In case you missed it, the 2021 Toyota Camry is not your grandfather’s Camry. Starting in 2018, Toyota did a major update to their best-selling sedan. With CEO Akio Toyoda at the helm, the decision was made to remove a perhaps unfair stigma of the Camry being a bit staid, a bit plain. Along with putting it on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform to give it better dynamic chops, they literally advertised the fact that it would no longer be offered in any form of beige colored paint.

And I have to say, this 2021 Camry looks the part. When I first saw this redesigned Camry, I did a double-take. The styling has gotten distinctly more aggressive. For 2021, Toyota has massaged the front end with fairly large lower intakes across the bottom, a beautifully contoured hood and a prominent snout. This Camry is available in a wide range of trim levels – LE, SE, XLE, XSE and TRD.

The LE and SE bring forward the latest styling, features and motor options while keeping the looks a bit more sedate so as not to alienate their loyal customer base. As you move up the trim ladder, you can lean into more luxurious options or go full beast mode in the TRD model which comes with a mean-looking body kit, 19” wheels and two-tone color options. I think Toyota does a nice job of offering something for everyone as they work to change the perception of the Camry.

The feature list is deep and impressive. Sliding into the cabin, you’re eyes immediately go the new “floating” touch screen display which is available in 7- or 9-inch size. It’s cleanly integrated into an elegant dashboard design. Under the skin is the next iteration of Toyota’s suite of safety systems – Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+. 

This includes the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection which can provide braking and steering assist to avoid impacts not only with a vehicle ahead but also cyclists and pedestrians. The adaptive cruise control feature, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, will maintain your speed and space against a vehicle ahead and can bring the speed all the way to 0 mph. Lane Departure Alert notifies the driver if the vehicle changes lanes without a turn signal and Lane Tracing Assist can provide gentle steering inputs to keep your Camry centered.

There are a variety of other features of this safety system like Automatic High Beams, Rear Seat Reminder, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Road Sign Assist. This last one is quite useful as it will read upcoming road signs and display them on the touchscreen for easy review.

On the powertrain front, Toyota continues to offer their trusty 3.5-liter V6 while most competitors have converted entirely to turbocharged 4 cylinders. Making a healthy 301 horses, this motor is available in the XLE, XSE and standard on the TRD. Their 203 horsepower, 2.5 liter inline-4 is the workhorse motor available in all trims except the TRD. And while it may seem like the less exciting option, it’s packed with tech including direct and port injection, a variable valve timing system and laser-clad valve seats. For those looking to up their MPG game, there is the hybrid which adds an electric motor to the four-cylinder engine and is available in LE, XLE, SE and XSE trim.

The base 4-cylinder and V6 motors are mated to Toyota’s Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission while the hybrid works with an electronically controlled CVT transmission. There is also the AWD option that was rolled out last year and will continue for 2021 as an option on the LE, XLE, SE and XSE trims with the four-cylinder powerplant. In a slick nod to efficiency, the rear drive axle on AWD equipped Camry’s can be disengaged to boost fuel efficiency when it’s not required.

I have to hand it to Toyota. While the Camry has always had a reputation as safe, solid and high quality it’s also been known in the past for blending in a little too much. With this 2021 model, I’d argue Toyota has punched the Camry up into a new level of not-to-be-missed styling while, in all likelihood, continuing their tradition of well-built vehicles.  

2021 Toyota Camry LE is scored 91 by Drivers Only.  To see where it ranks, click here.  

VEHICLE TYPE
Front-engine, front- or all-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4 door sedan

BASE PRICE

  • $26,000 – LE (est.)
  • $27,000 – SE (est.)
  • $30,500 – XLE (est.)
  • $31,000 – XSE (est.)
  • $32,000 – TRD (est.)

ENGINE

  • 16-valve DOHC 2.5-liter, inline-4: 202-206 hp, 182-186 lb-ft
  • 24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter, V-6: 301 hp, 267 lb-ft
  • 16-valve DOHC 2.5-liter inline-4 + electric motor; combined output, 208 hp, 164 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

  • 8-speed automatic: gas inline-4 and V-6
  • Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission: hybrid

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 111.2 in
L/W/H: 192.1-194.6/72.4-73.1/56.3-57.1 in
Curb Weight: 3310-3595 lb

PERFORMANCE
Not yet tested

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
City/Highway/Combined: 22-51/31-53/25-52

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