Tech and powertrain updates. The 2021 Toyota Avalon lives in a narrow niche that spans the gap between traditional family sedans and pricey luxury sedans. It boasts a smooth ride, loads of features, and plenty of options to satisfy most entry-level luxury shoppers, but you’ll make a few sacrifices when choosing this near-luxury sedan over a luxury model.

On the surface, the Avalon seems like the same vehicle that hit showrooms in 2019. However, a deeper dive exposes a handful of key updates that help push it further up shoppers’ lists. The Avalon’s updates include a new USB-C port, Android Auto, and optional all-wheel drive.

Sharp design, but XSE and TRD are unnecessary. The Toyota Avalon has a sleek and relatively simple design that oozes elegance. From its tall grille to its flared fenders to its stretched roofline, it looks the part of a legit luxury sedan.

Inside, the elegant simplicity carries on with minimal curves and shapes. Instead, the Avalon pulls a page from Lexus’ book with straight, deliberate interior lines. It also boasts plenty of optional premium materials, including plush leather.

If you opt for the TRD or XSE model, the Avalon loses a lot of its charm and picks up more dramatic styling that just doesn’t fit it.

The XSE gains a large mesh grille that feels way too large and overdone for this simple luxury sedan.

The Avalon TRD is the biggest offender with its bolt-on boy-racer bits, including black rocker panel extensions, rear diffuser, front lip spoiler, and rear deck spoiler. The matte-black wheels and red-painted caliper are nice touches, though. Inside, the TRD’s upgrades are more tasteful with its suede-like seats, red seat belts, and a TRD gear shifter.

Toyota Avalon

Roomy cabin with loads of features, but pricey. Inside, the Avalon has plenty of features, including power front seats with heat, leatherette upholstery, five USB ports, a 9-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The latter is a new addition for 2021, as previous years had only Apple CarPlay.

The larger touchscreen trumps the Nissan Maxima and Lexus ES’ standard 8-inch screens. Plus, the ES still lacks Android Auto and has one of the clunkiest infotainment systems on the market. The Avalon falls slightly behind the Kia Cadenza, though, as its Korean rival boasts a 12.3-inch touchscreen.

The Avalon’s cabin isn’t only well equipped, it also offers all-day comfort with supportive front seats and a roomy rear seat that boasts 40.4 inches of leg room. Few competitors come close to rivaling this rear seat, as the ES has 39.2 inches, the Cadenza has just 37.2 inches, and the Maxima has a tight 34.2 inches.

All that room and those premium features come at a premium, as the Avalon runs from $36,870 for the base XLE to $43,870 for the TRD (destination fees included).

Potent V6, but odd all-wheel-drive pairing. The Avalon comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that pumps 301 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission and out to the front wheels. This setup delivers satisfying straight-line acceleration, though it’s no match for the V8-powered Dodge Challenger models.

The Avalon’s claim to fame is its composed, luxury-car-like ride. This is further enhanced in the Touring model, which features adaptive dampers.

In 2021, the Avalon joins the short list of family sedans with available all-wheel drive. While this is good news for folks in the snowbelt, Toyota opted to pair AWD with a less-refined 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine instead of the smooth and powerful V6.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Toyota Avalon strikes a nice balance between luxury and mainstream with its premium features and cushy ride for a few grand less than most luxury sedans. Plus, with a spacious rear seat, the Avalon has room for the whole family.

While the Avalon offers a lot of features for the price, buyers seeking even more luxury may prefer the Kia Cadenza. The Cadenza offers more standard features and more luxurious options, like Nappa leather.

The Avalon also offers plenty of straight-line performance with its 301-hp V6 engine, but folks who need all-wheel drive are penalized with a four-cylinder. Buyers seeking more power will find this in the range of V8 options in the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 lineups.

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