Winter Driving

Toyota adding all-wheel drive option to Camry and Avalon but not in time for this winter

Toyota is adding an all-wheel drive option to the Camry for 2020 and the Avalon for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Toyota

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Toyota buyers will have less skids and twists to deal with when they add the new all-wheel drive (AWD) option to their new Camry or Avalon.

Recently, the demand for all-wheel drive has increased dramatically as the option becomes cheaper for consumers and more widely available. Toyota has listened, bringing to market the first AWD Camry since 1991 and the first-ever Avalon with the equipment and technology. Back then, the technology was option was called AllTrac.

2020 Toyota Camry XLE AWD All-wheel drive can help vehicles maintain traction in inclement weather.Photo courtesy of Toyota

This version of AWD technology made its debut in the current Toyota RAV4 generation when it was introduced in 2019. Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control AWD system provides torque when needed, where needed, allowing a computer to do the calculating while drivers remain assured and confident behind the wheel.

One of the quibbles with older AWD technology is that it significantly reduced a vehicle's fuel efficiency. Toyota wishes to assure customers that it's AWD system "balances added traction with exemplary fuel efficiency."

Buyers can get the Dynamic Torque Control AWD system as a standalone option on the 2020 Toyota Camry LE, XLE, SE, and XSE trims levels and on the 2021 Toyota Avalon XLE and Limited grades.

2020 Toyota Camry XLE AWD Which ones are AWD? Looking at the badging on the trunk lid.Photo courtesy of Toyota

All-wheel drive will be available on 2020 Toyota Camry models just in time for the snow melt - early spring. Toyota's Cold-Weather Package, which adds heated seats and mirrors on the LE, heated seats, mirrors and steering wheel on the SE, and heated steering wheel on the XLE and XSE, can be added to any Camry AWD model. The 2020 Toyota Camry starts at $24,295. No pricing is available for the all-wheel drive option, yet.

The Avalon AWD will be a model year 2021 sedan and go on-sale next autumn. Both XLE and Limited AWD grades will receive a standard heated steering wheel in addition to the system. Pricing for the 2021 Avalon will be available closer to the product's launch.

AWD models can be spotted on dealer lots by checking for "AWD" badging on the trunk lid of the vehicle.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Ford F-Series Super Duty is a potent pickup.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For many, a pickup truck is as much a daily drivable vehicle as it is a tool for getting the job done. How much horsepower and torque a powertrain puts out is a big part of that. Most want enough to get the job done while keeping an eye toward fuel economy.

What's the difference between horsepower and torque? In simple terms, torque is the pull of the powertrain that gets you off the line from a full stop. Horsepower is what gets you going the speed you want and keeps you there.

Diesel engines tend to have more torque than gasoline-powered engines but have less horsepower. There's no perfect torque to horsepower ratio. It's all about which combination works best for you.

The engines on this list have the highest amount of horsepower and are available in 2021 model year pickup trucks in the U.S. See the 2020 horsepower champs by clicking here and the 2020 torque winners by clicking here.

No. 5 (tie) - 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500: 6.2-liter V8

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Seven different engines are available in the 2021 Silverado 1500 range, any of which provides strong payload and towing capabilities. The range-topping gas engine is the real showstopper, however, as the 6.2-liter V8 makes 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are good enough to help the truck deliver a 13,300-pound towing capacity and a 2,060-pound payload rating.

No. 5 (tie) - 2021 GMC Sierra 1500: 6.2-liter V8

2021 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Carbon Pro

Photo courtesy of GMC

Like its Chevy brother, the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 has an available 6.2-liter V8 that achieves 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. It has a 2,000-pound payload rating and a 11,800-pound trailering capacity.

No. 4 - 2021 Ford F-150: PowerBoost hybrid powertrain

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

430 horsepower

Ford's brand-new hybrid F-150 hits the market in 2021 and will bring some legitimate power numbers to back up its high-tech fuel system. The PowerBoost hybrid powertrain uses a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 with electric motors to produce a strong 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax diesel

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

445 horsepower

Diesel engines are usually best known for their torque delivery, but Chevrolet is offering a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel in the 2021Silverado 2500 HD that defies the tradition. It makes 445 horsepower and a whopping 910 pound-feet of torque, which allows the Chevy truck to tow up to 18,500 in certain configurations.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax diesel

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD\u200b

Photo courtesy of GMC

445 horsepower

The engine in the GMC Sierra 2500 HD is the same as in the Silverado 2500 HD. It produces the same 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque from the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel that's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. It can tow up to 18,150 pounds.

No. 2 - 2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty: 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8

2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

475 horsepower

The 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 that powers the top-of-the-line trucks in Ford's F-Series Super Duty lineup produces 475 horsepower, but that's not even the most special thing about it. The Blue Oval has built a diesel engine to dominate the towing and payload wars, and as a result it produces 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque.

No. 1 - 2021 Ram 1500 TRX: 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

702 horsepower

There's no competition here. The Ram 1500 TRX is far and away the most powerful truck on the market today – or any other day, for that matter. The 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 that powers the 2021 TRX produces 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, and makes the Ram the most powerful and fastest mass-produced truck in the world. All of that power helps the truck deliver an 8,100-pound towing capacity and a zero to 60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds.

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA was redesigned for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz GLA was completely redesigned for the 2021 model year, taking it from a mundane tuna can-like hatchback to a zippy, more traditional small SUV. Everything about it fits into the modern Mercedes SUV lineup. It's a mini Merc. It's formulaic and perfectly fine but it's just not that nice compared to what else you can get for around $40,000 (starting price is just over $36,000)

Mercedes sells the GLA in three variants with another on the way. There's the traditional GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC, and the AMG GLA 35. A more high-performance version of the model, the AMG GLA 45 is coming soon. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available on most models. A variety of drive modes allow the driver to choose how much torque they want to allocate to what wheels and additional setup options for suspension and dynamics are available on pricier GLAs.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 The car's infotainment and driver information screens are housed together as one unit.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

As tested, the GLA 250 was powered by the standard 2.0-liter turbo-four that is paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. It delivers 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The SUV had trouble off the line during daily driving. The GLA's turbo lag added together with low-end gearing confusion to make the mundane drive from stop sign to stop sign in a neighborhood a comfortable creep followed by a robust burst of energy. Once out of the neighborhood and up to full speed on the highway, the powertrain performed far better, however, there was nothing elegant about it.

The model's steering is numb, which is typical for its class. It's steering circle isn't as tight as is optimal.

Any promise of a tranquil ride that you would think would be relatively standard with a Mercedes is not something the GLA possesses. However, for as much road noise that permeates the cabin, it's still less than the awful rattling the previous generation GLA allowed in. For that we can all be thankful.

The added height of the GLA gives the vehicle a more SUV-like seating position than its crossover predecessor. Ingress and egress is easy, as it should be with a model of these proportions. Head- and legroom for front passengers is fantastic for a vehicle of the GLA's size.

Seats in the GLA are not uncomfortable, and certainly not the worst that Mercedes offers.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes wins points for the GLA's tech, which is easy to use, responsive, and pleasing to the eye. The GLA comes standard with the Mercedes-Benz two screens, in one large housing. Its Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) operating system runs two 7.0-inch screens. The centrally located screen, which controls the infotainment system, reacts to touch and can also be operated by a touchpad controller on the center console. The list of standard equipment also includes four USB ports, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Buyers can upgrade their model to include a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen, 12-speaker Burmester audio system, wireless device charging, a Wi-Fi hot spot, head-up display, and navigation.

Mercedes gives every GLA a reasonable amount of active safety features. The list includes a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, vehicle exit warning, automatic emergency braking, driver drowsiness monitoring, and crosswind assist. To get the most desirable safety features, GLA buyers need to add on two packages, which drive up the price $2,800.

The SUV has ample space in the second row for adults.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The GLA's interior materials, cabin noise, and unrefined powertrain make it seem like a less-than premium SUV. The car's tech offerings give it a boost, but other models offer a longer list of standard and available safety technology.

Buyers who are savvy and looking to get the most bang for their buck will want to test drive similarly sized models like the 2020 Buick Encore GX, Jaguar E-Pace (it was refreshed for the 2021 model year with major changes), and Mazda CX-30 before committing to the GLA. They have interiors that are just as nice and offer price tags that are more wallet-friendly.

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