Since its arrival to US soil nearly four decades ago, the Toyota Camry has been a lot of things. It has been a remarkably reliable, incredibly versatile family hauler. It has also been an incredibly affordable, yet surprisingly cozy and almost posh, which is a great combination. That synergy helps the whole family feel like they’re riding in style, but allows mom and dad not to have to choose whether they want to make their car payment or feed their kids each month. And for all those reasons and more, it should come as no surprise that the Camry has been the best selling passenger car in America for almost two full decades within that 38 year period. But, while it has been a stalwart of economical practicality, the one thing the Camry has never been is exciting. Yet, it seems that the 2020 Camry TRD might just change all that.
So let’s get this out of the way right off the bat — Toyota did not modify the engine or transmission of the Camry for the TRD model. That is woefully disheartening, as the idea of a twin-turbo Camry recalls fond memories of cars like the SRT-4, Pontiac G8, Impala SS, and even the Ford Taurus SHO. A true sleeper would have been a thing of beauty. But alas, we can only hope that the TRD folks fight the good fight and keep pushing for more power.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s focus on what TRD actually did do to the Camry, which was quite a bit. First, the used the …sportiest … Camry trim in the XSE for their donor car. From there they added in a myriad of age old tuner tricks — lowering the car itself by a full half inch, stiffer shocks that use TRD-specific valving, front and rear stabilizer bars, as well as rebound springs and better bumpstops to make that stiff suspension a little less jarring.
The sunroof was deleted in favor of better rigidity (we’ve seen tricks like this with the carbon fiber roofed E90 M3 and the C5/C6 Corvette ZO6), and also added three extra body braces to the under side of the car. The rear folding seat was deleted as well in favor of a V-shaped brace to add yet more structure security. The steering was retuned, the front rotors are larger and fitted with two-piston calipers, which are then covered by wider wheels than the base car. Those wheels are also two pounds lighter, which any basic physics class will teach you about rotating mass, less is more. All of that fun work is then capped off with a set of legit street racing Bridgestone Potenza summer tires, and a extremely surprising cat-back exhaust that makes the Camry actually sound pretty menacing — not a sentence we’d ever expect to say in this lifetime.
While no additional engine work was done, the TRD does get the stout 3.5-liter aluminum V6 that makes a very respectable 301-horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. That power is then routed through a generic eight-speed automatic and on to the front wheels. Truth be told, there is enough power here to make you smile if applied right. At about 3800 pounds, the power-to-weight ratio on the TRD isn’t bad. 0-60 mph comes up in about 5.7 seconds, while the quarter mile goes by in 14.2 seconds at 99.5 mph. Sure, that’s not going to make any Hellcats nervous, but it might make your average GTI owner do a double take off the line. And not that Toyota would recommend this, but with some basic bolt ons and a solid ECM tune to make that transmission think a little faster, the TRD could be downright fast.
And although the Camry TRD seems like it has taken a page out of Acura’s A-Spec book with the more-show-than-go trim, we have to say that the side skirts, front splitter, and spoiler make the Camry looks pretty menacing, but in a good way. It’s kind of nice to seem this usually benign family sedan cop a little attitude. It should also be noted that at $31,991, the TRD is the cheapest V6 Camry in the lineup — a major selling point for Toyota. But an even bigger selling point is that with all of the accolades and adjectives that have defined the Camry over the years, we’re happy to say that ‘exciting’ can now be added to the list.