Sedans & Coupes

Toyota Camry SE and XSE Can’t Compete With ‘Truly Sporty’ TRD

The Toyota Camry has been one of the automaker’s most popular sedans for decades. It’s consistently reliable, engaging to drive, and offers a great value across all trim levels. Two of the most athletic models — the SE and XSE — even come equipped with sport-tuned suspensions.

However, these two models are sleepy compared to the “truly sporty” Toyota Camry TRD, Car and Driver reports. It has a special suspension of its own, plus several unique racing enhancements. But is the range-topping Camry TRD worth the extra dough?

The 2021 Toyota Camry TRD

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The TRD comes equipped with the Camry’s best available engine, a V6 capable of 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, Toyota says. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. It also has the best racing equipment, like a special track-tuned racing suspension and rear coil springs.

Track-tuned stabilizer bars and shock absorbers are also included. This is the only Camry with an active cornering assist, and it has the narrowest turning radius. It has 12.9-inch disc brakes equipped with dual-piston calipers, plus a special brake booster and optimized pedal tuning.

With its black window trim, matte black wheels, and black rear spoiler, the TRD looks slightly more intimidating than a lower-level Camry. The dual exhaust tips, also exclusive for this trim, come covered with the same glossy black paint.

The cabin seats five on synthetic leather-trimmed seats. Genuine black leather wraps the steering wheel and shift knob, complemented by red stitching and red seat belts. The Camry TRD also gains exclusive aluminum foot pedals.

Tech options are also plentiful, with standard smartphone integration, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and wireless satellite radio. The Toyota Safety Sense driver-assist system also offers some extra features on this model, such as full-speed dynamic cruise control.

How the TRD compares to the other Camry trims

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Both the SE and XSE lack a standard V6, instead opting for a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The SE makes 202 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque, and the XSE produces slightly more, at 206 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. You can get an optional V8 on the XSE at an extra cost. And unlike the TRD, both of these trims offer optional all-wheel drive.

These two models also come with a multi-link rear suspension and sport-tuned springs and shock absorbers. The brakes are shorter than those on the TRD and have only single-piston calipers. The SE and XSE are both more fuel-efficient than the TRD but are somewhat lacking in speed.

Car and Driver‘s 2020 Toyota Camry TRD sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. By comparison, C/D‘s 2018 Camry SE needed 7.9 seconds to reach the same speed. The TRD also consistently exhibits good braking performance, coming to a stop from 70 mph in just 156 feet.

C/D reviewers felt the Toyota Camry overall has snappy handling and perfect body control. However, the transmission sometimes hunts for the right gear, and the exhaust note isn’t the most satisfying. Big bumps also send unforgiving shudders throughout the cabin.

The sportiest choice is obvious

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The Toyota Camry TRD provides the perfect balance of truly sporty handling and stylish interior elements to match. However, all that racing flair comes at a price. The TRD starts at $32,185, more expensive than the SE and XSE.

The SE is the cheapest of the sporty trio at $27,885. Adding the V6 engine to the XSE would make it faster, but that would actually send its price past the TRD’s. Overall, the Toyota Camry SE and XSE trims are all sporty bluster, but the TRD model really showcases this sedan’s athletic potential.