The Toyota Camry remains one of the best-selling cars in America, thanks to its cutting-edge style, strong technology and standard safety features, comfort, and reliability. Through most of its long history, this sedan has been front-wheel-drive-only with a selection of four- and six-cylinder engines.
Toyota prices the 2021 Camry from $24,970, plus a $980 destination charge. When including the hybrid model, there are 12 trims for the choosing. The most expensive Camry is the XSE V6 model, starting at $35,545.
New for 2021
For 2021, the Camry is refreshed with an updated exterior, including new wheel choices. Inside, a new floating multimedia screen rolls out. Automatic emergency braking is now standard.
All-wheel drive, which was introduced in late 2020, is available with the four-cylinder gas models only. This feature supplies improved handling, especially on slick roads, joining only a few other models in this segment with that option. We think it is a system worth exploring, particularly for anyone looking for optimum control while driving.
Over the last two generation cycles, Toyota has worked diligently to transform the Camry from a bland people-mover to an eye-catching sedan. The eighth-generation model, introduced in 2018, is the sportiest one yet.
This year, the Camry benefits from a mid-product-cycle update featuring several changes. A new front fascia is bolder, yet it differs depending on the trim. The LE and XLE trims have a more defined lower intake. The SE and XSE trims feature a honeycomb-style grille and side vent inserts, in addition to new side vent accents. As for the TRD trim, the blacked-out design theme carries over from its 2020 debut. That trim also comes with a handsome two-tone Midnight Black Metallic roof, paralleling the design in some luxury models.
New interior trim across the model line includes soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. Linear dark wood inlay or patterned metal, depending on the trim, decorates this sedan. We find the front seats comfortable and the rear seats unusually roomy. Indeed, three can sit in the rear with more legroom available than in some large sedans. With 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space, there is adequate space to hold luggage for five for a long weekend away.
Tech and Safety
The display screen now has a “floating” look and comes in standard 7- or available 9-inch designs. It’s easy to see and use, and tilts slightly toward the driver. Standard features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth, and two USB ports. Six speakers come standard; a 9-speaker JBL system was in our test model and we enjoyed it.
On the safety front, Toyota supplies nearly every driver-assist feature as standard equipment. The list includes lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, road sign assist, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control with optional full stop and go. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is available.
Toyota gives Camry shoppers a choice of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 203 horsepower or a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 301 horsepower. Both engines work with a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Our personal favorite is the V6, but purely for its performance benefits.
There is a third powertrain choice when considering the Camry Hybrid. This one takes the four-cylinder engine, adds electric batteries and a battery pack, and delivers over 50 mpg. We get the appeal with that, but it’s also a $2,300 upgrade.
Choose the standard four-cylinder engine and this one offers available all-wheel drive. The upgrade will cost you $1,400, but it may have more value for some, depending on where and how you drive.
With all-wheel drive, the difference in the way the Camry behaves isn’t always noticeable at first. The step-off acceleration and passing power, adequate for this sedan, is unchanged. But the moment your sedan detects any kind of rear-wheel slippage, the system kicks in to supply up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. This becomes especially noticeable when cornering or while navigating any wet or ice-slicked road. The system stays on for as long as it’s needed, then switches to front-wheel drive once the hazard has passed. The Camry’s fuel economy rating is impacted somewhat, with the average falling to a still respectable 29 mpg from 32 mpg.
Most drivers in North Carolina might not consider all-wheel drive, but if you live in the mountains where snow is common or along the coast where sand regularly covers the streets, it comes in handy. Clay and gravel roads are also a challenge. We’re familiar with a stretch of NC 28 between Franklin and Highlands that’s hazardous even in dry weather. In wet weather, it’s downright scary – just don’t look over the edge and down the steep ravine. In the coldest months, all-wheel drive with winter tires is a must.
Begin your search with the SE trim and this one comes with more exterior detailing, larger wheels, more comfortable seats with power support for the driver, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters. Choose the Convenience Package ($1,780) and this one adds upgraded keyless entry, heated outside mirrors, a heated steering wheel, and heated front seats. With all-wheel drive, your out-the-door price is just under $31,000.
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