Rakish. Roomy. Fast. Sharp handling. Sporty interior. Well-equipped. Safety items. Cons:
Firm ride. So-so city fuel economy. Sunlight can block gauge numbers. Rear seat backs don't fold.Bottom Line:
Practical choice for car enthusiasts.
The 2021 Toyota Camry
TRD V6 shouldn't be confused with the numerous other Camry mid-size sedan models, which are mostly bought for practical transportation.
That's because the front-drive Camry TRD V6, which could pass for a sports sedan, is heavily influenced by the Toyota Racing Division (TRD).
For instance, the TRD V6 has an aero-enhanced coupe-inspired design, which some may find polarizing. The low front end has a gloss black front grille with a sport mesh insert and other features including a front splitter, bodyside aero skirts, red pin striping, 40-series tires on 19-inch TRD matte-black alloy wheels, red-painted brake calipers, truck lid spoiler, rear diffuser, cat-back dual exhaust with polished stainless steel tips that stick out from under the rear bumper-1950s hot rod style.
My test TRD had an intriguing optional ($500) two-tone paint with a Midnight Black Metallic roof.
The TRD V6 sits about an inch lower than regular Camrys because it has a TRD-tuned front and rear suspension with stiffer coil springs and sway bars and unique TRD shock absorbers, thicker under-body braces and larger brakes with 12.1-inch front rotors.
The TRD modifications result in a firm ride that should be experienced by prospective buyers. Some may want a softer ride for long-distance travel. Setting the suspension to driver-activated "ECO," "Normal" or 'Sport" modes makes little difference in the ride. This car has quick reflexes, even in "Normal" mode. The firm steering is ultra-responsive and cornering is flat.
A high point of the TRD is its silky 3.5-liter V6 engine, which produces 301 horsepower and 267 pound/feet of torque. This engine, which is ordered by few other Camry buyers, emits only a low rumble at idle and works with a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Four-wheel drive, available on milder Camrys, might eliminate some of the torque steer the TRD likely has when moving quickly on wet roads from a start, but that drive setup it would just add weight. My test TRD was only driven on dry roads.
As it is, the 3,575-pound TRD does 0-60 m.p.h. in 5.5 seconds and provides near-effortless high-speed passing on highways. Top speed is said to be 135 m.p.h.
City estimated fuel economy is only 22 miles per gallon, but the figure is 31 on highways. Only 87-octant fuel is needed despite an 11:1 compression ration to fill the 15.8-gallon tank.
Four adults fit plenty comfortably. Toyota says the TRD is a five-seater, but the rear seat center is too firm to make a fifth occupant comfortable.
The trunk is large with a low, wide opening, but rear seat backs don't flip forward for more cargo room because of the back seat's extra rear bracing.
The TRD has a nicely shaped sporty interior with readily reached manual controls on the revised dashboard and supportive sport fabric soft-trimmed seats with red seat belts, stitching and fabric inserts. There's an easily used 7-inch infotainment touchscreen and 4.2-inch multi-information display with TRD startup animation, push-button start, automatic climate control, 6-speaker sound system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible and charge ports. There's a fair amount of plastic, but it doesn't look cheap. And the leather-wrapped wheel even has red striping.
One problem is that the speedo and tach gauge numbers in the boldly designed dashboard can't be read if driving into a northern winter's low, direct bright sunlight. However, there's a digital speedometer that's always visible.
The TRD is loaded with safety features. They include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and a backup camera.
All Camry models have an excellent reputation for being reliable, and the stronger, fun-to-drive TRD should last a long time. Who needs a Maserati?