2021 Toyota Camry TRD - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Proven reliability combined with cutting edge performance
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
In the latest Consumer Reports (CR) "New Cars" guide (March, 2021), only one midsized sedan achieves a ranking of 90 out of 100. That sedan is the Toyota Camry (Hybrid LE). Toyota manufactures no fewer than 12 different models of the Camry, 9 powered by 4 cylinder engines and 3 by V6 motors. Hybrid power is also available on some 4 cylinder variants. The subject of this week's test is the raciest variant of them all, the Camry TRD which has received special high performance attention from Toyota Racing Development. If you are looking for a keen bargain in the high performance sedan market, The Camry TRD combines Toyota's established reliability and comfort with cutting edge speed and agility.
From the outside, the TRD is not shy about flaunting its performance chops. You instantly notice its double tiered front splitter, fluted side aero-skirts, pedestal mounted rear wing and complex rear diffuser. All these refinements are finished in gloss black, with delicate red pin-striping encircling the body. Warning: do not crash a curb with your TRD because it will prove to be very expensive. Adding to the visual impact are 19x8J matte black alloy rims capped with Michelin Primacy MXM4 rubber (TW 500, Traction AA). The flat black rims are enlivened by red painted brake calipers. A $500 "TX" option package completes the visual transformation by adding a two-tone midnight black metallic roof, black window trim and black exterior mirror caps. The subtle off-white color of our test car (Ice Edge) - which is new for 2021 - contrasted nicely against all the black trim.
Step into the spacious cabin to enjoy further visual refinements. The front seats are a festival of color, with striped SofTex fabric inserts providing a high degree of comfort and lateral support. The inserts are trimmed with red stitching, and red seat belts complete the custom look. The fat rimmed leather steering wheel continues the motif with red stitching, as does the matching leather shift knob which carries a subtly de-bossed TRD logo. Pushing the Start button on the dash marshals a TRD startup animation on the 4.2 inch TFT multi-information display screen located between the tachometer and speedometer. Brilliant red pointers monitor those two large instruments, but the speed and rpm callouts are printed in faint red type which is very hard to read.
Although TRD's cosmetic and stylistic transformation of the Camry is alluring, the really crucial improvements lie out of sight under the skin. The vented front brake rotors increase a full inch in diameter to 12.9 inches on the TRD. These brakes also utilize a booster unique to the TRD which improves pedal stiffness tuning. The brakes also provide active cornering assist. The suspension benefits from increased thickness underbody braces, front strut tower bracing, added rear seat V-bracing, and increased thickness underbody panels. Finally, the TRD's unitized body shell is fitted with front and rear anti-vibration sub frames. TRD maximizes the impact of these unseen upgrades by fitting this Camry with "track-tuned" front and rear coil springs, shock absorbers and front and rear stabilizer bars. In all, the TRD equipment provides a level of handling competence you would expect from the company that has recently won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The DOHC, 24 valve 3.5 liter V6 sings through a special TRD exhaust system fitted behind the catalyst and exiting through twin stainless steel tips sunk in the rear diffuser. The V6 punches this tricked out FWD Camry to 60mph in 5.8 seconds from a standing start. We discovered it was easy to break traction from the front driving wheels on full throttle starts. The TRD is not available with all-wheel-drive. But with proper throttle modulation, the TRD's abundance of horsepower and torque is definitely a high performance asset. Not only that, but the TRD cat-back exhaust adds a mellifluous burble to the proceedings.
Since the speedometer calibrations are so hard to read, it's nice that the TFT information screen can be set to show a digital speed read out. If you use the steering wheel buttons to scroll through the other available displays, you are confounded by a bewildering array of acronyms that will have you delving into the not particularly helpful owner's manual for translation. For example, how are you to make sense of LTA/PCS/DRCC/BSM/RCTA/RCD and RSA? All of these choices include yes/no decisions. For the record, LTA is Lane Tracing Assist, PCS is Pre-Collision System, DRCC is Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, BSM is Blind Spot Monitor, RCTA is Rear Cross Traffic Alert, RCD is Rear Camera Detection and RSA is Road Sign Assist. If you can master manipulating all that while traveling 70 MPH, your brain is better than mine.
Of course, once you've got all those parameters set to your liking, you probably won't have to deal with most of them more than once. In that case, you can happily settle into your SofTex sling, dial up "Sport" from the multi-mode drive selector, and tackle any back road of your choosing with the confidence that you will never see a BMW or Audi leave you in the dust.
2021 TOYOTA CAMRY TRD
- ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6, DOHC, 24 valves
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 22MPG City/31MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $34,282
HYPES: Much More Than a Paint and Wing Package
GRIPES: Will Give You Acronym-Phobia
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10