The only future is innovation, and approaching the mid-life crisis mark at 37 doesn’t seem to bother one of the world’s most recognizable and awarded vehicles. Instead of resting on its laurels in lieu of a slumping sedan market, Toyota doubled down on one of its most venerable (and historically desirable) models: the Camry. Committing to a diverse powertrain offering, a frugal-yet-satisfying hybrid option, and a strong V-6, the 2021 Camry bursts with contemporary features, city-cruising pop, and a slew of new and popular features, revitalizing the model and invigorating fleets poised to take advantage of its quiet grandeur.
Same Quality, Smarter Car
Gone is the base L model, positioning the LE as the new base followed by the SE, Hybrid, XLE, XSE, and TRD V-6. The front end and wheels were restyled for a more aggressive look. The XSE is available with a hybrid powertrain, joining the ranks of many other makes and models with more sustainable (and powerful) options available. The standard four-cylinder engine partners with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, and the LE and SE models are the most efficient of the non-hybrids, earning EPA estimates of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on the highway, while the hybrid V-6 nets 22 miles per gallon in the city and up to 33 on the highway.
The performance-forward Camry TRD debuted in 2020 and retains its premium, aero-enhanced design for 2021. This year, the TRD adds standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, useful for city fleets and safety-conscious drivers and fleet managers. Heated exterior mirrors offer maximum visibility in the winter.
The 2021 Camry offers three powertrains: a 2.5L Dynamic Force four-cylinder; a 3.5L V-6; and a next-gen Toyota Hybrid System. The 2.5L engine yields 203 horsepower at 6,600 rpms and 184 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpms. Most AWD models sport 202 horsepower while the XSE upgrade features 205 hp with dual exhaust.
The V-6 is a 24-valve, DOHC 3.5L workhorse equipped with the latest D-4S direct injection fuel system and variable valve timing with 301 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm.
The new Hybrid powertrain marks Camry’s emergence as a market leader, however, and counts as the most efficient and powerful since its debut in 2007. The Toyota Hybrid System (THS II) combines the output of the 2.5L four-cylinder along with an electric motor. The Hybrid offers similar performance to the four-cylinder gasoline version yet mimics a quick-shifting six-speed automatic in application via wheel-mounted paddle shifters or the console-mounted lever shift. Like many hybrids, the lithium-ion battery sits beneath the vehicle and doesn’t impact trunk or interior space while contributing to a lower center of gravity.
The Auto Glide Control (ACG) feature helps augment fuel economy by calculating the most efficient coasting speeds and can be activated only when the vehicle is in ECO drive mode. ACG limits the loss of speed through engine braking and acts more like a neutral gear, enabling longer coasting.
The 2021 Camry earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and garnered a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Toyota continues to focus on safety in all its models, and the Camry benefits from standard driver-assistance technology, including forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking; standard lane-departure and lane-keeping assist warnings; adaptive cruise control; and more.
Toyota debuted automatic emergency braking (AEB) across much of its lineup in 2017 and continues to pace the market in safety innovation. Last year’s version was one of the first Toyota models to feature Safety Sense 2.5+, the newest version of its award-winning safety system. The Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/ PD) has been enhanced, helping the system detect bicyclists and scooter-savvy citizens as well as the vehicle directly in front of the car. It functions in low lighting, ideal for late city driving. Additional PCS functions include emergency steering assist and Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), which comes online above 30 miles per hour and helps maintain vehicle-to-vehicle distance at high speeds. Other safety features include Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic Safety Beams, and Road Sign Assist, which helps automatically read passing road signs and displays them on the Entune touchscreen.
The all-wheel drive option debuted in 2020 and received a boost for the 2021 model year with Dynamic Torque Control, an effective traction feature for bad weather and slippery climates, and a boon to AWD’s reduction in fuel economy; the new system can direct up to 50% of engine torque to the rear wheels when the front ones begin hydroplaning or slipping. And when AWD isn’t being used, an electromagnetic coupling on the rear axle disengages from the propeller shaft, raising fuel economy. Upgrading to all-wheel drive adds just over 150 pounds to the vehicle without sacrificing any interior space, safety, or comfort.
Smart Bells & Savvy Services
The infotainment system—Entune 3.0—is standard on all models, though an enhanced option is available. Entune features many smartphone-equipped wireless capabilities and apps common with contemporary smart vehicles and functions on both Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and Android Auto. All Camry models come with a 7- or 9-inch touchscreen.
Higher models feature Toyota Audio Plus and carry Connected Services trials such as Safety Connect (one year), Service Connect (10-year trial), and Remote Connect (one Year). WiFi Connect allows up to five mobile devices to connect using 4G LTE on a 3-month, 2-gigabyte trial.