Driven

Not Subtle: 2021 Toyota Camry TRD

Most people look a bit confused when they first see the 2021 Camry TRD. Many, I’m sure, are wondering if it is a factory model. Did Toyota do that to the car, or was that someone’s adventure into the parts catalog? Rest assured, we can definitely confirm it is the former, for the benefit of the latter. The Camry TRD is the sedan’s red-headed stepchild, or that weird uncle. Whichever you prefer, in the context of Toyota vehicles, the odd-ones-out are usually a good thing.

Lets talk about the outside first because that’s where things are most notable. There’s a full ground effects kit going on here, with a red line and a wonderfully ridiculous wing out back. Also protruding from the rear bumper are a couple of cannon sized TRD exhaust outlets that are less sonorous than advertised. There’s some great looking lightweight wheels and an optional black roof to round out the look. It’s an acquired taste, but by the end of the week we were drinking the Kool-Aid and the Camry TRD won us over. Surprisingly, it wasn’t just about appearances.

The Toyota Camry TRD is a perfect example of a collection of little things going a long way. The TRD model sits on stiffer springs that also lower the Camry by .6 inches. There’s also a set of new anti-roll bars as well as larger brakes up front. So what does all this mean? It means this Camry can finally unleash that fun chassis we raved about a couple of years ago. The Camry TRD is a sedan from Toyota that you’d be happy to find a back road in and just enjoy. That conclusion alone was a bit of a shock to the system. After all, most of us grew up with the mid-to-late 90’s Camry, which was….not like this. This Camry features all that suspension tuning with a 3.5L V6 rated at 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque and it’s all going through the front wheels. Sure the steering is fairly numb and uncommunicative, but you’d be hard pressed to tell with how precise the front end turns in, and stays on whatever line you want. But the transmission is definitely the Achilles heel here, as it doesn’t feel like it’s been retuned for this TRD trim. It’s way too eager to upshift and conserve fuel, even when you’re in full Sport and “manual” mode. We say “manual” mode because the car will and does decide to shift for you, even if you think you’ve selected a gear. What’s worse, when you do try and select a gear, the wheel mounted shift paddles take an age to communicate with the car.

Inside is a bit of where the Camry TRD falls down. Many of the accoutrements of the higher trims aren’t available here. Sure there’s red stitching, TRD badges, and red seatbelts, but that’s about it. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, which is good since there’s no on-board navigation. Notable omissions are heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a sunroof, and wireless charging; all things you can get elsewhere for the same price. The standard sound system is also poor without the optional upgraded TRD Premium Audio with JBL package. These omissions do make a bit of sense however, when you realize that the Camry TRD is the cheapest way to get into a V6 powered Camry. If that’s your goal, look no further.

On the outside the changes that the Camry TRD undergo aren’t exactly subtle, but under the skin they are. Those changes underneath are what make this Camry great, and that’s why we thoroughly enjoyed our week with it.

-Scott Villeneuve

2021 Toyota Camry TRD$32,185
Two-tone Midnight Black Metallic Roof and Rear Spoiler$500
Destination Charges$995
As-Tested MSRP$33,680

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