In the mid-2000s, a small trend emerged in the car market. Normal base model commuter cars started getting absurd appearance packages. Cars like the Saturn Ion Redline and Jeep Compass Rallye tried to capture the tuner culture market that had only been capitalized recently in video games such as Need For Speed Underground. Unfortunately, these cars were only seen as corporations trying to sell underpowered stock cars with larger wheels and even larger spoilers. With that, slowly but surely, these cars started to die out, almost. In 2020, Toyota released the Camry TRD. When released to the public, most automotive journalists and consumers saw it as a shameless attempt to throw more TRD branding on a car that had no sporting pedigree and had no need to be upgraded. The good news is, they were all wrong.
Let’s start on the outside. The single most obvious part of the TRD Camry is the gloss black rear spoiler. While it looks large in pictures, in reality, it’s no larger than that of an Elantra R. Accompanying the black spoiler are a set of black TRD rims, black round body trim including a front and rear splitter as well as side skirts, and a black roof that is part of the two-tone paint scheme on every TRD Camry. This particular model comes in Cavalry Blue, which again, looks suspiciously similar to the Hyundai N blue. Regardless, it still looks great even with the red accents that appear on various spots around the car. In short, it looks like a Camry went through a Forza Horizon 5 upgrade bin. I love it. There is no need for the TRD to look like this, and yet I couldn’t be happier that it does.
Inside the cabin is a mix of regular Toyota parts, and specially made TRD trim pieces unique only to this model. The main differences between this and a normal Camry are the red seatbelts. Yes, red seat belts in a Camry, even in the back seats. The theme of “red” also appears in some of the dashboard, steering wheel, gear knob stitching, red dials, as well as red and black inserts in the fabric seats. For some reason, this model didn’t have those seats. My assumption is that this is due to cost-cutting or a need to get these cars shipped, but it did take away from the interior.
Aside from the red trim and TRD logos, the interior of the Camry is similar to that of a base model. Because of that, there are no heated seats, no sunroof, no navigation, and basic driver assist functions. I have mixed feelings about this. For one, the extra $6,500 or so you spend on the TRD is for the appearance and tuning of the car and that’s how it should be. If you’re buying a “sports car” you should expect that money to go towards things that make it sporty. However, the $32,900 price tag is similar to that of a Camry XSE which comes with most of (if not all) the features that are absent here. While I would like a bit more equipment like that sunroof or extra driver assist, I’m not overly upset at a lack of them. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything of note for the rest of the interior. The materials are very nice and feel solid like any Toyota, the cloth seats are very comfortable and the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels better than any sort of Alcantara. The car I drove also came with a JBL sound system, wireless charging, forward collision warning and lane keep assist, all of which are standard except for the JBL, which is an extra $1000.
Guess what? This car drives beautifully. The Camry TRD comes with the same 301hp, 3.5l V6 present in the XLE and XSE V6, which is more than any car in its class. Couple that with TRD-tuned front and rear springs, upgraded brakes, and a glorious 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters, and you have a car verging on sports car territory. 0-60 happens in a puzzlingly fast 5.6 seconds, and the wheelspin off the line doesn’t stop this car one bit. You can tell through the ride that this car wants to be taken seriously. You can feel more of the road in your butt, but not so much that it wants to be a BMW. It turns in tight to corners and has a fantastic engine note thanks to its DUAL CAT BACK EXHAUSTS. This car is insane, and it gets better. Because the TRD Camry has the same engine as some of the other cars in the lineup, you get the same MPG granted you don’t drive it like you stole it (22 city, 31 hwy, 25 combined).
I am so insanely impressed by this car. Toyota is known to put its whole heart and soul into a car and this is no exception. Everything from the wing to the red brake calipers, to the acceleration, is pure insanity. There is no reason this car should exist, and I mean it in the best way possible.
I would like to give a ginormous thank you to Brian and Brandon from Antwerpen Toyota for letting me put the first mile on this *still wrapped* TRD. They have an awesome selection of new and pre-owned Toyotas and are some of my favorite people to work with. Go to antwerpentoyota.com to visit their inventory.Published in