2021 Toyota Camry — Now with AWD option

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(Mach 29, 2021) Joe the car shopper who lives in a cold-weather state tells the Toyota salesman that he loves the current-generation Camry, but he's forced to choose a RAV4 or a Highlander SUV crossover because he absolutely needs all-wheel drive to negotiate his long driveway during the winter snows. Hold on a minute, the alert salesman says, you CAN have your Camry and all-wheel drive, too. Is this a great time to buy a car or what?

The Camry can be purchased with AWD in the LE, SE, Nightshade, XLE and top-trim XSE with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with prices starting at $27,365 including destination for the LE trim level. Our XLE AWD test car carried a base price of $32,265 and with a big assortment of desirable options showed a bottom line of $37,224.

For the cold-weather-state shopper who would rather drive the very stylish Camry, he can save up to hundreds — even thousands — of dollars over an-equally outfitted Highlander for the luxury of climbing up his snowy driveway in February in a stylish sedan with all four wheels working in his favor.

The all-wheel drive option that Camry debuted for 2020 is projected to account for about 15 percent of Camry’s 2021 sales. The Toyota-developed Dynamic Torque Control AWD system is a North America-only model developed in the U.S. and assembled exclusively at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. Camry AWD uses the standard four-cylinder engine teamed with an eight-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission.

The Dynamic Torque Control AWD provides effective traction for inclement and slippery weather while minimizing AWD’s typical drag on fuel economy. The system can direct up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, in response to acceleration from a start or slippage at the front wheels.

When AWD isn’t needed, the electromagnetic controlled coupling on the rear drive axle can disengage the propeller shaft to prioritize fuel efficiency. AWD is designed to re-engage in an instant when needed and its operation is transparent to the driver and passengers, according to Toyota.

The good news for buyers of the 2021 Camry as it enters its 37th year of existence is all models have been reduced by $1,200 from the 2020 model year according to Toyota. All Camry models for 2021 also get an added dose of tech and luxury with a new floating multimedia screen in 7-inch or 9-inch sizes, plus a new herringbone seat pattern on the XLE grade. Capping off the list of enhancements, restyled front ends lend greater distinction among Camry grades.

The new front end look distinguishes the comfort-oriented LE and XLE grades from the sport-oriented SE and XSE for 2021. A new front fascia for the Camry LE and XLE grades shows a more defined lower intake area. The gas version of the LE grade also debuts a new 17-inch alloy wheel design, while the XLE features a redesigned 18-inch alloy wheel. The SE and XSE grades show off a bolder redesigned lower fascia shape featuring a honeycomb style grille and side vent inserts, plus new side vent accents.

The “L” grade has been discontinued for 2021 and the LE now becomes the point of entry for the model line starting at $25,965. The AWD option adds $1,400 to the cost of a vehicle, which we think is a small price to pay for all-wheel peace of mind.

Inside, Camry sports a roomy interior that looks and feels upscale with upgraded materials that improve the quality and tactility of the execution. Front seats are comfortable and we found no problem reaching a xx driving position. Rear seat passengers benefit from considerable legroom when compared to segment competitors.

Toyota's touchscreen infotainment system — called Entune 3.0 — is standard across the Camry lineup, with an enhanced version available as an option. Entune has loads of features and responds reasonably well to user inputs. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard.

Key safety features across the lineup include forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking,  lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Our test car carried the $1,430 Drive Assist Package that includes 10-inch color head-up display, bird's eye view camera, and intelligent clearance sonar with cross-traffic braking.

This is the fourth current-generation Camry we've tested since its introduction in 2018 and we've come to appreciate the solid advancements Toyota has made in exterior styling, interior design and overall driving demeanor.   If you are looking for a new mid-sized sedan, you could easily be sold on its more aggressive styling, the comfortable ride, the outstanding fuel economy, the quiet interior, and the decent acceleration from the 203-horsepower 4-cylinder engine or the lively 301-horsepower V-6.

2021 Toyota Camry AWD


Base price: $27,365; as driven: $37,224
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 203 @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 184 pound-feet @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Length: 192.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,425 pounds
Turning circle: 38.0 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 25 city, 34 highway, 28 combined
0-60: 7.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord

The Good
• All-wheel drive now available
• Comprehensive suite of safety technology
• Spacious cabin
• Stylish inside and out

The Bad
• Gas mileage drops with AWD

The Ugly
• AWD not available with V-6, Hybrid