Old faithful. The sun rises in the east, the birds fly south in the winter, and the Toyota Camry returns for another year. Some things are eternal. The 2020 Toyota Camry brings the model close to four decades in production, a run matched by few – but exceeded by the Camry’s chief rival, the Honda Accord.
The Camry has been the country’s best-selling midsize sedan for 17 years, but it’s still bringing new things to the table. The biggest news for 2020 is the addition of all-wheel drive. The AWD Camry won’t be available at launch, but Toyota says it'll reach dealers by early spring. They hope it's going to differentiate the Camry from competitors like Honda, who reserves AWD for their SUVs.
The newest generation of Camry is the latest of Toyota’s attempts to marry mainstream models with exciting styling. In our opinion, it works better than usual. The Camry may be a bit angular for some tastes, but the long nose and thoughtful creases give it a clean look.
Multiple personalities. The Camry has a reputation for being the automotive equivalent of vanilla ice cream. Especially in base trim, it’s hard to deny. The base engine is adequate without being exciting, and handling generally leans toward comfort rather than precision.
But the Camry has two other powertrains that allow it to slip into different roles. The first is a hybrid setup, which builds Toyota’s long-standing hybrid excellence to achieve an EPA-estimated 52 miles per gallon combined in SE trim. For commuting duty, it’s excellent.
Then there’s the sporty TRD trim, which houses a 3.5-liter V6 making 301 horsepower. The Camry TRD is stiffer and fast, but it probably won’t be a popular choice – the firm ride hurts the Camry as a cruiser, and the summer tires limit weather-worthiness.
Technology arms race. In an effort to outdistance competitors (and keep sedans relevant), automakers are stuffing their cars to the brim with tech and connectivity.
Toyota has historically lagged on the infotainment front, but 2020 brings some fresh air to the Camry. The model is finally compatible with Android Auto, though the standard 7-inch touchscreen could still be better.
Where the Camry really shines is safety. Every car rolls off the line with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. The NHTSA approves as well, awarding it five stars in every category.
Even the hybrid powertrain is a nod to modernity. As lineups become electrified, more weight falls on the eco-friendly trims. In contrast to the Toyota Prius, the Camry Hybrid is low-profile, differentiated only by the badge at the rear.
Limited practicality. The biggest downfall of the Camry is its utility. The front row is comfortable enough, but the back row suffers from a roofline that hampers ingress and egress. Rear leg room is more than 2 inches down on the Accord, and a high beltline makes things feel more cramped than they are.
The sedan shape doesn’t have to be a hindrance, but the Camry doesn’t make particularly good use of its space. The trunk can fit 15.1 cubic feet, which once again falls short compared to rivals. The Camry Hybrid thankfully doesn’t lose any cargo space, but oddly enough, the base L trim is listed at only 14.1 cubic feet.
All-wheel drive should help matters, and the Camry still represents decent value. We don’t see it tempting away many crossover buyers, though.
Final thoughts. The Toyota Camry has lasted this long for a reason. It still offers rock-solid reliability and safety in a palatable and versatile package. All-wheel drive and modern styling sweeten the deal.
That said, competitors like the Accord and Kia Optima are breathing down the Camry’s neck. Average cargo space and a mediocre back row won’t do the Camry any favors. We don’t see the model losing too many sales, but Toyota had better watch its back.
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