2020 Toyota Camry TRD

PHOENIX — For Toyota to have the audacity and downright adventurousness to actually slap the TRD (Toyota Racing Development — the brand’s in-house tuner division) on a Camry, let alone an Avalon, is clearly considered getting out on the skinny branches. It’s more than common to see the TRD moniker (add no vowels here please) affixed to the rear fenders of the world’s largest automaker’s trucks and SUVs, making them more off-road capable.

But, seriously, adding the designation to the Camry and Avalon — a staple among the golden-age Social Security rank — is more than borderline blasphemous.

But no doubt about it, staying true to his now famous decree, “No more boring cars,” Toyota president Akio Toyoda has inspired, or perhaps stirred, the product team to expand its TRD energies to two of its most staid, yet popular, vehicles. This on the heels of the just introduced and reborn Supra, a joint project between Toyota and BMW. All of this is perhaps a bid to not only reinvigorate the languishing sedan market, but to acknowledge the success of Kia’s stand out Stinger and the 2019 North American Car of the year winner Genesis G70.

In creating the 2020 Camry TRD tested here, the primary object was to improve handling and, of course, look the part of a performance-oriented sedan in an attempt to convince an otherwise suspicious audience.

After all, Camry is the flag bearer for banal, yet affordable and reliable motoring. Heretofore, about as exciting as a Camry could get was the addition of a trunk mounted spoiler and perhaps an added “gold” package to the otherwise plain vanilla champagne gold colored sedan that Toyota stamped out by the millions.

But lest you assume the TRD Camry (and Avalon) will stir your blood by offering more horsepower, you’ll be disappointed because they don’t. Not unlike the F Sport trim level offerings from its up-market Lexus sibling, TRD Camrys are relegated to suspension components for firmer and improved handling, red-and-black trim pieces, and epigrammatic K&N cat-back exhaust system to deceive the unknowing with faux performance cues.

The exhaust notes emit a pleasing mellifluous sound that we never tired of hearing. Additionally, unlike numerous other vehicles, Toyota hasn’t artificially pumped the sound into the cabin via the car’s audio speakers, so what you hear is all natural with no enhancements.

Oh, and there’s also the trunk mounted spoiler — now called a rear wing — that absolutely looks aggressive. There are also side aero skirts in black with red striping, extended front splitters, and a diffuser under the rear bumper. Wheels are flat-black, the grille is glossy-black and a black roof completes the look. Buyers get a choice of four exterior colors: pearl white, silver, red, and black but no champagne gold. We think it looks terrific.

Inside, occupants are greeted by Soft SofTex-trimmed front seats with bright red seat belts, stitching and fabric inserts, red stitched TRD headrest logo, seatback pockets, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, and a six-way adjustable front passenger seat.

The three-spoke steering wheel is red stitched leather-trimmed, tilt/telescopic, with paddle shifters. There’s also a multi-information display, Bluetooth, hands-free phone, voice command, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control and lane departure warning controls. The instrument panel is finished with red stitching and a debossed TRD logo. There are aluminum sport pedals and floor mats with red “CAMRY TRD” logo and red outline, and headrests with a red “TRD” stitched into them. The instrument gauge numbers are also in red but we found them extremely small and the color made them difficult to read.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter 301-horsepower V-6, the same engine used in other Camry trim levels. In an industry that’s increasingly moving to turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the six-cylinder is a rare offering. Power is delivered through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive not offered. So even though the Camry boasts that it’s a TRD, it seems odd to us that Toyota didn’t pump more horsepower from the engine.

On the road, we tested a zero to 60-mph time of 5.8 seconds, but with the enhanced exhaust it actually felt and sounded quicker. Brakes were solid and effective. The brake calipers are also painted red, and look good peeking through the slotted matte black wheel rims. The car sits .06-inches lower than the standard issue Camry.

Overall, the Camry TRD is an impressive new addition and a bargain, priced at $31,540 before options. However, we honestly couldn’t think of what we might pay extra for since our test Camry seemed to lack for nothing. But know that it isn’t made for the track, or even an autocross, but it is spirited driving nonetheless.

When compared to Kia Stinger, Camry TRD enjoys a $2,000 lower price advantage and a 46-horsepower advantage over the base turbocharged four-cylinder. But the Stinger is adorned with heated leather seats, a 12-way driver’s seat, 8-way power passenger’s seat, automatic dimming mirrors and dual-zone automatic climate controls, and we loved both the looks and how the Stinger drove. But if it’s a Camry you want, we highly recommend you choose the TRD trim level.
Vital Stats
Base Price: $31,040
Price as Tested: $32,920
Engine: 3.5-Liter 301 horsepower V6 connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 22/31/25 – MPG City, Highway, Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Ratings: The highest possible overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and highest possible Top Safety Pick + from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Where Built: Georgetown, Kentucky

Competes With:
Genesis G70
Kia Stinger
Volkswagen Arteon

Fab Features
Impressive handling
Good-looking TRD trim packaging
Engine exhaust notes

— Jim Prueter