Is the New Toyota Camry AWD Just Spinning Its Wheels?

Although its competitors’ affordable sedans are starting to wither, Toyota’s are seeing regular updates. Both the compact Corolla and midsize Camry received Nightshade editions, although only the Camry got a TRD trim. However, with trucks and SUVs growing in popularity, in part due to their all-wheel and four-wheel drive, Toyota had to keep the Camry competitive. And so, the 2020 Toyota Camry AWD was born.

Giving the Toyota Camry AWD wasn’t necessarily easy

1994 Toyota Celica GT4
1994 Toyota Celica GT4 | Bring a Trailer

This isn’t actually the first time Toyota’s offered AWD in a passenger car. In fact, it’s not even the first AWD Camry.

The Celica GT4 helped Toyota become the first Japanese manufacturer to win the WRC title. But the GT4’s AllTrac AWD system also ended up in the 1988 Camry, according to Automobile Magazine. Unfortunately, 1991 was the last year for a Toyota Camry AWD.

2020 Toyota Camry XSE AWD
2020 Toyota Camry XSE AWD | Toyota

Interestingly, Autoblog reports that Toyota didn’t necessarily plan on bringing the option back. Although AWD had been briefly considered for the latest-gen Camry, it was dropped during development. But customers kept asking for the option. Eventually, likely from a combination of growing SUV sales and pressure from the AWD Ford Fusion, Toyota acquiesced.

2019 Toyota RAV4
2020 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The Camry’s AWD system actually comes from the current RAV4. However, although the sedan and crossover ride on the same platform, it wasn’t as simple as just bolting the AWD system into the Camry. In addition to the RAV4’s transmission, transfer case, and rear differential, the Camry also received a modified version of the crossover’s multi-link rear suspension. The car’s propeller shaft, though, comes from the Highlander SUV. Toyota also had to modify the Camry’s floor structure, and even fit a different gas tank.

2020 Toyota Camry XSE AWD rear
2020 Toyota Camry XSE AWD rear | Toyota

In addition, the Toyota Camry AWD will only come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic. In most trims, the engine makes 202 hp and 182 lb-ft; the XSE model gets 205 hp and 185 lb-ft. This engine is actually from the RAV4, and not the Camry’s usual 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The RAV4’s engine usually makes slightly more horsepower and torque, but the Camry needed a different exhaust for packaging reasons, which slightly lowers the performance.

What else is new about the Toyota Camry AWD

2020 Toyota Camry XLE AWD
2020 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Toyota

The AWD system is a stand-alone option that can be fitted to the LE, SE, XLE, and XSE Toyota Camry. Toyota reports adding AWD only adds 165 pounds, and neither trunk nor passenger space is affected. In addition, this is a North American market exclusive.

But, although the propeller shaft does electronically decouple at high speed to save fuel, the new drivetrain does affect fuel economy slightly. Equipped with AWD, the XLE and XSE are EPA-rated at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, a loss of 2 mpg city and 4 mpg highway. The AWD LE and SE, meanwhile, lose 3 mpg city and 5 mpg highway.

2020 Toyota Camry AWD interior
2020 Toyota Camry AWD interior | Toyota

In addition to each trim’s standard features, such as Toyota’s driver-assistance safety suite, and the XSE’s sportier suspension, equipping AWD also lets buyers option the Cold Weather package. This adds heated seats and side-view mirrors on the LE; the other trims also get a heated steering wheel.

Is it worth considering?

As of this writing, Toyota has not officially announced pricing for the AWD system. That will likely be released closer to the Camry’s spring 2020 dealership debut.

2020 Subaru Legacy Sport
2020 Subaru Legacy Sport | Subaru

With the Ford Fusion about to bow out, the AWD Camry’s biggest competitors are the AWD Nissan Altima and Subaru Legacy. The base Camry LE is about $500 cheaper than the Altima S AWD, which starts at $25,450. The Legacy, which has standard AWD, is cheaper than both, with a base price of $22,745. However, the Toyota outsells both already, and having AWD will likely make it even more popular.

In addition, Autoblog found that, even though the AWD Camry doesn’t offer the higher-trim RAV4’s brake-based torque-vectoring, the Toyota handled better than the equivalent Legacy. And although Automobile finds the smaller Mazda3’s system provides more benefits on dry pavement, it considers the AWD Camry a worthy alternative to the Altima and Legacy. However, Jalopnik and Roadshow point out that, although AWD provides more traction, what will really make the difference in wet or snowy weather is a proper set of winter tires.

But, if you were on the fence about investing in a large AWD SUV or truck, the Toyota Camry AWD should be worth considering.

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