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All-wheel drive, new paint jobs, added trim level highlight 2021 Toyota Avalon options

The Toyota Avalon XSE Nightshade Edition is a new offering for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Toyota is giving the Avalon a host of upgrades for the 2021 model year as well as introducing a new trim level and making all-wheel drive available. The 2021 Avalon goes on sale later this year.

The 2021 Toyota Avalon will be sold in 10 variations. The Avalon XLW, XSE Nightshade, Limited, Touring, and TRD are powered by a V6 engine. The Avalon Hybrid is available in XLE, XSE, and Limited grades. All-wheel drive is available in the Avalon XLE and Limited.

2021 Toyota Avalon NightshadeThe Avalon XSE Nightshade Edition features black-painted 19-inch alloy wheels.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Toyota's addition of the Avalon XSE trim is a move that brings the Avalon lineup in closer step with other Toyota sedan and SUV offerings. The XSE grade traditionally features a sportier suspension setup and design elements traditionally thought of as meant for sport-centric models like blacked out trim and multi-tailpipe designs. These hold true in the Avalon XSE, which is a step below the Touring model and equipped similarly.

The new-for-2021 XSE Nightshade Edition is based on the 2020 Avalon XSE. It get the black grille, mirror caps, rear spoiler, and name badges from the Avalon XSE and adds black-painted 19-inch alloy wheels, black window trim and door handles, and a black shark fin antenna. The Avalon XSE Nightshade is available on models painted in Midnight Black Metallic, Wind Chill Pearl, and Celestial Silver Metallic exterior colors.

2021 Toyota Avalon NightshadeOther black elements on the 2021 Avalon Nightshade include black window trim and door handlesPhoto courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Buyers have new paint choices. The Avalon TRD is available in a two-tone paint job that features a black roof paired with either the Windchill Pearl or new Ice Edge body colors. Ice Edge replaces Supersonic Red, which now becomes available for the other Avalon grades. Buyers can also get their Avalon TRD in Midnight Black Metallic. New for 2021, Toyota is offering the model with the choice of summer-only tires and it gets a new startup display.

The Parisian Night Pearl paint color option has been replaced by Blueprint. Opulent Amber, Harbor Gray Metallic, Celestial Silver Metallic, and Ruby Flare Pearl continue to be offered in all other Avalon variants.

New interior colors include Cognac with Black in the Avalon XSE Hybrid and Touring, and, in the Limited, Black replaces Beige.

2021 Toyota Avalon Limited BlueprintThe Avalon Limited is available with all-wheel drive and has, for the first time, Android Auto.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

For the first time in Avalon history, the model gets all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option. Toyota is estimating that 20 percent of customers will opt for the drivetrain - a percentage on-par with the take rate of other AWD models in the Toyota lineup. Buyers can't the model as a standalone option on Avalon's XLE and Limited, which combine Dynamic Torque Control torque vectoring technology with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.

Dynamic Torque Control AWD (only available in North America) can direct up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels in response to acceleration from a start or slippage at the front wheels. When AWD is not needed, the system senses this and allows the car to drive as a front-wheel drive model, which helps with fuel savings. The system does not encroach on the dimensions of the cabin.

The EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of the Avalon with AWD is 25 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined.

2021 Toyota Avalon Limited BlueprintToyota is offering the Avalon with all-wheel drive for the first time.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Toyota is adding Android Auto compatibility to a roster of infotainment technology that already includes Android Auto. There are also new USB-C charging ports. Avalon also features Toyota's first integration of smartwatch or Amazon Alexa-enabled device connectivity, as part of Toyota Remote Connect. Users can unlock the car's doors, start the engine, or check fuel level, from the convenience of an Apple Watch, compatible smartwatch, or Amazon Alexa-enabled device.

The Avalon continues to be equipped with Toyota Safety Sense-P as standard. That includes a pre-collision braking warning system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams. Blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, clearance sonar, and rear cross traffic braking are available,

Toyota continues to make the Avalon in Georgetown, Kentucky.

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The Hyundai Palisade got a mild refresh for 2023.


Earlier this year, Hyundai announced changes to the Palisade for 2023. The list includes a new front fascia, an updated grille with new headlights and daytime running lights, a 12-inch touchscreen with navigation, and more. A new XRT trim joined the lineup as well, bringing brawny off-road styling and dar exterior trim. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the SUV, which starts at a little more than $32,000.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeA new XRT trim adds rugged styling. Hyundai

The Palisade's powertrain carries over from 2022, which includes a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the SUV got several new and updated technology features, including a more powerful wireless device charging pad, an updated digital key system, and a larger infotainment display.

As Hyundai's flagship SUV, the Palisade edges on luxury territory, with plush leather upholstery and a serene cabin that offers excellent noise cancellation and comfort. Captain's chairs and seven-passenger seating are available, but a second-row bench comes standard and brings eight-passenger capacity to the SUV.

Muscular SUVs are more popular than ever before, so Hyundai gave the posh Palisade an outdoorsy treatment with its XRT trim. The new Palisade XRT builds on the SEL trim with 20-inch wheels, a more rugged bumper and lower body cladding, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. To be clear, XRT is an appearance package that does not improve off-road capability to a large degree.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeTop trims border on the quality and design of some luxury brands. Hyundai

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes forward collision warnings with avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, driver attention warnings, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing for the base Palisade SE starts at $36,245, which includes a $1,295 destination charge. The top Calligraphy AWD model starts at $52,095 after destination. All-wheel drive is available for all trims as an added-cost option.

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The Ascent got updated styling and fresh tech.


Subaru's lineup is full of useful, adventure-ready vehicles, but most are not accommodating for full-size families. The Ascent solved that issue for the automaker a few years ago, and has been a popular family option since. It got a mild update for 2023 with a facelift and new tech. The Ascent comes in five trims: Base, Premium, Onyx Edition, Limited, and Touring. It's expected to go on sale in fall 2022.

The Subaru comes with a new front fascia design that adds a new grille and aggressive styling up front. Lower air ducts help improve aerodynamics, and in higher trims the components come with chrome trim. The SUV's C-shaped taillights got a refresh as well, and now feature a sharper shape to better match the vehicle's overall styling.

2023 Subaru AscentThe new front fascia design is more aggressive than before. Subaru

The Ascent's powertrain remains in place, which is a turbocharged 2.54-liter four-cylinder making 260 horsepower. It sends power to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission that offers a simulated eight-speed manual shifting mode. Subaru's X-Mode driving mode comes standard, which alters throttle response and other vehicle behavior to maintain traction in slippery conditions. Torque vectoring, which allows the vehicle to shift torque between wheels that need it most, also comes standard.

A new Onyx Edition trim joins the Ascent line for 2022. It brings a standard 11.6-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon sound system, power seats, and a panoramic sunroof. The base Ascent comes with features such as 18-inch wheels, USB inputs, tri-zone automatic climate controls, three rows of seating, and a whopping 19 cupholders. Subaru also offers an optional Cabin Connect system, which allows the driver or front passenger to communicate to people behind them through the stereo using a front-cabin-mounted microphone.

2023 Subaru AscentThe Ascent's interior is available with great tech, such as an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Subaru

Subaru EyeSight safety equipment comes standard with every Ascent. The system is improved for 2023 with a wider field of vision and new software. A new wide-angle camera joins EyeSight's existing two-camera setup to provide better pedestrian and cyclist detection when approaching intersections. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane change assist are available.

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