Toyota's Avalon TRD Pro Track-Car Concept Is … Awesome?
Parts from five different Toyotas help make this beast handle.
When we first drove the Toyota Avalon TRD a couple months ago, we said that it was likely going to be hard for folks to wrap their minds around. But what about a TRD Pro version?
The TRD Pro designation is used in production only for Toyota trucks and SUVs at the moment—there are TRD Pro versions of the Sequoia, Tundra, Tacoma, and 4Runner—but for the 2019 SEMA show, the Japanese automaker is experimenting with what the TRD Pro line could mean for the cars in its lineup. Alongside a handful of impressive Supra builds, Toyota dropped its newest and most unlikely track monster: the Avalon TRD Pro concept.
The existing TRD Pro models are differentiated by specially tuned Fox shocks, big skidplates, knobby tires, and clever off-road drive modes. When Dan (pronounced "don") Gardner and the team at Dan Gardner Spec were approached about developing an Avalon TRD Pro, they knew the Avalon would require a very different kind of modification. You might recognize the Dan Gardner name from his shop's previous work on Toyota products for SEMA. In 2015 it built a stripped, caged, front-drive Toyota Sienna, and in 2017 created a 600-hp manual-transmission C-HR. These folks have real experience setting up race cars, and they don't mess around.
Although a lot of SEMA show cars are just that—all show—Gardner estimates the Avalon TRD Pro concept has completed more than 500 laps at numerous race tracks over the course of its development. After all the changes the DG-Spec team made to this car and the tuning they did on track, the modified dadmobile achieved a 1:25.3 lap on the Streets of Willow track at Willow Springs—and the team barely overhauled the Avalon's 301-hp V-6. Needless to say, that is a stonking lap time.
According to Gardner, "The heart of this car is the custom differential," which DG-Spec developed with Japanese race shop OS Giken. Output is up to 330 horsepower thanks to an intake and exhaust, and the new diff helps ensure that every single horse worth of power makes it to the pavement. "That thing makes this car multiple seconds a lap faster at any track," Gardner says. But even a trick differential wouldn't help much if they retained the Avalon's stock all-season tires. Out go the all-seasons, replaced by 275-section Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3Rs—the tire Goodyear developed for the track-special Camaro ZL1 1LE. DG-Spec also swapped the wheels for 18x9-inch Lacks rollers with full carbon-fiber barrels that save 15 pounds of unsprung mass per corner.
Gardner tries to use as many original Toyota parts as possible in his builds, and the Avalon TRD Pro contains parts from five Toyota models—in that way, it's not unlike a duck-billed, beaver-tailed platypus of the automotive world, if the platypus were a much faster swimmer. Gardner's Avalon uses a transmission oil cooler straight off the Tundra pickup, lightweight aluminum uprights from the RAV4, modified Prius suspension uppers for adjustable camber arms, and camber plates from an Australian-market Celica. Everything else is fully custom or all Avalon. A platypus, indeed.
Suspension pieces have been swapped out for easily adjustable remote-reservoir struts up front and two-way inverted-mount shocks out back. A 1.25-inch anti-roll bar stiffens up the rear, and Gardner tells us the Avalon TRD Pro can be set up as quite the drifter despite its front-drive roots. Stoptech front brakes and Hawk racing pads all around help limit brake fade and haul the Avalon down from triple-digit speeds.
Lighter suspension components, wheels, and tires plus a custom carbon-fiber hood add up to some serious weight savings. Even without modifying the interior and still retaining air conditioning, infotainment, and active safety features, the Avalon TRD Pro is nevertheless 150 pounds lighter than what you could buy in the showroom.
Speaking of the showroom, any chance any of this will make it to production? Gardner says that if there's enough demand, they could make it happen. He tells us that anything that fits on this car would also fit on the Camry, which means there are more than half a million cars sold every year that could benefit from these parts. Here's hoping there are enough people looking for a hellacious oddball like this car to make it real.