The Most Popular 2021 Toyota Camry Trim Isn’t Necessarily the Best

Buying a car can feel overwhelming since there are so many choices out there. Even once you’ve narrowed down your decision to a midsize family sedan and then to the popular Toyota Camry, there are still 17 configurations to pick from, with different trims, powertrains, and options. It turns out that the most popular trim isn’t necessarily the best version of the 2021 Toyota Camry.

How good is the 2021 Toyota Camry?

The 2021 Toyota Camry is larger than the Corolla but smaller than the Avalon. It offers plenty of space for passengers and cargo, good fuel efficiency, and standard advanced safety features. However, it does have extra noise from its four-cylinder engine and from the wind and road noise. It also offers a V6 engine and a hybrid powertrain.

Its standard advanced safety features include lane-keeping assist, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and road sign recognition. It has a 7-inch touchscreen for its infotainment system, but a 9-inch display is available. The Camry also offers the reliability that comes with the Toyota brand.

Overall, Edmunds calls the 2021 Camry the “safe choice” in its class. Car and Driver is more enthusiastic, saying the “Camry has returned to glory with its exciting lineup, improved build quality, and priority on safety.”

Visitors to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant look over the red 2019 Toyota Camry at the Georgetown plant
The Toyota Camry | John Sommers II/Getty Images

RELATED: Toyota Dominated This List of the Best-Selling Vehicles in Q1 2021

The 2021 Toyota Camry has six available trim levels: LE, SE, SE Nightshade, XLE, XSE, and TRD. The old L trim has been dropped. Edmunds recommends the XSE trim, saying it likes that one “because of its wealth of standard features, attractive styling touches and its sport-tuned (yet still comfortable) suspension.”

The XSE comes with leather upholstery, a 9-inch touchscreen, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert that’s also standard in the XLE. It offers options like heated seats and a panoramic sunroof too.

The XSE has a sportier look and feel than the XLE. It has slightly more horsepower in the four-cylinder engine. The V6 engine is optional in either the XLE or the XSE as is the hybrid powertrain.

In addition to the sport-tuned suspension, it also has a gloss black grille, 19-inch wheels, dual exhaust, and metallic interior trim. Edmunds says that the XSE is the most popular trim level. It has a starting price of $30,495.

Car and Driver likes the 2021 Toyota Camry TRD better

While the XSE might be the most popular Camry trim level, Car and Driver recommends the TRD trim, calling it “the spiciest Camry of the bunch.” It doesn’t have engine options, coming standard with the 301-hp V6. Car and Driver found the four-cylinder engine and the hybrid powertrain to be unexciting but likes the V6 much better.

The TRD is even sportier than the XSE trim, with a special sport-tuned suspension that’s 0.6 inches lower than other trims and includes stiffer springs and sway bars.

With its more aggressive look, it also provides unique 19-inch wheels, aerodynamic body trim, black exterior mirrors and exterior trim, a rear spoiler, red seat belts, and sport dual exhaust. It does have synthetic leather upholstery, automatic climate control, and a 7-inch touchscreen like the lower trim levels do. The TRD trim starts at $32,260.

Why more people buy the XSE trim

If the 2021 Toyota Camry TRD is the best one to drive, then why is the Camry XSE the most popular trim level? Both trims provide sport-tuned suspensions, although the TRD is sportier.

However, the XSE offers buyers three powertrain options, while the TRD has just the V6. Some buyers may be willing to sacrifice performance for fuel-efficiency. The XSE also has a lower price than the TRD when it’s equipped with the four-cylinder engine. In addition, the XSE provides features like leather upholstery and the 9-inch touchscreen, which don’t come in the TRD trim.

What is best can be a relative decision. Buyers will have to weigh luxury features, engine options, suspension tuning, and price to determine the 2021 Toyota Camry that best fits their needs.