elevated our Camry’s MSRP to $36,095, about $750 less than a base Avalon XLE AWD. (For the record, it’s also $1,640 more than an unoptioned Nissan Altima 2.5 Platinum AWD and $1,000 more than a Subaru Legacy XT Limited.) Here is how our Camry and the entry-level Avalon AWD compare:
The lower-spec Avalon lacks these fancy-Camry features:
- Leather Upholstery—Standard on Camry XLE/XSE; Avalon XLE gets SofTex pseudo-leather. Actual leather is only available on the $43,130 Limited model
- 10-inch HUD—As above, a head-up display is only available on Avalon Limited.
- Driver Assistance Package—These goodies are not offered on Avalon XLE, and even Limited buyers must spend another $1,150 to get them.
- Dynamic Navigation/JBL—Avalon XLE buyers must spend another $1,720 for this package, which we included on our Camry, but they’ll end up with five more audio speakers (and at least the base Avalon starts out with eight speakers to Camry’s six, or optional nine).
- Qi wireless charging mat—You’d have to spring for the Avalon’s $1,000 moonroof package to get this must-have widget.
- 18-inch wheels and 235/45R18 tires—Standard on Camry SE and above, the Avalon makes do with 17s wearing 215/55R17 tires (all are all-season).
- Heated outside mirrors—Again, requires stepping up to Avalon Limited, on which they’re standard.
- Color choices—Camry offers nine paint options, plus three two-tone versions; Avalon offers just eight monochrome options. And these colors are Camry only: Galactic Aqua Mica, Super White, Predawn Gray Metallic, and Blue Streak Metallic.
But, even the fanciest Camry AWD lacks these Avalon features:
- Acoustic noise-reducing glass—Avalon gets it in the windshield and front doors, while Camry LE and above get the windshield only.
- 9.0-inch Infotainment screen—Camry makes do with an 8.0-inch screen.
- Dynamic LED turn signals—Flashy animated indicators front and rear are Avalon-exclusive.
- Heated steering wheel—This will be offered on Camry in a new Cold Weather package that has yet to be priced, so was not included in our tally.
- Two USB-C charging ports—Camry XLE/XSE share Avalon’s three standard USB ports, but lack the Avalon’s next-gen ports.
- Colors—These hues are Avalon only: Harbor Gray Metallic, Opulent Amber, Blueprint.
- An extra 9 cubic feet of passenger space—The Avalon’s 1.8-inch-longer wheelbase pays off in 2.4 inches of added rear legroom and a slight width increase lends 1.4 inches more rear shoulder room.
- 1.0 cubic foot of added trunk space
Even though both the Camry and the Avalon technically share the same TNGA component set, the Avalon’s underpinnings are more closely aligned with those of the larger, more luxurious Lexus ES sedan. Therefore, the Avalon benefits from added noise, vibration, and harshness countermeasures that no Camry receives. The longer wheelbase results in greater ride comfort, and its interior is a bit more opulent looking—even if the “base” XLE’s seats are swathed in SofTex instead of cow skin. Manufacturer-claimed weights for base Camry and Avalon XLE are within 41 pounds, which the options on our proposed Camry would likely equalize, so performance should be nearly identical. The choice will come down to a matter of taste. This gadget-loving editor would pick the loaded Camry—but he’d take a long test drive in a $35,919 Subaru Legacy XT Limited with tech package to see how 58 more horses and 95 more lb-ft struck his fancy first. Of course, if a big-boy sedan is more your flavor, and you must have all-wheel-drive and can only spend about $36,000, the Avalon would suit you best.
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