2020 Toyota Camry TRD

2020 Toyota Camry TRD – It’s… kinda cool?

I’ll start with the obvious, “cool” is a relative term. I may not even be qualified to label something cool, likely not. But the more I stared at the 2002 Toyota Camry TRD, the more I started to think it might just be cool. It definitely came closer than any other pedestrian commuter car to passing my “look back test”. That’s where you park, walk away, and look back over your shoulder. Whatever emotion you feel about the vehicle is probably pretty legit. The Camry did really well. So let’s see what’s what.


You might think that a TRD Camry, the first of its kind, might sit at the top of the Camry lineup. The TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road versions of the Tacoma are around $9,000 more than the base SR trim. The TRD version of the Camry still sits at the 9th most expensive trim level out of 12. However, it starts at just $31,170, which is pretty reasonable for a “cool” looking sedan. What does the TRD version get you, you ask?

Excellent question. Here are some highlights.

As enthusiasts, we are likely attuned more to the performance modifications. The TRD Camry is close to what we used to call in the 90s as a “BPU” car, aka “Basic Performance Upgrades”. That term has origins from the “SupraStore” as a description of “stage 1” for the MKIV Supra; it basically meant downpipe, exhaust, and some boost modifications. I recall that we adapted that for other cars to basically mean a car that had the basics, intake, exhaust, and suspension.

The Toyota engineers didn’t fiddle with the engine, it’s the same 301 horsepower 3.5L that you find in other Camrys. However, you get a cool quad-tip cat-back exhaust and independent MacPherson strut front suspension with a multi-link rear suspension and front strut tower bracing. That shouldn’t sound incredibly impressive, it’s what you get on other V6 Camrys. However, Toyota added TRD track-tuned front and rear coil springs, shock absorbers, and stabilizer bars to the TRD trim. Brake size goes up from 12-inches in the front to 12.9 inches and upgrades to dual-piston calipers.

On the exterior, you get 19-inch TRD-specific wheels, as well as a unique spoiler, front splitter, and side skirts. Elsewhere the TRD is mostly a trim package, with a host of TRD badges and such inside and out.

Does it help? Well, I’ll get to that.


The inside is generally, and unsurprisingly, pretty normal Camry, but with a lot more red stitching.

The seats look cool, but do not really provide any real bolstering or lateral support.

I’m not a fan of all the piano black, but that’s an issue across a lot of new cars these days. Even with the impressive level of cleaning that the loaner gets before I get it, it still shows dust and gunk within minutes of the initial drive. I liked the mix of materials beyond that though, especially across the passenger side.  My only other gripe is the “sporty” red-on-black dials, even with 20-20 vision, I had a hard time with the contrast depending on the level of light.


This is where I think the TRD shines, the exterior is pretty well done. The car looks low and aggressive, and a nice looking front splitter and rear wing. I definitely had some side-eyes and nods from other Camry owners. Is that a group that I want to be worshipped by? Maybe, maybe not, don’t judge me! I’m not going to rule it out.

Still, while you may love it or hate it, but personally I think it works, especially in the “Supersonic red” paint ($500).

2020 Toyota Camry TRD


So, how does it drive? Well, mostly like a Camry, but better.

The exhaust note is definitely more aggressive, but not nearly to the level of the average aftermarket kit. Still, for the average buyer looking for something a bit more interesting, it will be a welcome addition. It gives a nice yowl on startup and reminds you that it’s there enough to make it a worthwhile addition.

The suspension and brakes do seem to work better than the average Camry, I found a smile creeping onto my face during some on-and-off-ramp antics. It’s clear that the chassis had been tweaked, and definitely feels more planted than a typical Camry (#groundedtotheground). Of note, ride quality didn’t really seem to suffer, but then again I was driving an NSX the week prior, so I’m not sure. In Sport mode, the TRD would hold 2nd gear around an on-ramp way longer than I expected. Impressive, since the TRD uses the stock Camry’s 8-speed transmission. In other driving scenarios, the tall gearing tends to drop the fun-having levels further down than they could be with better ratios.

The 301 horsepower V6 works basically the same as it does in every other Camry, which isn’t a bad thing. It will easily allow the TRD to cruise at 80 mph without much effort. It doesn’t feel “fast” in the context of performance cars, but the 0-60 is still in the high 5-second range. A time that was legitimately quick not that long ago.

Final Thoughts

So, is it enough? Well, for proper hoons, it almost never is. A couple of years back, I got to hang out with Toyota tuner Dan Gardner from DG-Spec. We checked out his bonkers CH-R R-Tuned and took a ride in a couple of his tuned Toyota minivans. He recently got to work on an Avalon TRD for SEMA.

Looking at the “TRD PRO” Avalon, I found myself understanding how the Camry TRD could be a bit more better, and more powerful. The missing piece of the “BPU” is an intake, something that Gardner fitted to the Avalon, which could have bumped the power up to the 330hp range in the Camry. It’s not a lot, but a 10% bump would be noticeable. Gardner’s Super-Lock limited-slip differential likely helped get the FWD power to the ground. Maybe we’ll see an actual TRD PRO passenger car in the Toyota lineup? The blueprint is certainly there.

So, would I recommend the Camry TRD? For the hardcore enthusiast, it’s likely not enough. So all my friends who own, or have owned, track cars would turn their nose up at a minimally modified Camry. However, for that friend or colleague who seems to want to get into cars, but still wants or claims to need a Camry, it’s a great toe in the water. It’s very reasonably priced for what you get, and I think might actually be “cool”. I’m sure you’ll tell me why it’s not in the comments.

Bonus Pics

2020 Toyota Camry TRD 2020 Toyota Camry TRD 2020 Toyota Camry TRD 2020 Toyota Camry TRD 2020 Toyota Camry TRD

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13 responses to “2020 Toyota Camry TRD – It’s… kinda cool?”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    Maintenance of that Camry is simpler than on other trims. You can’t polish a TRD.

    1. William Byrd Avatar

      More like detailing. 🙂

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        That sounds like picking kernels from corn on the log, in this context.

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    Imho the looks are totally out of place on a sedan like this, but I can’t get over how cheap this car is. You get a reliable, fast family car for 30-ish thousand dollar? “Cool” is not a word I use much, way too afraid of it, but that’s a good deal.

    1. William Byrd Avatar

      It’s a lot of car for $31K.

    2. Zentropy Avatar

      Well stated, with a brevity I always fail to achieve.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        I always got more to say though…like the piano black, I agree a lot on William’s assessment here. My Centennial goes for that look inside and out, and it is never clean looking. Apart from the first few minutes after a thorough washdown.

        A Camry like that is pretty high up on my list for an enthusiast daily, because it leaves mental space for more exiting cars, if this just runs and runs. 300 hp is still insane to my mind, just like the older generation at work still thinks three digits are awesome. I would special order this one though without all the screamy glued on bits and with a badge delete – a proper beige or teal Camry sleeper. The wing, diffuser etc. don’t really make a difference in everyday driving anyway.

  3. Zentropy Avatar

    It’s too ostentatious for my tastes (I can’t suffer the front lip, fake vents, pseudo rear diffuser, ridiculous wing, etc.), but I like the red paint (though not the black top), and I like the red stitching inside (but not the striped seat inserts). That’s a lot of performance stuffed into an otherwise proletarian sedan– it’s hard to argue with 300 hp at that price, especially with the utility of four doors and a spacious trunk. The engineers did well with the given formula. However, Toyota’s stylists rival meteorologists for getting it wrong without offering apology. How are these bastards still employed?

    I mean, yeah, my typical bitching about FWD and automatic transmission, and all. It’s admittedly not my kind of car, but it’s not a bad one. If I were in the market, though, I’d grab up an Accord Sport 2.0T with the 6-speed. Much more sedate looking, without the boy-racer plastic and carp mouth, and about the same price. It’s down 50 hp, but the manual would make the best of it, and I prefer fours to V6s anyway.

  4. outback_ute Avatar

    If they fitted the supercharged V6 that Lotus uses (& AWD?), then the body kit might be justified, but as it is, it’s like the Civic Type R – too much for 90% of the potential audience.

    Otherwise, wait until it has a few miles on the clock and some wear on the front suspension to make it more exciting, like the last V6 Camry (Aurion). There was weaving around under hard acceleration like it had a lot of power; just a little bit, but gave the feel.

  5. Maymar Avatar

    If I’m not mistaken, it’s the cheapest way to get a V6 Camry, which makes it strangely appealing, especially since it’d be relatively entertaining for a car that’d last forever.

  6. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    This is probably a lot closer to the car that would best fit me and how I drive than I am comfortable admitting.

  7. salguod Avatar

    It certainly looks aggressive and the black and red does pop, but, boy, is there some shape salad going on in that nose:


    1. Zentropy Avatar

      It’s one of those designs where you think it just needs a few tweaks here and there to be decent, but eventually you concede that it’s a total f’ing mess and you’d have to start completely over. I can’t completely blame the designers, though, because SOMEONE is signing off on this garbage.