2020 Toyota Camry TRD Fast Facts
3.5-liter V6 (301 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm; 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
22 city / 31 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
10.8 city, 7.6 highway, 9.4 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $31,040 (U.S) / $35,990 (Canada)
As Tested: $32,920 (U.S.) / $38,655 (Canada)
Prices include $955 destination charge in the United States and $1,870 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
I once wrote that the Toyota Camry is a jack-of-all-trades kind of car – a balanced machine that does lots of things well but not one thing in any spectacular way. I’ve also long told anyone shopping for a mid-size sedan that while the Camry is great, if they want something sporty, they need to give their attention to Honda and Mazda.
Toyota has decided to do something about that.
No, they haven’t redesigned the Camry to be the equal of an Accord or Mazda 6 when it comes to sport-sedan driving. Instead, they’ve reached into the parts bin to TRD the hell out of a Camry.
It’s kinda ridiculous, but it kinda works.
It starts with the venerable 3.5-liter V6, which doesn’t get any performance enhancements when compared to other trims. Perhaps Toyota feels that 301 ponies and 267 lb-ft of torque is enough. An eight-speed automatic transmission gets that grunt to the front wheels.
The exhaust does get tuned to sound sportier, and the transmission gets paddle shifters and a sport mode, so there’s that.
That doesn’t mean the TRD treatment is just about badging. While the engine is unmolested, the chassis is tuned for better performance. Torsional rigidity is increased, the car is lowered 0.6 inches, and stiffer coil springs and sway bars increase roll stiffness (44 percent upfront, 67 percent in the rear). TRD-specific shocks and 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza summer tires are part of the package.
As are large front-brake rotors (from 10 inches up to 12.9) with dual-piston calipers.
The tweaks work – this Camry handles a bit better than other versions, and while the ride is stiffer, the sacrifice falls within acceptable levels for the daily commute.
Indeed, this car handles well enough that I could see it being used as a track-school ride for the true newbies. The ones who need the training wheels provided by FWD and safety nannies. I swear I haven’t touched the whiskey yet today – it really is a spritely thing.
NASCAR uses a modified version of this car as a pace car at some races for a reason beyond corporate dealing.
Packages like this aren’t complete without cosmetic changes, and Toyota obliges with a black grille, black and red badging, red-painted brake calipers, red pinstriping, and stainless steel exhaust tips.
Inside, red stitching, TRD logos galore, and red seatbelts remind you that your Camry has been sprinkled with cayenne pepper and hot sauce, so to speak.
You also get a rear spoiler, front splitter, side aero skirts, and rear diffuser. Toyota claims the aero elements are functional
The look is a bit boy-racer, and it gives the impression that some desperate dad plunked down extra to avoid looking uncool in a Camry, but one can’t deny it stands out. This car isn’t getting lost in the sea of crossovers and generic mid-size sedans at your local strip mall.
It’s not pretty, exactly, but it sort of works, as long as you embrace the ridiculousness.
Feature-wise, the TRD treatment doesn’t take away the creature comforts. To wit, standard features include SafetySense driver-aid (pre-collision with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams), rearview camera, 7-inch touchscreen for infotainment, USB, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and keyless entry and starting.
A $500 two-tone roof and the Supersonic Red paint job ($425) were the only options.
With destination and those two options, the $31,040 base price moved to $32,920. Fuel economy remains a respectable 22 city/31 highway/25 combined.
I like to cook, and I like to season my meat, often with Cajun seasoning and/or cayenne pepper. I don’t want to eat bland food. And a lot of drivers don’t want to drive bland cars. The Camry, of course, is often accused of being bland.
The TRD Camry is anything but. It’s not a pure sports sedan – it’s a bland car that has been seasoned to spice it up. With mostly successful results.
You get a dressed-up Camry that looks like the old J.C. Whitney catalog spewed all over it, but if you can handle the snide looks the styling may earn you, you get a Camry that’s enjoyable enough to drive while still comfortable in terms of both ride and features, without a huge price or fuel-economy penalty.
Go ahead, ladle that seasoning on.
[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]