2021 Toyota Camry Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jan 28, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Toyota deals!

Though new-car buyers increasingly choose SUVs (making them new-SUV buyers), the 2021 Toyota Camry remains one of America's most popular vehicles. Trading on its long-standing reputation for reliability, resale value, efficiency, and safety, the 2021 Camry is what midsize car shoppers frequently think of when the time comes to get a new vehicle.

This year, Toyota gives the Camry a light refresh that includes: 

  • Minor exterior styling updates
  • Revised interior materials
  • New infotainment systems
  • Upgraded Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) technology 
  • Reduced Camry Hybrid prices
  • Racier Hybrid XSE trim level debuts

Otherwise, the car is virtually identical to the 2020 Camry. It continues with a choice between 4-cylinder, V6, and hybrid powertrains in LE, XLE, SE, XSE, and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) trim levels. All-wheel drive is available with the standard 4-cylinder engine.

This review focuses on the car’s updates for 2021, and how they potentially impact its overall appeal to consumers.

What Owners Say About the Toyota Camry - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE Blueprint Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 60% of Toyota Camry owners are male, and the median age of a Camry owner is 55 years. These figures are identical to the averages for the midsize car segment.

Owners say their favorite things about the Camry are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Fuel economy
  • Feeling of safety
  • Interior design

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Camry are (in descending order) the: 

  • Powertrain
  • Driving comfort
  • Setting up and starting
  • Infotainment system
  • Getting in and out

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Camry ranked number eight out of 10 midsize cars.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Updated Toyota Camry - Find the best Toyota deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides an analysis of a Camry Hybrid XSE equipped with the following options:

  • Navigation Upgrade Package
  • Carpeted Mat Package

The price of the test vehicle came to $35,545, including the $995 destination charge.

2021 Toyota Camry Exterior and Interior Changes

2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

When Toyota last redesigned the Camry for the 2018 model year, the automaker wanted the design to stir emotions. Boring old Camrys were out, and exciting new Camrys were in.

To make the Camry an emotional purchase, buyers needed to fall in love with the styling. And based on the J.D. Power data shared above, the car's looks are Camry owners' favorite thing about their vehicles. Mission accomplished.

Design changes for 2021 are nearly imperceptible, but they include minor front appearance updates and new wheel designs for all but the performance-tuned Camry TRD. Inside, the 2021 Camry has improved interior trim and materials. Fresh paint colors round out the changes.

The test car wore a new hue called Blueprint, which appears nearly black unless the sunlight is shining directly on it. The Camry Hybrid looks great in XSE trim, thanks to gloss black 19-inch wheels and optional two-tone paint with a black roof.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ Review

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) is standard on every 2021 Camry. It builds on the company's Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 technology with:

  • Enhanced pedestrian detection and new cyclist detection capability
  • Improved passing response for the adaptive cruise control
  • Evasive steering assistance
  • Intersection assistance that helps prevent ill-advised left turns across traffic

Indeed, with the adaptive cruise control active, if you signal a lane change to pass slower traffic, the Camry responds with more eagerness than before. The enhanced pedestrian and new cyclist detection capabilities proved their worth on the tight, winding back roads near Santa Barbara, California.

Otherwise, TSS 2.5+ demonstrated the same level of smoothness and sophistication we've experienced with TSS 2.0, and with only occasional instances of driver irritation. And, should a collision occur, the 2021 Camry ranks exceptionally high in crash tests.

2021 Toyota Camry Infotainment System Review

2021 Toyota Camry XLE 9-inch Infotainment System

Previously, the 2018-2020 Camry models had an exclusive infotainment system design that helped make the car's cabin look and feel different from other Toyotas. Embedded into the dashboard, the screen wasn't unusual, but the surrounding controls were unique to the car.

That's gone for 2021, replaced by a new interface that sits proud of the dashboard in a floating tablet design similar to the company's Corolla and RAV4 models. To accommodate the change, Toyota moved the air vents from the top of the dashboard to a new location under the infotainment system display.

The infotainment swap makes the Camry's interior look and feel a little less remarkable but allows for a new, larger 9-inch touchscreen display option (a 7-inch screen is standard in lower trims). The standard feature set for both size infotainment systems includes Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and SiriusXM satellite radio with a three-month free trial subscription. 

Two connected services plans are also standard. Wi-Fi Connect provides free connectivity for three months and 2GB of data use, while Safety Connect is free for one year. Safety Connect includes features such as automatic collision notification and an emergency assistance button.

Upgrades available only with the larger 9-inch display include ten years of free Service Connect, a year of free Remote Connect, and a dynamic navigation system with enhanced voice recognition technology. A 9-speaker JBL premium sound system is also available with the 9-inch screen, and it sounds quite good for this segment.

The infotainment system is easy to understand and use. The menu shortcut buttons on either side of the screen help, as do volume and tuning knobs for the radio. The dynamic voice recognition works exceptionally well, quickly and accurately responding to commands. 

The New Camry Hybrid XSE is a Pleasure to Drive

The new 2021 Camry Hybrid XSE trim level adds larger wheels and more equipment to the Hybrid SE version of the car, improving its look and feel inside and out. And since the Camry Hybrid is more powerful and more efficient than a standard XSE, its availability is a welcome addition.

Toyota improves the Camry Hybrid's value, too. The price premium now amounts to $2,300, and in exchange, you get a combined 208 horsepower compared to the standard 203-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. However, the fuel economy benefit is more significant, increasing from 31 mpg to 46 mpg in combined driving.

On our mountainous testing loop, the car effortlessly averaged 38.9 mpg, in part because it proved unexpectedly enjoyable to drive. With its sport-tuned suspension, Sport driving mode, a punch of electrified torque, and stickier tires, the Camry Hybrid XSE made testing a pleasure. Furthermore, the car's continuously variable transmission (CVT) rarely groans and drones, and the regenerative braking system's pedal hardly ever feels sticky or grabby.

Though it still costs significantly more than its gasoline-only counterpart, the Camry Hybrid is worth serious consideration, if only for its easy 600-mile driving range on every tank of gas. 

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Toyota deals!

2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE Blueprint Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Toyota took a design risk with the current-generation Camry, and it has paid off. Owners love the way the car looks. Yet, at the same time, in the 2020 J.D. Power APEAL Study, every other midsize car except for the Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy outranked the 2020 Camry.

One of the things Camry owners didn't like all that much was the infotainment system. The new ones in the 2021 Camry should resolve some complaints. But nothing short of buying a crossover SUV can fix the gripes about getting into and out of this low-slung sedan.

Undoubtedly, the competition in this segment is fierce. Nearly every competitor offers a long list of positive attributes. Nevertheless, the 2021 Camry is the best iteration of this generation of the car, and the newly more affordable hybrid powertrain is now worth greater consideration.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2023 J.D. Power

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