A Rare Taste of an Unlikely Pairing
Three modified Toyota Avalon sedans were some of the biggest surprises at last year’s SEMA show. The cars were obviously not targeted toward grandma, unless she likes the idea of a supercharger, 19-inch rims, and a lowered suspension — just a few items on the Avalon TRD Edition show car. We treated this Avalon like most one-off show cars we see at SEMA: We saw it, wrote about it, and assumed that would be the last we’d see of it.
But, in a rare move, Toyota dropped by our office and handed over the keys to that Avalon TRD Edition, allowing us to perform our usual barrage of tests.
The supercharged Avalon was essentially a side project involving Toyota’s Calty design center, engineers in Michigan, and folks from TRD in Southern California. Since the SEMA show, Toyota continued tinkering with this special Avalon, specifically with the Eaton twin vortices series supercharger, which was sourced from the TRD version of the Australian-market Aurion sedan (essentially their version of the Camry). The sedan was the first car sold as an official TRD model, but the challenging economic environment forced the tuner to shutter its Australian operations shortly after.
Toyota estimates that the supercharger boosts the Avalon’s 3.5-liter V-6 to around 320 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, up from 268 hp and 248 lb-ft. Despite the power gains, the modified Avalon needed 6.5 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph — 0.3 second slower than the last production version model we tested. The car also loses steam in the quarter mile with a time of 15.0 seconds at 93.2 mph versus 14.6 seconds at 97.3 mph for the stock Avalon. A few factors hinder its straight-line performance. For starters, Toyota says more work is needed to tune the engine and recalibrate the software. It’s also more than 200 pounds heavier (3755 pounds) because of flashy show car bits such as the massive stereo system and 19-inch rims wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sports.
On the upside, those Michelins, along with the modified suspension (KYB mono-tube shocks and custom springs that lower the ride by about an inch), help the Avalon TRD at the figure-eight course, where it posted a time of 25.7 seconds at 0.73 g average, 1.5 seconds faster than stock. The special Avalon’s 60-0 mph distance of 106 feet is a 15-foot improvement. Part of the credit there goes to the TRD brake system, which includes six-piston, red-painted calipers up front and four pistons in the rear.
Overall, the Avalon is relatively nimble for its size. As expected, the ride is firm and slightly jarring over bumps, but the cabin is still surprisingly quiet at highway speed. TRD recalibrated the electric power steering unit to give it a firmer feel, especially in Sport mode. Other modifications include a TRD sport exhaust system that emits a satisfying deep note, especially during hard acceleration when it’s making noise in unison with the supercharger’s whine.
If the cabin is too quiet for your tastes, that can be remedied by a 15-speaker JBL sound system with two 10-inch subwoofers housed in the trunk. Two 500-watt amplifiers and a digital processor complete the sound system and pretty much occupy the remainder of the trunk’s cargo space. Other custom touches include black suede-like headliner, black leather seats, door panels, and dashboard trim with red contrast stitching. The seats feature a “graduated perforated” pattern with dots that fade away toward the edges of the seat bottom and backrest.
As expected, Toyota is staying tight-lipped about the production potential of this project car or any of its parts. The idea of a production-ready supercharged Avalon is interesting, but we doubt Toyota can make much of a business case for it. The show car is based on a Limited model with the Technology Package carrying a sticker price of $40,840. The MSRP could easily approach $50,000 once all of the modifications are tallied, with the supercharger taking a bulk of the price jump.
What’s more likely, however, is a mid-cycle refreshed Sport Edition (SE) model that will consist of visual mods inspired by the ones on this show car. The smoke-finished rims, for example, aren’t too outlandish, and neither are the darkened grille accents, and clear headlight/taillight lenses. Toyota could even make a case for a TRD edition by bolting on the suspension and exhaust kit. Sure, an Avalon TRD may not suit all full-size sedan buyers’ tastes, but it certainly could attract new customers who would have never considered the 2013 Avalon’s bland predecessors.
|2013 Toyota Avalon TRD Edition|
|PRICE AS TESTED||N/A|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.5L/320-hp/295-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6* (mfr est)|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3755 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||195.2 x 72.2 x 57.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.0 sec @ 93.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||106 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.92 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.7 sec @ 0.73 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||N/A|