Introducing Toyota’s hot new performance vehicle – the TRD Camry. Toyota Racing Development? The in-house racing division of the big T? And Camry? Sounds like two things that don’t go together – like jumbo shrimp. But just like that crave-worthy crustacean, it comes together quite nicely. And it just might be a performance bargain to boot.
Big Bold Style
When the Camry was redone in 2018, we loved the new aggressive look – muscular and wide, it looked more like a European sport sedan, and had real presence.
To give it the “Competition Look” the TRD adds unique piano-black front splitters that look mean and aero, but you have to be a little careful about curbs. Aero side skirts frame handsome 19-inch TRD matte-black alloy wheels with red-painted brake calipers peeking out, while the back features a rear diffuser and a large black rear spoiler that would look at home on one of Toyota’s NASCAR Camrys. Red pinstriping and red TRD badging tie it all together.
Adding to that, we also had the optional two-tone Midnight Black Metallic roof and rear spoiler, with black window trim and mirror caps. With all that contrasting trim, our tester’s Supersonic Red paint really stood out. But the overall effect was maybe too much for our tastes – but as we’ll get to, this is no cosmetic package, the TRD earns the right to be bodacious.
If you’re looking to be more low-key, the Camry TRD is also available in solid Midnight Black Metallic, or in two-tones with Windchill Pearl or Celestial Silver with a Black Metallic roof.
The Interior Will Have You Seeing Red
Inside carries through the performance red motif, but it’s less polarizing than the outside. The basics of the Camry remain – a spacious cabin, a handsome S-shaped center console, large analog gauges and a nicely-sized 7-inch Infotainment display. Toyota has now joined the tech revolution (they were a little behind before) and you get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, available Wi-Fi and more.
To keep the TRD affordable, you won’t find any leather here – but that’s no loss, the Black SofTex (vinyl) trimmed seats feature sporty fabric inserts with a tasteful horizontal striped pattern, and they are comfortable, supportive, and hold you in place.
There’s added flash with TRD embroidered headrests up front, red contrasting stitching throughout the cabin, including on the steering wheel, TRD logo on the shift knob, TRD floor and trunk mats – even the seatbelts are red! There’s also TRD multi-information display, and the tach and speedo are red as well. While this sounds like a lot, it actually comes together in a very handsome way, and most importantly, you feel like you’re sitting in something special.
You wouldn’t blame Toyota for stopping there, but they’ve made sure that the first TRD Camry ever has performance to match the looks. Under the hood is Toyota’s familiar 3.5-liter V6 – an engine we love, especially since so many manufacturers seem to have decided that a 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder is The Engine of the Future.
You’ll be glad Toyota stuck with a normally-aspirated engine as soon as you fire it up. While 301 horsepower is the same number of ponies in the corral as other Camry V6 models, these have more attitude – intake tuning and a TRD cat-back dual exhaust start with a deep whump and a low rpm growl that sounds like an alligator gargling with mouthwash. Tap the pedal and the growl becomes a fierce sound – not too loud – just about perfect, we say. No Camry has ever given us goosebumps like this before.
There’s an eight-speed automatic hooked up to that lion-hearted engine and its grandma-smooth around town when you’re easy on it, and it rapid-fires off the shifts when you get on it. While this is a front wheel drive car, the long wheelbase and moderate weight keep the front end firmly planted to the ground. With a 0-60 mph in the mid 5’s it’s plenty quick, and the TRD soundtrack makes it feel even faster. The larger brakes come in handy then, and the feel is excellent.
And while a muscle-Camry sounds like a fun idea, if you stopped there, you’d be missing out on so much more. TRD has stiffened up the chassis with thick underbody braces, while TRD coil springs lower the sedan about half an inch, and stiffer TRD stabilizer bars reduce body roll.
The best part of the suspension though, are the specially-tuned TRD shock absorbers – these are beautifully measured, giving a firm but not harsh ride, with just the right amount of feedback to let those 235/19 Bridgestone Potenzas have a lovely conversation with you. It all feels, so…German!
One interesting thing, sometimes a performance set-up makes a larger car feel smaller – it seems to shrink around you. Not in the case of the Camry TRD. It always feels like a large sedan – but a superbly controlled one that’s agile with lots of grip. It’s an extremely enjoyable drive.
Special Car, Special Price?
Actually no, the Camry TRD is very affordable. You can get a 4-cylinder Camry L for just $24,425, and that includes Toyota’s Safety Sense P, LED lights, Bluetooth and remote keyless entry and more. For a big comfy family sedan, that’s not a lot of dough.
We love that big V6 engine though, and wonder of wonders, the TRD is the least expensive Camry V6, starting at just $31,040. Our tester had the two-tone paint for $500 and charged $425 for Supersonic Red. Add in $955 for Destination, and we came in at just $32,920. Bargain! The next most affordable V6 Camry is the XLE, but it’s $3,400 more!
Competitors would include the Honda Accord Sport with the 2.0-liter, turbo 4-cylinder engine. At $32,465 – a delightful car, and available with manual transmission. We’d look at the Mazda 6 Grand Touring, also with a turbo 4-cylinder, and also a fun drive. But both miss the mark of being something special and unique like the TRD Camry.
So, the Camry TRD is exciting to look at, tastefully equipped, nicely modded by the folks at TRD who know to do it right, and it’s a pretty much a bargain for all that you get. So, if you’ll excuse us bringing up a well-known ad campaign from the carmaker’s past,
2020 Toyota Camry TRD V6 Sedan – Oh What A Feeling!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.