2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD Review: Smooth Riding, Daily Driving Goodness

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Written by Paul Strauss | November 8, 2020
2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD Review: Smooth Riding, Daily Driving Goodness

    2021 Toyota Camry AWD

  • Engine: 2.5-liter, Inline-4 cylinder
  • Horsepower: 202
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 182
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Drive Configuration: AWD
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 25/34/28
  • Curb Weight (lb): 3475 to 3580 (depending on trim)
  • Wheelbase (in): 111.2
  • Total Length (in): 192.1 to 192.7" (depending on trim)
  • Width (in): 72.4
  • Ground Clearance (in): 5.7
  • Base Price (USD): $31,270
  • Price as Tested (USD): $36,965

Ever since its 2018 redesign, the Toyota Camry has become one of my favorite sedans. Its design not only is more visually interesting than it has been in the past; the Camry actually has compelling driving characteristics that make it more engaging than previous generations and other everyday sedans. Starting with the 2020 model year, Toyota added an all-wheel-drive variant of the Camry, which gives the car even more appeal in locations where inclement weather is common. I recently got into a 2021 Camry AWD and enjoyed my time behind the wheel.

The 2021 Camry has seen a handful of updates, including a sporty new XSE Hybrid grade, tweaks to its front-end design, new multimedia displays, and upgraded safety systems.

The car I drove was the Camry AWD in XLE trim, which is the more conservatively-styled of the Camry’s premium trims, leaning more towards sophistication than athleticism in its design. I really like the look of the new “Blueprint” paint color, which features a rich blue tone with metallic sparkles that pick up the sunlight nicely. Both the XLE and XSE get full LED headlights with LED daytime running lights with a distinctive new signature style.

The Camry can be had with three different powertrains: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, that same engine with a hybrid electric motor, and a 3.5-liter V6. While I love the 301 horsepower of that bigger engine, the Camry AWD comes only with the inline-4, which makes 202 hp in the LE, SE, and XLE trims and 205 hp in the sportier XSE. It’s not the most powerful engine but combined with a modern, energy-efficient 8-speed transmission, the car never feels underpowered and shifts smoothly. Where modern Camrys really shine is their smooth and confident ride, thanks in part to their independent MacPherson front struts and multi-link rear suspension, along with the great structural rigidity of its TNGA-K platform.

Thanks to a string of warm, sunny, and rain-free days I really didn’t get to test out the torque distribution of the Camry’s all-wheel-drive system. That said, my wife spent some quality time in the mountains of Park City, Utah, with a 2020 Camry AWD and was impressed with its ability to contend with snowy and slippery road conditions. Throughout my week with the Camry, I spent most of my time in and around Chicago and its suburbs, riding on the highway, potholed city streets, and even the bumpy, old-timey brick roads of Old Wilmette. The Camry offered a smooth and comfortable ride in every setting. The sedan’s cabin is also quiet and pleasant for long drives, and its seats offer good support. Rear seat passengers will find they have good legroom and headroom, and the 60/40 split-folding seats back there mean versatility for carrying cargo that won’t fit in the trunk.

My review car was also equipped with a large panoramic sunroof, which brought lots of light into the cabin and lets air in thanks to its tilting and sliding front section. Front and center in the dash is a floating touchscreen that comes in either 7″ or 9″ variants, both of which support Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The Toyota user interface isn’t the most contemporary on the market, but I found myself spending most of my time in CarPlay anyhow. Like other JBL sound systems I’ve tested in Toyotas, the premium sound system kicks out crisp and clean audio with plenty of power and no audible distortion. A 10″ color heads-up display is optional and comes as part of the $1,430 Drivers Assist Package.

Along with intelligent clearance sonar, rear cross-traffic braking, and front ventilated seats, that package also comes with a “birds-eye” surround camera system, making it easier to get in and out of tight parking spaces. I love having the added visibility, but I have to say that either the display or the cameras could use a resolution boost. I found the video on screen to be far less crisp than I’ve seen on other recent vehicles.

Every 2021 Camry comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, which means you get lane departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and radar cruise control. XLE and XSE trims get a bump up to full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, which can slow down to a stop and pick back up to speed in stop-and-go traffic. Between this feature and the lane centering abilities, highway drives and road trips are a breeze.

The current generation of the Toyota Camry continues to be the best ever, offering handsome and appealing designs, a confidence-instilling ride, fuel efficiency, and loads of standard safety tech. Whether you go for the more basic LE or SE trims or, the more premium XLE, XSE, or performance-oriented TRD models, there’s a Camry for all kinds of drivers and budgets. The more recently added AWD variants offer more options for those of us in rainy or snowy areas, and the Hybrid models offer outstanding fuel efficiency without sacrifices.

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