Friday, February 3, 2023
Reviews 2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD Review: The Only Midsize Sedan

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD Review: The Only Midsize Sedan

The 2021 Toyota Camry powers on as the go-to midsize sedan with more variants than ever

  • Base price for the Toyota Camry is $27,250 in Canada, $25,045 in the US.

  • There are more than 15 different versions of the Camry to select from.

  • There’s comfort in driving a Camry – it’s an undeniably safe bet.

We can thank SUVs for one thing. Although they are singlehandedly responsible for all but completely killing station wagon and sedans, those that remain in both segments are the best-ever offered for sale. Case in point: The 2021 Toyota Camry.

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Arguably, the Camry has long been the best midsize sedan available for purchase in North America since the early 1980s. In little time, it climbed up the charts and handily knocked American offerings off the charts and eventually became the best-selling car in the US by the late 1990s and has remained at the top for two decades, or nearly.

The 8th generation for the win

The 2018 model year overhaul of the Camry, the eight-generation of one of Toyota’s top-selling nameplates, the giant Japanese automaker pulled out all the stops. The Camry got a new platform, a heavily revised interior, a good dose of extra refinement, two distinct design and trim lines, and more. In 2020, Toyota added AWD to the mix, removing an advantage that was once reserved to SUVs within the brand.

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Speaking of the brand, the Camry’s base engine is the naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine which produces 202 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque. Heavily utilized across the board, the 2.5-litre has one flaw which is its high level of NVH. However, this is not the case in the Camry. In the past, the engine’s general harshness has been the singular issue with Toyota products, so this tells you that the Camry is in essence perfect.

Completing the Camry family

The recent addition of AWD adds a further dimension to the Camry’s already extensive collection of models that includes V6, hybrid, and the basic car. The on-demand AWD system adds only 165lbs to the Camry’s curb weight meaning that performance, handling, and efficiency are unaffected. It can send up to 50% of available torque under certain driving requirements. With the smooth-operating standard 8-speed automatic transmission, my tester returned 8.5L/100km, as advertised by Toyota, and about 0.8L/100km more than a comparable FWD version.

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Toyota’s lovely Global Architecture (TNGA) continues to please with its ability to insulate the cabin from the outside world. The car’s chassis is tuned for refinement but, unlike Camrys of the past, this one provides the driver with a sense they are capable of extracting far more from the car than they ever will. Ride quality is excellent, loaded with comfort and the controls, steering, and brakes, are responsive enough to satisfy someone who still enjoys driving.

Uniquely Toyota

Visually, the Camry could still be considered a little controversial. No matter if a member of the posher “L” or sportier “S” trim families is selected, both feature a very unique front fascia that is unique to Toyota. Both are anything but subdued but the “L” cars are easier on the eyes, at least in my opinion.

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The cabin is also unique in its own way. The dashboard’s layout is a combination of numerous surfaces and shapes that seem to crash into each other. Despite this mix of materials, ergonomics are still quite good if mostly because of the hard buttons positions on either side of the 9-inch (7-inch standard) touchscreen display and the straightforward HVAC controls. Storage areas are acceptable and passenger space is very generous. About the display itself, the graphics and resolution are dated and behind most competitors.

Be it on the rear bench or up front, there’s plenty of room for average-sized adults, up to three in the back. The seats are softer side but still plenty comfortable and supportive. Toyota rates the truck’s volume at 428 litres however the boot’s depth and width lead me to think that it’s actually larger.

The perfect midsize sedan?

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Now, perfection is obviously not possible but in the most objective way, the Camry delivers on every requirement a midsize sedan buyer may have. Given the sheer number of variations, there is in fact a Camry for everyone.

Among the other sedans, in a segment that is quickly disappearing, there remains a Nissan Altima (for how long?), Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5, and that’s about it. With the Mazda6 bowing out, the Volkswagen Passat has gone, and nothing from the American brands, frankly, and although the Accord is nice, the Camry is the only answer here.

As tested, my 2021 Camry XLE AWD retailed for $38,650 which makes it something of a bargain considering the level of equipment and features. With projected low ownership costs and decent to strong resale values, the Camry is the only midsize sedan.

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2021 Toyota Camry XLE AWD | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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