Stick Shift: 2020 Toyota Camry TRD

Ever since its introduction in 1983, The Toyota Camry has held the reputation of being a ‘safe bet.’ Exhilarating, exciting, thrilling, are adjectives never used in connection with the Camry. That is, not until now. Sure, TRD offered a dealer-installed supercharger kit for the V6 model. But underneath, everything else remained pretty much unchanged. 

With A full TRD make-over, the Camry gets much more than just power. Get those sporty adjectives ready. You’ll find good use for them with the all new, driver-focused 2020 Toyota Camry TRD. To start, the brake rotors get a size upgrade. 0.9” larger in diameter than the still sporty XSE model. Calipers are up a piston as well, equipped with two for a nice symmetrical squeeze compared to only one. They’re also painted red, to stand out behind the black wheels. The brake feel is wonderfully controlled with plenty of bite. Offering consistent hard stops without a trace of tiring out. 

Overall stiffness has been accounted for in the TRD model. There’s stiffer springs and dampers with internal return springs and revised valving. Larger-diameter anti-roll bars help eliminate body roll and pitch around corners and under hard acceleration and deceleration. Stiffer underbody braces and a newly added V-brace behind the rear seats take things a step further. Only downside is the V-brace eliminates the ability of the back seats to fold down. Easy to make compromise when you experience the marked improvement in control, handling and cornering performance. Take it all and lower the entire package by 0.6” and everything really plays together wonderfully. 

Steering input builds gradually and offers immediate feedback. The summer rubber grips the pavement with purpose compared to the mushier all-season tires found on other Camry models. The TRD version of the famously sleepy Camry really transforms it into something worthy of a parking lot autocross event. Strangely though, power remains untouched compared to the other V6 models found in the XSE and XLE. 

Power output may be untouched, but at 301 hp, the 3.5L V6 does an excellent job of making good use of every single pony. Full torque is available well under 5,000 rpm. The 8-speed transmission is responsive and eager in Sport mode. Best of all, with a TRD tuned cat-back exhaust, this Camry sounds like no other. Throaty, aggressive, angry in all the best ways. But only when you really prod and poke it. Otherwise it’s just a low, quite purr in the background. 

On the outside, teenage street-racer good looks abound. This could be construed as a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you’re asking. Lightened, 19” alloy wheels have a matte black finish that looks and feels very aftermarket. I mean that in a good way. The finish contrasts nicely with the many black gloss exterior pieces added into the TRD model. These include a gloss-black rear spoiler, aero-kit side skirts with red pin-striping and Toyota’s love of throwing TRD badges everywhere. 

Whether you’re turned on or off by the aggressive new look, the aesthetic follows form with the rest of the TRD line-up. With its fresh face, aggressive sound, greatly improved handling and obvious power-potential, it would seem that TRD has performed some serious spell-casting on the Camry. Predictably plain no longer. The Toyota Camry TRD is ready for business. Offering a full-package sporty transformation that’s sure to entice many. Especially at a price that falls under the other V6 Camry options.

Price as tested $32,920.00

By: Brandon Randall

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