Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: November 14, 2021
What’s the point of spicing up a family sedan like the Camry to a younger audience? Are they really going to buy into the performance? What was Toyota thinking? What’s next, a sportier version of a Prius? We couldn’t shake these questions off when we picked up the new 2022 Camry TRD, a more performance-focused variant of the famous four-door. We never thought the words ‘sporty’ and ‘Camry’ would be in the same sentence but TRD, or Toyota Racing Development, have certainly found a way and backed up their claim with proper substance.
Toyota markets the TRD as an added package rather than its own trim line, and it’s only available with the XSE V6. As such, the TRD upgrades are minor but they amount to something more than the sum of its parts. It receives lighter and wider 19-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza summer rubber, a cat-back exhaust system, larger brakes that promise shorter stops and better brake feel, a lowered ride height, and a stiffer suspension with retuned anti-roll bars and more rigid bracing all around including a V-brace behind the rear seats.
The TRD also gets its own unique body kit with a winged rear spoiler, stainless steel exhaust tips, a TRD-badged shift knob, TRD embroidered seats with red stitching, and aluminum-faced pedals. Out of all the things though, Toyota has left the 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 completely untouched, so it pushes out the same 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
And it looks great, especially in this Cavalry Blue paint with a contrasting black roof. TRD did a spectacular job balancing out the visual aesthetic. It’s not as boy-ricer as the Civic Type R, but the slick spoiler and clean exhaust tips that round out the rear end look absolutely mega.
We did not expect Toyota to pull off such a composed and sporty package, and to extract it out of their bread and butter family sedan is nothing short of impressive. It drives like an older, honest sport sedan like the first-generation Lexus IS, Honda Accord, and Acura Integra. It’s just a joyful and engaging companion that you want to hustle around twisty streets and take advantage of its witty reflexes and composed ride.
The steering is light and provides just enough feedback to know when the front wheels are starting to wash out. The stiffer suspension is not compromised in the slightest - at least not Corolla Apex compromised. The TRD rides nicely over bumps and remains gentle and cossetting when dolling around at cruising speeds. Yes, it’s firmer than the standard Camry but there’s plenty of joy to be found with such a communicative front end and a willing chassis, not something that could be said about a Nissan Altima or a Kia K5.
The V6 and gearbox have not been beefed up for TRD duty, which is a bit of a shame but understandable to keep the price tag from elevating into actual sport sedan territory, and it still works well. The V6 offers strong acceleration, linear power delivery, and is happy to rev to its limiter to extract every horsepower available. We wish the gear shifts were slightly snappier so we could take advantage of the paddle shifters, and they remain somewhat lazy and hesitant.
One of the more exciting features of the TRD however is the new cat back exhaust. It makes a delightful noise, one that puts all the competing turbo-fours to shame. And there’s an old-school charm to its voice: throaty, broad, and there is no Sport Mode required. It sounds good all the time, and serves as a stark reminder that four-cylinders muddied with turbo plumbing will never deliver notes as pure and as comprehensive as a free breathing, atmospheric V6.
The Toyota Camry TRD is an engaging family chariot that enjoys the occasional thrash-around. With such a willing chassis, honest V6, and playful exhaust that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not, Toyota has clearly played on its strengths, tinkered with only what was necessary, and has floored us all with a genuinely fun and engaging sports sedan that won’t break the bank.
Model: 2022 Toyota Camry TRD
Paint Type: Cavalry Blue
Base Price: $36,800
Price as Tested: $37,340
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,944 / 1,857 / 1,430
Curb weight (kg): 1,620
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Horsepower: 301 hp @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.8 / 7.6 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.5