WHAT IT IS: Toyota evidently felt the need to give the world a hot-rod Camry, and it surprisingly makes sense? At first, I was highly (highly!) skeptical when I was reading the press release when the Camry TRD was first announced. With 19-inch, matte-black wheels, a black body kit, a spoiler, a performance exhaust system and more, this was clearly not your granny’s Camry.

In person, it certainly turns heads. My first trip out in public, I could feel watching eyes and I wondered if they were thinking “Well, that car looks cool” or “Who the heck ‘rices’ out a brand new Camry?” The appearance is certainly not mild, but it is highly effective in what it is trying to accomplish. You are limited to four paint choices, with three of those being a two-tone scheme with a black roof. You can pair the black roof with a pearl white, red, gray or black main body color. My test model was the Supersonic Red and it looked fantastic with the black accents.

The Camry TRD only comes with a 3.5-liter V6 with 301 horsepower and 287 lb-ft of torque which provides plenty of acceleration. The TRD trim also gets other upgrades, including dual-piston 12.9-inch front brakes, stiffer springs, larger anti-roll bars and special dampers. It definitely provides a much more exciting driving experience even when compared to other V6 Camry models.

That’s the other thing, Toyota was already selling a sporty V6 Camry trim called the XSE (even available with the trick two-tone paint job), but the XSE is priced $4,000 above the TRD trim. Most of that money goes towards features like dual-zone air conditioning, a Qi smartphone charging pad, leather-trimmed heated seats, head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and other safety tech. The TRD doesn’t even have front parking sensors.

The interior has several TRD-only features, including some really attractive two-tone sports seats (which are cloth), but is missing some niceties like heated seats that you might expect from a $30k+ sports sedan. One thing that was refreshing is that you could actually hear the sports exhaust, although it was still very quiet. The sporty tires generated some road noise, and you could definitely hear them as you drive down the highway.

The driving experience is certainly improved over other Camry models. The stiffer suspension and better brakes make a huge difference here. This Camry would actually be fun to drive around a track, which says quite a bit if you have driven one of the newest models.

MPG: 25 combined/22 city/31 highway

PRICE: $31,170 base TRD price. $32,995 as-tested.

UPSIDES: Unique. Fun to drive.

DOWNSIDES: “The Fast and the Furious”-inspired design is likely too much for some. Lack of safety tech.

WRAP-UP: Even with sedan sales fading, Toyota sells enough Camry models (337,000 in 2019 in the U.S.) that they can make the business case for lower-volume cars like the Camry TRD, and we are all the better for it. Toyota sells 12 different trims of the Camry, so why shouldn’t we have a hot-rod version? I’ve actually seen several on the road in our area, so there is certainly a market out there.

Wilson Calvert
Author: Wilson CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist / Director of Operations
I am a long-time Houstonian and am obsessed with cars, soccer, traveling, bourbon and airplanes. I write a regular car review column for The Tribune and travel articles a few times per year.

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