New Car Reviews, News, Road Tests

2020 Toyota Avalon and Camry Get a Dash of TRD Hot Sauce

EAST LOS ANGELES, California—If you park a Toyota Avalon and Camry side by side, it’s hard to tell them apart except for maybe their badges and funky grilles. Both have four doors, can seat up to five passengers, share the same V-6 engine, and are available in a variety of trims. The full-size Avalon offers slightly more room and a heftier price tag than the mid-size Camry. But add a dash of hot sauce by the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) team—a splash of Supersonic Red paint, a more dialed-in suspension, some underbody braces—and voila! You have the 2020 Avalon/Camry TRD edition.

These spicier sedans are certainly no replacements for proper sports cars like the new Supra or even the Toyota 86. Think of these TRD-enhanced sedans more as comfortable and enjoyable rides with an edgier look. I seriously doubt any owner will actually take either one to the track—and lets be clear, these cars aren’t meant for that kind of use—but they certainly look the part if that’s what matters to you.

The duo are both sportier-looking, in a mid-‘90s Chevy Monte Carlo Z34 sort of way, except with four doors instead of two, more horsepower (301 hp vs 210 hp), and a bit more visual flair than the Monte. Looks-wise the Camry TRD is the way to go; the two-tone Midnight Black metallic roof looks pretty rad on it, although the black XSE trim grille makes the Avalon look somewhat more sinister.

The TRD package comes with the same V-6 as other Camry variants, rated at 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. The trusty six is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Basically, TRD started with the XSE-spec Avalon and SE-spec Camry, beefed up their front and rear suspensions with thicker underbody braces for rigidity, and dropped a half inch in ride height; you’ll notice the lower-slung attitude every time you navigate steep driveways and road bumps, which require more care than usual. Under all of this is a set of 19-inch black TRD rims covering 12.9-inch front brake rotors, with dual piston calipers in red.

I thought I might nick the Camry TRD’s rims parking too close to the curb, but ended up scratching the side and rear aero kit, with its red pinstriping that extends like catfish whiskers, instead. It kissed a steep Pasadena curb outside of a friend’s house—sorry Toyota! The body kit includes black badging, dark mirror caps, and a rear spoiler to complete the sportier package; it looks sportier on the Camry, since there’s just a sliver of a spoiler on the Avalon. Both TRD specials also come with large-ish sunroofs and twin tail pipes around back.

There are three drive modes to choose from—normal, eco, and sport—which translate to slow, slower, and a little better when you mash down on the right-most pedal. The sport-tuned exhaust with engine sound enhancement and an intake generator sounds decent on the Camry, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s more reserved on the Avalon.

Inside both TRD models feature red seatbelts and red contrast stitching, plus TRD badges on the headrests and floor mats. There is even one on the carpet in the trunk where you’ll find a donut underneath it for a spare. The Avalon came with a cargo next which makes hauling groceries in the trunk a bit more civilized. Both share a Toyota TRD steering wheel that is wrapped in leather, a TRD leather shifter, and the pedals get chromed too. There’s a handy wireless phone charger and a small light in the center console storage area so you can find the USB and power ports at night.

The Camry TRD starts at $32,920, which sure makes it seem like a better deal than the Avalon TRD that adds another ten grand to the tab. Is it worth it? Sure, unless you’d rather drive a car that is beige.

Read more
2020 Toyota Avalon TRD: Sure, Why Not?
2020 Toyota Camry TRD Drives Better Than We Expected
Toyota’s Avalon TRD Pro Track-Car Concept Is … Awesome?


2020 Toyota Camry TRD Specifications
PRICE $32,920
ENGINE 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/301 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 22/31 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 194.6 x 73.1 x 56.3 in
WHEELBASE 111.2 in
WEIGHT 3,556 lb
0-60 MPH 5.8 seconds
TOP SPEED 130 mph (est)


2020 Toyota Avalon TRD Specifications
PRICE $43,255/$46,287 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/301 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 22/31 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 195.9 x 72.8 x 55.9 in
WHEELBASE 113.0 in
WEIGHT 3,638 lb
0-60 MPH 6.0 seconds
TOP SPEED 130 mph (est)

The post 2020 Toyota Avalon and Camry Get a Dash of TRD Hot Sauce appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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New Car Reviews, News

2020 Nissan Maxima SR is Still a Sporty Surprise

The most recent Nissan Maxima has been around since 2015, and now, about five years into its life, Nissan crafted a good old midcycle refresh to entice potential buyers with some attractive new equipment. We took the updates as an opportunity to grab a 2020 Maxima SR and put the sporty four-door through its paces during a road trip from San Jose, California, to Ashland, Oregon.

This test car wore 19-inch, two-tone wheels and lustrous Sunset Drift paint. The hue costs an extra $395, but it’s one of the best colors in Nissan’s palette. The illumination package ($545) adds 20-color customizable interior accent lighting, and exterior ground lighting. A rear diffuser for $370 rounds out the exterior, a final touch on the sedan’s factory tuner appearance. Overall, this SR was lightly optioned due to its slew of standard equipment. Nissan did specify it with floor mats, a trunk mat and net, a first-aid kit, and bag hooks, all for a total of $375. (Once you’ve lived with cargo nets, it’s impossible to go back to a barren trunk and still be happy.)

Nissan’s 3.5-liter VQ-series V-6 engine feels at home in the Maxima. In this instance, it produces 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft torque, plenty of both to scoot the Maxima through holes in traffic or to blast it down the freeway. The engine is paired with a continually variable transmission that does a fantastic job of keeping a seamless supply of power on tap. It all sounds a bit like a chainsaw when the revs are up, but the startup noise is deep and throaty.

Steering is surprisingly heavy; Nissan opted for a hydro-electric system in the Maxima, and during more aggressive driving, it delivered nimble turn in and felt weighty in the corners. The wheel itself is wrapped in leather, with additional leather inlays. As the driver’s primary point of physical contact with the car, it is rather well executed.

Suspension tuning leans toward the sportier side. Even when the Maxima is full of passengers and baggage, it is still fun to run it across southern Oregon’s twistier roads. The active suspension-damping system keeps the chassis tidy in a variety of circumstances. Meanwhile, the brake pedal is firm and responsive. The overall package offers an impressive degree of capability and old-school charm.

This full-size sedan offers plenty of utility, too. The Maxima’s trunk is large enough to fit four carry-on bags with plenty of room to spare for a fifth, or maybe even a sixth. Our backseat passengers had plenty of space to stretch out in during the six-hour journey to Oregon. The dual sunroofs were a plus to those sitting in the rear; however, the rear armrest cupholders aren’t quite large enough to accommodate two to-go coffee cups.

Every Maxima receives Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 technology package for the 2020 model year. On long stretches of freeway driving, I enjoyed deploying adaptive cruise control, letting the car lend a hand when it came to traffic spacing and lane keeping.

The interior, while it has some nice materials, shows its age with big swathes of hard plastic. The center area around the shifter is super cluttered with dials, knobs, and buttons, leaving less room than ideal for storage. However, there is a neat cellphone cubby, which is great when a device is plugged into the USB port for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto duty.

The updated Maxima turned out to be a pleasant surprise as a roadtrip companion. However, from the powertrain to the interior, Nissan’s biggest sedan could use a few more updates to keep it even fresher. At $44,030 after destination charges, the Maxima SR is stuffed with equipment and has the performance capabilities to make it a trusty all-around daily driver. The Toyota Avalon and the Kia Cadenza are probably its closest competition, and both of those cars are a bit fresher than Nissan’s longstanding offering. But with the SR trim’s suspension tuning, it’s still the sportiest of the bunch.

My biggest takeaway from the time I spent in the 2020 Maxima SR: don’t ignore sedans when it comes to road-tripping. My passengers found the Maxima to be comfortable and spacious, and I enjoyed its lower center of mass and competent dynamics to a comparable SUV. It is, however, about time for Nissan to completely overhaul its biggest sedan.

2020 Nissan Maxima SR Specifications
PRICE $42,345/$44,030 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/300 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 261 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD Sedan
EPA MILEAGE 20/30 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 192.8 x 73.2 x 56.5 in
WHEELBASE 109.3 in
WEIGHT 3,664 lb
0-60 MPH 5.8 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph

The post 2020 Nissan Maxima SR is Still a Sporty Surprise appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

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Features, New Car Reviews, News

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Holiday Road Trip – Automobile

KERNVILLE, California—During the winter holidays, Automobile staffers are presented with a golden opportunity to commandeer a vehicle from the test fleet for a longer duration than usual. In my case, a 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0T would help me navigate the seasonal chaos, shuffle family around town, and welcome the start of a new decade. Leaving our Los Angeles headquarters and heading back home to Central California, I identified haunts worth exploring that I’d previously ignored; they either never crossed my radar or I had decided, for whatever long forgotten reason, they were “boring” when I was a resident of Kern County.

Take the Basque food scene in Bakersfield, for example. I finally tapped into it when I drove our long-term Infiniti QX30 in search of a low-key hangout with delicious grub. And I found, to my delight, a distinct lack of the usual sleepwalkers with cell phones in hand, poised to capture every mundane experience at any given place rather than actually enjoy the experience. The Selfie-Zombie Phenomenon is so out of hand that environs devoid of it somehow feel almost punk rock in nature.

These hidden gems are not far from my hometown. Years ago, as a student at Bakersfield College, I heard about Kern River Brewing Company. Located in Kernville in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, just more than 40 miles outside of Bakersfield alongside the Kern River, this award-winning establishment doubles as a brewpub and restaurant. Kernville itself—home to approximately 1,400 souls—boasts of its status as the gateway to the Sequoia National Forest. At this time of year, the town is enthusiastically celebrating Christmas; it’s filled with delightful lodges and offers some of the best rafting in California this side of the Kern. Beyond the December holidays, the town’s big to do is Whiskey Flat Days, an annual Wild West festival held for four days on Presidents’ Day weekend.

For years, though, I viewed a visit to Kern River Brewing as a daunting proposition, thanks to the somewhat intimidating road required to get there. But a desire to take the Hyundai Santa Fe on an adventure inspired me to journey to the mountains. As an added security measure, I called a friend to join me on the spontaneous trip, and he jumped into the passenger seat. The Santa Fe—seemingly ready for more than simple grocery hauling—would help me conquer the road to the Sequoia gateway.

With Santa Fe sales up by 8.3 percent through the first three-quarters of 2019, the midsize SUV is doing something right. Start up front, where the Limited 2.0T model gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 235 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. In addition to an abundance of standard tech and safety features, Hyundai’s recent updates to the 2020 Santa Fe include new door sills, dark chrome exterior trim, a rejiggered blind-spot monitor, and newly available rear-occupant alert. This test vehicle came in Symphony Silver, equipped with optional all-wheel drive for $1,700; total MSRP for this model is $40,295, and even at that price point, the fully equipped Santa Fe Limited 2.0T still comes across as a bargain compared to other midsize SUVs that may still lack some of its features.

Prior to embarking on the road to Kernville, I made a coffee run to one of my all-time favorite coffee shops, Dagny’s Coffee Company. For a seamless use of Google Maps and Spotify, I connected my phone to the USB port to activate—for my first time ever—Android Auto. The hype over and widespread adoption of Android Auto now makes far more sense. Utilizing my smartphone’s apps via the 8.0-inch touchscreen interface was not only advantageous, but also turned out to be one of the cabin’s biggest highlights.

New vehicles tend to be equipped with a load of features most people do not utilize (or is it just me?). But in the Santa Fe’s case, I had Android Auto, the surround-view camera system, heated seats/steering wheel, blind-spot monitor, and high-beam assist in heavy rotation. We’re all for high-tech features, provided they actually do something useful; the Santa Fe excelled in this regard.

The drive to Kern River Brewing started out on an open country road, but once we got onto the scenic stretch of Highway 178 East through Kern River Canyon, it became both spectacular and scary with tight twists and curves; however, despite driving through a rock-fall area and it being the winter season, the road conditions were impeccable. The Santa Fe handled it all smoothly and with aplomb, leading us to pull into a turnout to admire the Kern River, the natural rock formations that surrounded us, and the Hyundai itself.

In Sport mode on the canyon road, I tested lane-keep assist on some portions where the view ahead was clear, and the system’s accuracy surpassed expectations. Additionally, the powertrain’s quietness combined with breathtaking forward vision and solid ride quality to help relax us as we tackled the hair-raising road.

Roadside attractions en route to Kernville included Children of the Earth Natural Hot Springs, Silver City Ghost Town, and Isabella Lake. We made a stop at the latter for a quick breather, where an epic view of Kern River Valley welcomed us. When we arrived in Kernville, it felt like a time machine had spit us out into an era where a handshake was as good as a written agreement. The parking lot at Kern River Brewing appeared to be on overflow, yet we managed to snag a slot near the entrance. Inside, the brewpub was warm, practically built from the trees in its backyard, and everything I hoped it would be.

After enjoying a tasty lunch, we climbed back into heated seats and set off to survey the cozy town and its further delights. It turned out that the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0T was an excellent companion for an experience ride that made us remember some of the best things about being alive.

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0T Specifications
PRICE $38,595/$40,295 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 235 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 260 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 20/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 187.8 x 74.4 x 66.1 in
WHEELBASE 108.9 in
WEIGHT 4,085 lb
0-60 MPH 7.8 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph (est)

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