2021 Toyota Camry

  • 2021 Toyota Camry Goes All-Wheel Drive (Again) 2021 Toyota Camry

    Introduced halfway through the 2020 model year, the Toyota Camry's all-wheel-drive option makes a return after a 29-year hiatus.

    The late 1980s were a halcyon era for all-wheel-drive cars. Mitsubishi made all-wheel-drive Galants, Honda had the Civic Real Time 4WD, Pontiac introduced the 6000 STE AWD, and Ford offered an all-wheel-drive Tempo. The period gave us various AWD Subarus and Audis, the BMW 325xi, and Mercedes-Benz's 4Matic system. Toyota even built an all-wheel-drive Camry, the All-Trac, from 1988 to 1991. Then the SUV craze took off, everyone bought a Ford Explorer, and all-wheel-drive cars went back to being freaky things for rally-racing fans and rich Vermonters.

    Okay, we're oversimplifying. But if SUVs and crossovers killed the mainstream all-wheel-drive sedan, we can also argue that they're the proximate cause of its current minor renaissance, since carmakers want to give their sedans a fighting chance in showrooms bursting with new utility vehicles. So, Toyota's AWD Camry has returned, this time less because of direct all-wheel-drive competition (Subaru Legacy, Nissan Altima) than to fight the more general adversary known as "all crossovers."

    Toyota introduced all-wheel drive as a midyear addition to the 2020 Camry lineup, and it went into production at the company's factory in Kentucky last March. Considering what else was ramping up last March, you'll be forgiven for missing that news. Toyota figures 15 percent of Camry buyers will choose the all-wheel-drive option—which is limited to the North American market—but we predict that only a tiny subset of those will add their own All-Trac badges. That's too bad. As it stands, a subtle AWD emblem on the trunk is the only giveaway that your Camry is packing more than one differential.

    Unless, that is, you jack up the car, which we did to take a peek at that rear diff. The complete system adds roughly a claimed 165 pounds yet makes no impingement on trunk space. The rear seats lose 0.4 inch of headroom, and overall passenger volume declines by less than a cubic foot, both of which are metrics that fall under the heading of "not so you'd notice." Oddly, all-wheel-drive Camrys have a wider turning circle (39.3 feet versus 38.0 for front-drivers) because of a slightly wider rear track and different suspension geometry.

    The rear-axle hardware also crowds the exhaust system a bit, resulting in the all-wheel-drive models making one horsepower fewer than their front-drive siblings. We suspect that, in a drag race, the weight penalty will make a bigger difference than the single-pony deficit.

    Indeed, the Camry's AWD option is available on every four-cylinder trim level, including the sportier XSE. It's not available with the optional V-6 or hybrid powertrains, presumably because if that's what you're after, Toyota would rather sell you a RAV4 or a Highlander. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four is reasonably powerful—202 horsepower in most trims, 205 in the XSE, which has dual exhaust outlets—if rather coarse at high rpm. At least it's hooked to an eight-speed automatic transmission, as opposed to the continuously variable transmissions found in the Camry's competitors from Nissan and Subaru. Decisive upshifts and quick downshifts add some satisfaction to the AWD Camry driving experience, although the word "fun" doesn't quite apply. A TRD hot rod this is not.

    In fact, in normal operation, the all-wheel-drive Camry behaves like a front-drive model with some junk under the trunk, disengaging the rear axle via an electromagnetic coupling. When the front wheels slip (or when accelerating from a stop) the rear end shows up for work, deploying a maximum of 50 percent of the engine's available torque to the back. We didn't get a chance to test the system in snow, but on dirt the Camry hooked up and launched after a momentary hint of wheelspin from the front. Traction overrules horsepower, quickly and decisively, which is the point. This wouldn't be a great car for spinning donuts in an empty parking lot, but it should excel on sloppy winter roads.

    And it's a good buy. At $1400, the all-wheel-drive option doesn't cost much more than a nice set of mounted winter tires. It does exact an ongoing penalty in running costs, though, since the added weight and drag of the system drops the Camry's EPA combined estimate by 3 mpg versus comparable front-wheel-drive models. For the XLE example we drove, the EPA highway rating fell from 38 to 34 mpg, despite the Camry's ability to disconnect its rear axle. Given that Toyota stole some packaging space for the all-wheel-drive system by fitting a smaller fuel tank (14.4 gallons, down from 15.8), the Camry AWD will be visiting gas stations considerably more frequently than its front-drive counterpart.

    Taken together, this amounts to a bunch of small drawbacks that you'd forget all about the moment you power up a steep hill in six inches of powder. If that's something you ever need to do in a family sedan, maybe take some inspiration from the all-weather cars of the '80s. You can't buy a new Pontiac 6000 STE, but the all-wheel-drive Toyota Camry is back.

    Source: caranddriver.com

  • 2021 Toyota Camry SE First Test: Is Good Enough Good Enough? 2021 Toyota Camry

    The competition is stronger than ever. Can a refreshed Camry hold its own?

    We all know why the Toyota Camry is the default for many when they need point A to point B transportation. It's well-priced and spacious, carries Toyota's reputation for reliability, and has almost always ranged from decent looking to, today, actually handsome. But the midsize sedan segment has recently been shaken up. The new Kia K5 and Hyundai Sonata (among others) all represent stiffer competition than ever before, and we were left wondering: Can the refreshed-for-2021 Toyota Camry keep up with its revitalized rivals?

    On paper, the answer is yes. The Camry's SE's 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4 makes a healthy 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. That makes it the least powerful Camry on sale, but on the flip side, also gives it a relatively large 23-hp power advantage over competition like the Kia K5 and the Hyundai Sonata. Both of those cars use a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that kicks out 180 horsepower as their base powertrain. And so the SE-trimmed car we had for this test punched above its weight, something MotorTrend en Español editor Miguel Cortina felt from the seat of his pants. "The engine and the transmission feel like they are eager all the time, sometimes too eager," Cortina said. "However, that's not necessarily bad. I'd rather complain about the throttle response being a bit too aggressive than sluggish. The Camry doesn't feel like that. It delivers on the basics without falling short."

    Cortina's impressions on the road were backed up at our test track. At 7.5 seconds to 60 mph, the Camry SE is 0.3 second quicker to 60 than either a K5 EX or a Sonata SEL Plus. The gap is just 0.1 second smaller in the quarter-mile, with the Camry running all 1,320 feet in 15.8 seconds and the aforementioned Koreans doing the job in 16 seconds flat. The longtime rival Honda Accord, however, manages a quicker 0-to-60 time of 7.2 seconds and finishes the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds despite having 11 fewer horses in the stable.


    Move from the drag strip to the skidpad, and the SE-trimmed Camry still impressed. Family sedans like the Camry SE, Sonata SEL, and K5 EX are never going to be handling all-stars—the exceptional Honda Accord notwithstanding—but the Toyota impressed road test editor Chris Walton once he started hooning it around our figure-eight test. "This car is surprisingly fun and capable on the figure eight," Walton said. "The firm brake pedal remains trustworthy lap after lap, and it's easy to modulate. There's no funky emergency braking ABS; the brakes release when I release. The steering weight is just right and feels reasonably natural. There's exceptional balance on the skidpad, vacillating between rotation and understeer, where the ESC nibbles away to straighten it out without throwing the anchor."

    Yet again, the numbers back up our gut feeling. The Camry is a solid contender when stacked up against the competition, which either ties our Camry or ekes out a marginal advantage. The Toyota managed a figure-eight time of 27.4 seconds at a 0.62 g average, exactly the same time as the Kia K5 EX. The Accord EX-L we recently tested, however, is a respectable 0.3 second quicker around the lap and managed a marginally better 0.63 g average.

    The Camry's agility translates to the road, too. Senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said the Camry is "better to drive than it needs to be" but noted that it's "not nearly as good to drive as the Accord," an impression supported by numerous other voices on staff. In fact, most of us were impressed with the way the Camry went down a road but noted the Accord is still the better handler.

    Niceties that exist in every Camry are present in this low-spec SE model. The trunk makes loading and unloading easy with a massive aperture and offers up 15.1 cubic feet of free space to play with. A comfortable seating position is easy to find, and ingress and egress are a snap, too. In addition, the gauges are clear and easy to read, there's ample leg- and headroom in the second row for passengers, and a cushy suspension tune is perfect for those who prefer their family sedans to waft down the road.

    Letdowns? In this SE, there's the low-rent interior and dated infotainment display, despite the recent refresh. The soft suspension doesn't control the body as well as we'd like overall, leading to more pronounced up and down motions over high-amplitude bumps, and there's pronounced wind and tire noise in the cabin. All in all, though, the midsize family sedan segment might be more competitive than it's ever been, and the Camry is a solid performer. There are better choices, but for our car's $29,217 as-tested price, you could certainly do worse.


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