Affordable and fun.
The TRD name, which stands for Toyota Racing Development, can be found in a variety of motorsports and many of Toyota's most off-road capable truck models. For the first time from the factory, the TRD name was applied to the Avalon and the Camry for the 2020 model year. The 2020 Toyota Camry TRD does not feature any significant performance upgrades like forced induction or a larger engine. However, it features handling improvements such as stiffer springs, sway bars, and TRD shock absorbers.
It may not be a true sports sedan like its luxury contemporaries, but the Camry TRD is easily the coolest Camry that Toyota has ever offered, and it should appeal to buyers that don't care about race tracks or pushing their car to its limit on the road. We believe the Camry TRD is arguably the best Camry ever, though it does have one flaw we think Toyota needs to fix.
Do you remember when the Toyota Camry was the most vanilla car on the road? Well, Toyota wants to make you forget that with the latest generation model, which is even more aggressive in TRD guise. It features accents we never thought we'd ever see on a factory Camry, including black TRD wheels, red brake calipers, black lower body kit, chrome-tipped cat-back exhaust, and a massive rear wing. When you pull up in this car, people will be shocked when they learn that it is a Camry.
Inside, Toyota differentiates the Camry TRD trim with sporty red accents. The seat centers, seatbelts, floor mats, stitching, and seatbelts are all finished in red, giving a boy-racer vibe in the cabin. We particularly love the colored red belts, which are rare in any non-sports car. The red gauge cluster, however, feels hit and miss. The red numbers on black dials look great at night but can be near-impossible to read in the sunlight. It would have been nice for Toyota to give the TRD model a more bolstered seat as well, though that would have likely added to the price.
The Camry TRD is the least-expensive V6-powered Camry that you can buy. Starting at just $31,040 before destination, the TRD surprisingly undercuts the XLE V6 by several thousand dollars. Toyota rightfully predicted that a significant segment of the market wanted a good looking sedan with plenty of power, but didn't need all of the luxury and tech features found higher up in the Camry range. The lack of blind-spot monitoring is annoying on the 2020 model but will be added for 2021. A JBL audio system will be optional on the 2021 Camry TRD model as well.
The Camry TRD uses the same 3.5-liter V6 engine found in other Camry models, producing an identical 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Some buyers may scoff at the Camry's front-wheel-drive layout, but once the front tires hook up, the V6 feels genuinely quick. 0-60 mph takes around 5.8 seconds, though that's mainly due to traction issues. Toyota's V6 feels like a strong performer and in a segment filled with generic turbo four-bangers, it produces a better sound than the competition. The V6's song is then amplified by the TRD cat-back exhaust, which provides a nice hum without too much drone.
Toyota's V6 is lovely, but it is let down slightly by the eight-speed automatic transmission. There's nothing wrong with the transmission specifically, rather with how Toyota tunes it. If you place the shifter into manual mode, the transmission defaults to 'S4' before allowing you to choose another gear. Rather than a full manual mode, the Camry's S Mode limits the transmission to the highest gear selected. In the case of S4, the transmission can utilize gears one, two, three, or four.
The transmission tuning causes trouble during spirited driving, where even using the wheel-mounted paddle shifters can result in unwanted upshifts or a refusal to downshift. We've driven other vehicles that use this Aisin-made transmission with a full manual mode, so Toyota should theoretically be able to make the change with software.