2021 Toyota Camry

Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 22, 2020

Buying tip

Of all Toyota’s non-plug-in hybrids, the Camry’s one of our favorites. It’s an excellent value in LE grade.

The 2021 Toyota Camry elevates its family-sedan game with grabby looks and hybrid power.

The Toyota Camry once defined the family-sedan ethos: boring to see, dull to drive, unassuming to a fault. Now the Camry’s the tattooed mom or dad with a streak of pink hair—still angling for that promotion to manager, yes, but it’s trying hard to be cool.

It’s made a friend in us, whether it’s a sensible Camry LE Hybrid or a party-in-the-USA TRD. If you haven’t bought an SUV by now, you might wanna hang with it this weekend, since it scored a TCC Rating of 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)  

This year a few mild style changes and a bigger 9.0-inch touchscreen option show up on the order sheet, but the Camry’s still the eyeball-grabber that touched down a couple of years ago and changed Toyota’s sedan reputation. This Camry is wild-looking from many angles—unsettled from a couple—and hardly deserves the same name as the car that dissolved into the wallpaper for the past generation. Water down the effect with a Camry LE in gray—or light it up with the TRD’s two-tone roof effect and lipstick-red leather. 

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It’s a march up the powertrain ladder to match the Camry’s performance to its shape. Base cars have a 203-horsepower inline-4, an 8-speed automatic, and front-wheel drive; it’s a master class in anonymity. V-6 cars tap 301 hp for eye-opening acceleration that doesn’t come with back-breaking stiffness. Our favorite’s still the 176-hp Camry Hybrid, with effortlessly moderate performance and stellar fuel economy that can top 50 mpg.

The Camry’s comfortable front seats give more of its family-car mission away, but the dash is styled with a freehand appeal. Back-seat riders will have to tuck and roll under the low roofline, but they’ll fit fine, and so will a little more than 15 cubic feet of their stuff.

Every Camry has automatic emergency braking—it’s still mothering you even when it’s your bestie. And all come with touchscreen infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and excellent crash-test scores. We’d pick the Camry LE Hybrid with a power driver seat, a cloth interior, and the right smartphone connectivity; lose control and you could spend nearly $40,000 on a Camry TRD that corners flatter and shocks passersby with its shape, while it still hangs on to those saner Camry virtues.

7

2021 Toyota Camry

Styling

Toyota hit game reset with this Camry’s styling, and it’s a welcome fresh start.

The latest Camry diverges so wildly from every Camry in the past, it almost deserves a new name. Short of that we’ll give it a 7 for its adventurous shape.

Subtly updated for the 2021 model year, the Camry’s still the most exciting car ever to wear the badge. That might sound like a backhand compliment, but the Camry’s long nose, short decklid and racy silhouette still intrigue us, a couple of years after launch. There’s something about the wrinkled pug-like front end, the strake that draws up against its flanks, the black-out pillar trim on some versions and the strakes and slits on others, that hasn’t grown old or tired yet. The Camry clamors for attention, and based on responses from other drivers we’ve seen, it’s getting it.

The flair’s infused into the cabin, too. The center of the dash houses a touchscreen framed by hockey sticks of wood or metallic trim; in outline, it’s like a mailbox flag signaling for pickup. Base cars have a 7.0-inch screen, but a new 9.0-inch screen fits in upper models. Low-risk tan and gray interiors mark base cars, but high-zoot Camrys get convincing wood trim, while the XSE and TRD steal thunder with red-stitched trim and upholstery.

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2021 Toyota Camry

Performance

Comfort comes first in the Camry, whether it’s a hybrid or a V-6.

The Camry’s body has grown gym-buff, but don’t let that scare you: It’s still a gentle companion, one with a cushy ride in any configuration. It’s a 6 for performance.

Camrys come with one of three engines. Base cars get a 2.5-liter inline-4 that sends 203 hp to its front wheels via an 8-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is an optional upgrade with the base engine only on some trim levels for all-weather traction. It’s the adequate performer of the bunch, a little grumbly at lower speeds, never excessively eager, always outshined by its siblings. It’s such a Jan.

The 301-hp 3.5-liter V-6 on the options chart is a weird flex for a car like the Camry, but we’ll take it. It gushes with good V-6 sounds, pours out superb passing power, and since it’s only offered in XSE and XLE trim, comes bundled with features that ordinarily would wear Lexus drag.

Still, we’d pick the Camry Hybrid for ourselves and for friends and family. It’s equipped with a 176-hp version of the inline-4, one teamed with batteries and a motor for a net 208 hp. It’s as moderate in pace as the base car, but it works well with the electronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). 

It’s simple to divide ride and handling in the Camry family with a single letter. If it has an “L” in it, it’s tuned for easy-going steering, ample body lean in corners, soft tires and a softly composed ride. “S” Camrys get lower ride height, more starch in their suspensions, more weight in their steering, and more grippy tires. They’re more entertaining than an LE or XLE, and don’t have the extra few hundred pounds of the Hybrid Camry to weigh them down.

The ultra-Camry TRD takes things in an unexpected direction. The 301-hp sport edition gets a more buttoned-down suspension with even lower ride height, thicker anti-sway bars, and stiffer dampers along with more body bracing and bigger brakes. It’s the enthusiast’s choice, and makes itself known with a cat-back exhaust and summer-tire grip—it’s a Nissan Maxima rival that doesn’t go too far down a sport-sedan dead-end road.

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2021 Toyota Camry

Comfort & Quality

Space abounds, but the Camry could use better seats in back.

The latest Camry doles out solid leg room to all its passengers, but it’s not as easy for those in back to get back there. We give it a 7 for comfort and utility, with points for its front seats and for its trunk space.

The Camry rides on a 111.2-inch wheelbase, and is between 192.1 and 192.7 inches long, depending on the model. That’s smack in the middle of the current mid-size class, which has a couple of almost-large cars in it (lookin’ at you, Accord). Toyota makes the most of the Camry’s front-seat space with supportive and firm buckets on all versions, with power adjustability and the ability to upgrade to heated and cooled front seats, a power passenger seat, and leather upholstery.

We’re less impressed with the back seat, not so much because of the cushions themselves but because the low roofline makes tall passengers duck to get in. With 38.0 inches of leg room, it’s comfortably sized, but it’s confined in feel, thanks to a high window line.

The Camry has a fair assortment of small-item storage for passengers, and it has a 15.1-cubic-foot trunk whether it’s a hybrid or not. 

We’ve driven a few different Camrys and assembly quality has been good, though SE versions have thinner, less impressive cloth upholstery. V-6 versions with leather do a convincing job of steering us away from higher-priced Lexus sedans.

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2021 Toyota Camry

Safety

The Camry earns near-perfect safety scores.

The latest Toyota Camry sports a nearly blemish-free safety record; it’s a 9 here.

The NHTSA says the most recent Camry earns five stars in every one of its tests, while the IIHS marks it down as “Good” in everything, which makes it a Top Safety Pick+.

The Camry family comes standard with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. A surround-view camera system and blind-spot monitors are available, and we recommend them; outward vision is OK, but it doesn’t hurt to have those safety wingmen by your side.

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2021 Toyota Camry

Features

From Android compatibility to navigation and leather, the Camry’s full of luxury touches.

Toyota sells the Camry in almost a dozen versions, with prices and features to suit the mission at hand. We think the lower-cost versions are the best values, and give the Camry an 8 based on its solid standard features, infotainment, and its value. 

With the former Camry L deleted from the lineup, the new base Camry LE costs more than $27,000, but covers all the basics with its power features, LED headlights, power driver seat, active safety features, and its 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Spend more on a Camry XSE or XLE, and you’ll get dual power front seats, keyless start, premium JBL audio, and more. The TRD model tweaks handling and ride with a similar set of features.

Top-end Camry XLE and XSE V-6 sedans can run to nearly $40,000 with their available cooled seats and surround-view camera system—but we’d choose a Camry Hybrid LE for about $30,000. 

Toyota’s updated the infotainment screens to a new design this year. Base screens still measure 7.0 inches, but there’s a new, larger 9.0-inch display on the options list. We’d spend for it—but not for navigation, not when Waze, Google Maps, and even Apple Maps have native navigation systems on the run.

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2021 Toyota Camry

Fuel Economy

Thrifty by nature, the Camry’s downright miserly as a hybrid.

Toyota’s Camry sedans stick the gas-mileage landing, so long as they’re equipped with inline-4 engines. We give the lineup a 6 for fuel economy based on the most popular versions; hybrids would be rated higher, V-6s lower, natch.

The latest EPA ratings peg the Camry LE and SE at 28 mpg city, 39 highway, 32 combined. Camry XLE and XSE sedans rate 27/38/31 mpg. All wheel drive shaves roughly 2-3 mpg off from highway and combined figures. 

With the available V-6, the Camry XLE checks in at 22/33/26 mpg; the XSE’s 22/32/26 mpg. With its aero add-ons, the Camry TRD gets the booby prize, at 22/31/25 mpg. 

Inspiring fuel economy comes in the Camry Hybrid LE, which delivers 51/53/52 mpg. With their less advanced batteries, the Hybrid XSE and XLE see ratings drop to 44/47/46 mpg. 

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7.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 9
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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