Cosplay: The 2021 Toyota Camry TRD V6

There is nothing that says a family sedan can't be a performance car. In fact, it should. Power and handling can be used to avoid accidents and keep your family safe. An engaging automobile beats a boring one hands down, every single time.

The fundamentals of the 2021 Toyota Camry V6 TRD are right on the money.

Under the hood is Toyota's 3.5-liter V6 engine. The same one available in XLE and XSE models. It's good for 301 horsepower and 267 pounds per foot of torque. There's an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and a cat -back exhaust that makes the most wonderful sounds, but doesn't add a single additional horsepower. A standing start to 60 miles per hour is a brisk 5.8 seconds. The EPA fuel economy estimate is 22 city/31 highway. All very solid.

TRD (Toyota Racing Development) then provides some suspension tweaks---a tuned front and rear suspension with thicker underbody braces and 12.9-inch front brake rotors with dual-piston calipers. No question---these are a significant improvement over a stock Camry. The TRD V6 handles better, feels more connected and stops better than any other V6 Camry.

My issue is the wrapper. The Camry used to be a "Japanese Chevy". Now, it appears, someone's been looking at the Dodge lineup and has decided that the Camry TRD V6 needs to look outlandishly powerful as well.

The trunklid spoiler, red seatbelts and brake calipers and black wheels might---maybe---be fine if this was a Camry with 400 horsepower and 0-60 times in the 4s. But it's not. It's a V6 Camry that goes no faster than any other V6 Camry, but handles and brakes a whole lot better. This is not a Camry Hellcat.

The base price of the 2021 Toyota Camry TRD V6 is $32,185. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are a six-speaker audio system with a seven-inch touchscreen andToyota's Safety Sense 2.5 suite including radar cruise control.

Our tester also had some extra-cost options, including $500 for the two-tone Midnight Black Metallic roof and rear spoiler with black window trim and side-view mirror caps, $259 for all-weather floor liners and cargo tray, $75 for wheel locks and $268 for a protection package. With $995 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price for the 2021 Toyota Camry V6 TRD is $34,282.

Which is a bargain for a quick, engaging, good-handling family sedan. It's the aesthetics that are just trying too hard, selling a boy-racer look the engine ultimately can't back up. Strip it down, give it a more Germanic sensibility with some subtle but good-looking wheels (I mean, c'mon, you can get black wheels on Priuses this year) and publicize the handling and I am totally in.

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