37 years old… a descriptor that fits both myself, and the Toyota Camry. But I look at what the Toyota Camry has accomplished and I wonder, what am I doing with my life? Camry has become the household name in family sedans, endearing itself to millions of families nationwide. I have to believe everyone has a Camry story. It’s like the automotive equivalent of Kevin Bacon. And it’s usually likened to vanilla ice cream, boring and plain to some, but ultimately still the most popular.
My Camry story is that I actually didn’t have one in the family until my first job at Toyota, 10 lifetimes ago. It was a 2012 SE V6. Smooth, powerful V6, but a bit uninspired in terms of any actual handling or ride control. Flash forward a few generations and it brings us to the hero of our story, the 2020 Camry TRD. Like many in their mid to upper 30’s, the Camry seems to have found a crossfit gym and is sleek, toned and buttoned down for it. No #dadbod here, except maybe the one driving it.
At its heart, the Camry TRD still relies on a smooth, powerful V6 remains, pumping out 300+ horsepower. This is no different from the V6 that can be found in either XLE or XSE guise. When everyone else has gone to requisite tiny turbo 4-cylinders, Toyota soldiers on with their tried and true V6. Who here had Toyota pumping out 300+ horsepower family sedans on their Covid bingo card? 300 horsepower, let that sink in. Just over 20 years ago, the 2nd generation Lexus GS debuted with a 300 horsepower V8 that made it, for a brief time, the fastest production sedan in the world.
Where the Camry TRD does deviate from its brethren is the way it handles itself. Benefitting from unique springs (which do lower the car ever so slightly) and sport shocks and added bracing to help with overall rigidity, there’s a sharpness and noticeable decrease in slop when putting the Camry through some enthusiastic paces. Dare I say… enjoyable? Bigger brakes with added stopping power are also direct without being overly grabby around town. These brakes with their red calipers are tucked behind lovely looking matte black wheels. The extra burble of the TRD specific cat-back exhaust is also well-matched with the persona of the car without being obnoxious. The vehicle is responsive without being heavy handed, and wonderfully capable while still comfortable to drive day in and day out. I think this shows some of the best execution of their new TNGA platform that I’ve seen yet, it’s just a bit sad that it’s relegated to a limited production iteration.
Speaking of persona, there’s definitely more of it in the design itself. We loved the Supersonic Red, a color only available on the TRD, and the optional two-tone metallic black roof accented the lower body kit found on all TRDs and blackened headlights. Be forewarned, the lowered suspension and addition of the lower front spoiler could make clearing curbs and parking blocks an issue. Out back, you’ll find the loudest part of the TRD pieces, not the exhaust, but the pedestal spoiler. It’s not as outlandish as a WRX STI or the Civic Type R, but it does stand out. Again, I didn’t find it offensive, but some neighbors did ask if I was having a mid-life crisis. (Please, that’s hopefully still a few years away, and I’d want something a little more brash than this!).
Stepping inside, we find more unique TRD touches like red stitching and TRD embroidery on the headrests, a TRD shift knob, sport pedals and no sunroof. That’s right, no sunroof here on the TRD. The TRD is built on what would normally be an SE equivalent trim (although there is no SE V6), so a bit spartan. You do get a power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, passive key with easy entry and push button start. LED headlights are standard, as is the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced safety tech. There’s no navigation system, but you do have the option of wiring up your phone for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Camry TRD does lose some flexibility, as the fold down rear seat that would typically expand the cargo capacity from the trunk gets nixed in the name of added bracing for that handling prowess. Normally I’d be up in arms about this, but the trunk is actually quite spacious and swallowed up quite the Costco load for us. As long as you’re not trying to bring home a flatscreen TV you should be fine.
Some options we’d like to see on the Camry TRD given its $32,000+ price tag:
Blind Spot Detection (coming for 2021!)
Rear Air Vents
Rear Center Arm Rest
Adjustable Rear Headrests
Upgraded Sound System (will be available for 2021!)
Illuminated visor mirrors (oddly missing on many Camry trims)
Better manual control of the transmission (oddly the Highlander implements this better)
The Camry continues to find itself in new ways, and I like where this TRD line is hopefully headed. Toyota trucks have long enjoyed the benefit of TRD-derived special editions and trims, and it’s good to see the car side of the house finally get some love and attention, especially in this truck and SUV crazed time. Vanilla finally gets some sprinkles.Published in