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Quick Drive: 2020 Toyota Camry TRD & Lexus ES 350 F-Sport


William Maley

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For your consideration: Two unlikely sport sedans.

The Toyota Camry TRD and Lexus ES 350 F-Sport may not seem like credible sport sedans at first glance. They may seem like tarted-up sedans in terms of looks, but nothing else. However, after spending a week in each one, I can say both are the real deal.

Camry TRD

  • This Camry is in your face about its sporting potential. It comes with a front splitter, side skirts, a distinct rear spoiler, and 19-inch TRD wheels with a matte black finish. I found it to be a bit much and wished Toyota offered a package that got you the goodies for the suspension and exhaust system while keeping the looks of a standard Camry. A sleeper of sorts.
  • TRD models come with small touches inside such as red seatbelts, red stitching on the seats and dash; leather-wrapped steering wheel, and TRD floor mats. Otherwise, it is your standard Camry interior.
  • Power comes from a 3.5L V6 with 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Yes, that's the same output as the Camry XLE V6 I drove earlier. But what TRD has done is added a new exhaust system that provides a nice growl. I'll admit I was surprised when I blipped the throttle at a stoplight and heard what came out.
  • This is an engine you have to work slightly to get into its sweet spot of power - around the mid-range on the rpm band. But once you do, the engine delivers a smooth punch of power.
  • I do wish the six-speed automatic wouldn't try to go into the highest gear ASAP to maximize fuel economy.
  • Where TRD worked their magic is with the suspension. The car is lower than a standard Camry, along with being stiffer thanks to thicker underbody braces, stabilizer bars, and shocks. On a winding road, the Camry TRD feels much more athletic than the standard Camry with minimal body and a set of summer tires providing excellent grip.
  • The only downside is the steering which needs a bit more weight.
  • Ride quality is a bit more firm than a standard Camry, but the suspension does a decent job of minimizing the bumps and impacts.
  • To top it all off, Toyota has priced the Camry TRD at a surprising point. With the two-tone paint on my tester, it comes at $32,920 - making this the cheapest way to get a V6 in a Camry. The added bonus is that the TRD is also the most fun you can have in Camry.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport 5.jpg

ES 350 F-Sport

  • Lexus takes a more sedate approach with the ES F-Sport with a mesh grille insert, new wheels, and a small lip spoiler. I think if they went overboard with the sporty touches, it would ruin the elegance of the standard ES design.
  • I will say the grey on my tester makes the F-Sport kind of look somewhat bland. Going with either the blue or red helps it stand out.
  • Under the hood is the same 3.5L V6 found in other ES 350s, producing 301 hp and 267 lb-ft. The behavior is similar to what I found in the Camry, needing to work it before a smooth rush of power comes on.
  • The transmission doesn't have the same programming as the Camry's with trying to maximize fuel economy. It is ready to downshift at a moment's notice.
  • I've praised the standard ES for making a real leap forward in handling as there is less body motion on windy roads when compared to the previous model. The F-Sport takes that a step further with a revised suspension and optional adaptive dampers - which my car had. Slip the drive mode into Sport+ and ES transforms into something that you can pilot with confidence on a twisty stretch of road. The dampers firm up to make body roll non-existent, and the steering feels more weighty when turning.
  • When you decide to stop having fun and turn the drive knob to either normal or comfort, the F-Sport transforms a standard ES with a smooth and quiet ride.
  • The price? Base is $44,635 and this fully-loaded tester comes in at $53,950 with destination. A bit hard to swallow when you consider that the Avalon TRD offers similar performance for slightly less money. But not everyone wants a sedan that screams "look at me", and thats where the ES 350 F-Sport shines. It may be sporty, but it keeps quiet about its intentions.

Disclaimer: Toyota and Lexus Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2020
Make: Toyota
Model: Camry
Trim: TRD
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve VVT-iW V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 301 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25
Curb Weight: 3,572 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
Base Price: $31,040
As Tested Price: $32,920 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Two-Tone Midnight Black Metallic Roof and Rear Spoiler - $500.00
Special Color - $425.00
 

Year: 2020
Make: Lexus
Model: ES 350
Trim: F-Sport
Engine: 3.5 DOHC 24-Valve VVT-iW V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 302 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 267 @ 4,700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/31/25
Curb Weight: 3,649 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
Base Price: $44,635
As Tested Price: $53,950 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package - $2,900.00
Triple Beam LED Headlights - $1,515.00
Blind Spot Monitor w/Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Intuitive Parking Assist w/Auto Braking - $1,065.00
Adaptive Variable Suspension - $750.00
Hands-Free Power Open/Close Trunk - $550.00
10.2-inch Head-Up Display - $500.00
Illuminated Door Sill - $400.00
Power Rear Sunshade - $210.00
F Sport Heated Leather Steering Wheel with Windshield Wiper Deicer and Fast Response Interior Heater - $180.00
Door Edge Guard - $145.00
Wireless Charger - $75.00


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Two sisters from the same mother pretending to be sporty, WOW, Toyota has truly pushed the TRD marketing and I would not waste my hard earned money on either.

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These are not sporty.

I am sure they are reliable since that 3.5 V6 is going on a GM 3800-like production run, that engine has been around forever and clearly all the bugs are well worked out.  And Toyota/Lexus have good resale value.  Reliability and resale yes, sporty, no.

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It's certainly possible to have a relatively sporty sedan vs. other trims, given decent suspension/tires and power-upgrades, in any time period. Buyers like them or OEMs wouldn't keep offering them. Not to defend toyoter here but, 300 hp in 3600 lbs is not bad. And GM has built some very good ones in the past. 

 

Screen Shot 2021-05-04 at 8.15.48 AM.png

Edited by balthazar
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3 hours ago, balthazar said:

It's certainly possible to have a relatively sporty sedan vs. other trims, given decent suspension/tires and power-upgrades, in any time period. Buyers like them or OEMs wouldn't keep offering them. Not to defend toyoter here but, 300 hp in 3600 lbs is not bad. And GM has built some very good ones in the past. 

 

Screen Shot 2021-05-04 at 8.15.48 AM.png

Yes GM gave a Look but I would not call them Sporty, just Marketing fluff for added dollars selling to the uninformed who think this is a sports car.

Yes these were better than the lower trim levels, but not what any person aware of the auto industry would truly call sporty.

Toyota is truly following GM history or tarting up a pig with lipstick.

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As far as the FWD sports sedan genre, there definitely have been some that were genuinely sporty from what I have read...Ford Taurus SHO (esp. the early ones w/ manuals), Nissan Maxima SE (from the 4DSC era), the Grand Prix GXP and Bonneville SSEi, 2 generations of Cadillac STS,  more recently the Buick Regal GS from about 5 years ago...

They weren't proper RWD sports sedans like a BMW M5, Pontiac G8 GXP, Chevy SS, Mercedes AMG E-class, etc...but definitely better to drive than the usual vanilla FWD midsize/large sedan...

Edited by Robert Hall
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2 hours ago, David said:

Yes GM gave a Look but I would not call them Sporty, just Marketing fluff for added dollars selling to the uninformed who think this is a sports car.

Yes these were better than the lower trim levels, but not what any person aware of the auto industry would truly call sporty.

Toyota is truly following GM history or tarting up a pig with lipstick.

The price jump to get something actually sporty that seats four comfortably, is insane. They're a more dynamic driving experience while still being able to have your four doors. there really isn't much that competes with the TRD Camry right now, Accord "Sport"? 

What else would one buy if they wanted a slightly sporty four door sedan that's less than 35k? 

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11 hours ago, Robert Hall said:

GM built many of these types of sedans in the past, FWD midsize sedans tarted up to be "sporty"...various Pontiacs, Buicks, etc.   These are the same formula, 2021 editions.  

Except with better build quality and reliability.

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4 hours ago, ccap41 said:

The price jump to get something actually sporty that seats four comfortably, is insane. They're a more dynamic driving experience while still being able to have your four doors. there really isn't much that competes with the TRD Camry right now, Accord "Sport"? 

What else would one buy if they wanted a slightly sporty four door sedan that's less than 35k? 

Kia Stinger but that is even a little over priced and the back seat is smaller than the Camry.  The Charger, but those don’t have much handling.  Maybe Kia K5 GT or Sonata N Line, otherwise you are going over $50k for a sporty sedan that seats 4.

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30 minutes ago, smk4565 said:

Kia Stinger but that is even a little over priced and the back seat is smaller than the Camry.  The Charger, but those don’t have much handling.  Maybe Kia K5 GT or Sonata N Line, otherwise you are going over $50k for a sporty sedan that seats 4.

The Charger handles the twisties just fine.  It aint a Nürburgring time attack beast, but that aint what Chargers/Challengers are all about.  

With the exemption of the Stinger, BMW M5,  Mercedes AMG E-class, which are sports sedans that were SPECIFICALLY engineered to run the Nürburgring,  and the other RWD sport sedans mentioned such as the  Pontiac G8 GXP, Chevy SS and BMW 330i, the Charger OUTHANDLES all other cars  mentioned in this thread.  

Like NO question about it.  

PS: The Charger is a modern muscle car.  Modern in that it handles the curves unlike the wallowing, STRAIGHT LINE ONLY muscle cars of yore.  

IT AINT a muscle car of yore.  I repeat. It handles the curves JUST fine. Its just that its MAIN mission is STRAIGHT LINE acceleration.  

As a heavy RWD muscle car brute, the Hellcat Charger wide body it WILL keep up with a BMW M4, Pontiac G8, Chevy SS. It will lose. But that is OK. It CAN keep up. 

BUT...on a straight away. The heavy muscle car Hellcat brute will leave ALL in the dust!

And quite honestly, in North America, where OUR (Canada also) roads are actually straight for THOUSANDS of miles, who the hell cares for the twisties?

Seeing how BMW, the ultimate driving machine company has sold its soul for top heavy North American sales SUVs that also happen to have MORE heft than a Charger itself, and how an old platformed Charger still sells like little hot cakes, Id say that a good chunk of Americans dont give a shyte for the twisties anymore...

 

I like how @Robert Hall put it. 

These offerings from Toyoter are the same formula of the FWD sporty sedan of the 1980s/1990s with 2021 seasoning.  

And seeing how Toyoter produced some nice sporty cars in that 1980s/1990s time frame, its nice to see them get back in the game (in producing sporty rides rather than their late 1990s/2000s coma inducing shyte they gave us) 

 

 

Edited by oldshurst442
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1 hour ago, oldshurst442 said:

The Charger handles the twisties just fine.  It aint a Nürburgring time attack beast, but that aint what Chargers/Challengers are all about.  

With the exemption of the Stinger, BMW M5,  Mercedes AMG E-class, which are sports sedans that were SPECIFICALLY engineered to run the Nürburgring,  and the other RWD sport sedans mentioned such as the  Pontiac G8 GXP, Chevy SS and BMW 330i, the Charger OUTHANDLES all other cars  mentioned in this thread.  

Like NO question about it.  

PS: The Charger is a modern muscle car.  Modern in that it handles the curves unlike the wallowing, STRAIGHT LINE ONLY muscle cars of yore.  

IT AINT a muscle car of yore.  I repeat. It handles the curves JUST fine. Its just that its MAIN mission is STRAIGHT LINE acceleration.  

As a heavy RWD muscle car brute, the Hellcat Charger wide body it WILL keep up with a BMW M4, Pontiac G8, Chevy SS. It will lose. But that is OK. It CAN keep up. 

BUT...on a straight away. The heavy muscle car Hellcat brute will leave ALL in the dust!

And quite honestly, in North America, where OUR (Canada also) roads are actually straight for THOUSANDS of miles, who the hell cares for the twisties?

Seeing how BMW, the ultimate driving machine company has sold its soul for top heavy North American sales SUVs that also happen to have MORE heft than a Charger itself, and how an old platformed Charger still sells like little hot cakes, Id say that a good chunk of Americans dont give a shyte for the twisties anymore...

 

I like how @Robert Hall put it. 

These offerings from Toyoter are the same formula of the FWD sporty sedan of the 1980s/1990s with 2021 seasoning.  

And seeing how Toyoter produced some nice sporty cars in that 1980s/1990s time frame, its nice to see them get back in the game (in producing sporty rides rather than their late 1990s/2000s coma inducing shyte they gave us) 

 

 

If you are looking at track times, the SRT Hellcat is slower around Virginia International Raceway (a circuit that rewards straight line power) than the BMW M340i,  Mercedes-AMG GLC63, Subaru STI, and the Mercedes CLA45 beats the Charger by over 5 seconds.  And all those cars are cheaper than the Charger Hellcat with the exception of a GLC63 which costs about the same, but is an SUV.  

Now I imagine 99% of people aren't going to track these cars, so if you are just looking at on road regular driving, maybe the base V6 Charger is in line with Camry TRD for similar money.  But there is also a huge drop off from a Charger Hellcat to a base V6 car.   But selections for sporty sedans that can fit 4 adults are few to pick from any more, unless you go up into that mid-size German car territory at double the price of a Camry TRD.

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Its NOT a track car...the Charger.

ITS a COMFY GT car meant to go fast for LONG rides that can handle and brake quite good for what it is.  There was no need to say that Chargers dont have much handling.  They do OK. 

Lets flip the script.

All other cars are crap in acceleration as compared to the Charger.  I dont want to hear anything else...

All other cars do NOT measure up as good muscle cars as compared to the Charger.

In other words, just accept the Charger for what it is...  In V6 AWD form or any of the V8s. 

Point final!

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, smk4565 said:

Kia Stinger but that is even a little over priced and the back seat is smaller than the Camry.  The Charger, but those don’t have much handling.  Maybe Kia K5 GT or Sonata N Line, otherwise you are going over $50k for a sporty sedan that seats 4.

While I will agree the Stinger fits in there, you're not getting a decently equipped one for 35k as they start at 36k. K5 GT is another option and nice call on that one, 

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2 hours ago, ccap41 said:

While I will agree the Stinger fits in there, you're not getting a decently equipped one for 35k as they start at 36k. K5 GT is another option and nice call on that one, 

Yeah the Stinger is over priced.  From the star that should have been targeted price wise against Camaro/Mustang and Charger and been like $29,000 as a base price and pushed to people that want a sports car but need a back seat.  Instead they wanted to be a discount 3-series, even though it is bigger, and no one was interested.  

And maybe the K5 and Stinger could have been 1 car, 1 mid-size sedan starting at $25k, put a 195 hp standard 4-banger in the base model as your Camry/Accord competitor.  Kia is in a position where they did 2 different cars and neither compete with the Camry/Accord that well and they don't compete well with the sport sedans either.

22 hours ago, oldshurst442 said:

Its NOT a track car...the Charger.

ITS a COMFY GT car meant to go fast for LONG rides that can handle and brake quite good for what it is.  There was no need to say that Chargers dont have much handling.  They do OK. 

Lets flip the script.

All other cars are crap in acceleration as compared to the Charger.  I dont want to hear anything else...

All other cars do NOT measure up as good muscle cars as compared to the Charger.

In other words, just accept the Charger for what it is...  In V6 AWD form or any of the V8s. 

Point final!

 

 

 

Well the Camry V6 is faster in a straight line than a Charger V6.    For equal money.

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7 minutes ago, smk4565 said:

 

Well the Camry V6 is faster in a straight line than a Charger V6.    For equal money.

I guess so.  

But does a Camry V6 handle better (or worse) than a Charger V6?

It doesnt matter, I guess a FWD Camry V6 is a  sports sedan and a V6 Charger is not. Neither is a V8 powered Charger as muscle cars, 4 door-ed ones, shouldnt be considered sports sedans...

 

Edited by oldshurst442
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1 hour ago, oldshurst442 said:

I guess so.  

But does a Camry V6 handle better (or worse) than a Charger V6?

It doesnt matter, I guess a FWD Camry V6 is a  sports sedan and a V6 Charger is not. Neither is a V8 powered Charger as muscle cars, 4 door-ed ones, shouldnt be considered sports sedans...

 

Neither probably handle that well, one is front drive, the other is heavy and on a super dated platform.  But this sort of goes back to the earlier point that you don't get much for $32k or whatever the TRD Camry price point is.  And there isn't a lot at this price point that is even semi sporty, and maybe Charger and Camry are semi-sporty and that is as good as it gets without going up a lot in price.

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3 hours ago, smk4565 said:

and maybe Charger and Camry are semi-sporty and that is as good as it gets without going up a lot in price.

Yeah...but the Charger could be had with a 370HP & 395 ft/torque V8  powering the rear wheels though for just under 40 000.   

Here we are, acknowledging that a TRD Camry V6 is, kinda interesting in a very 1990s FWD  GM V6 sedan kinda way. We are, for the most part, kinda praising this move because this offering moves away from it being a coma inducing ride like other Toyota family hauling offerings.  But here YOU are back-handing an insult towards a vehicle that DOES have fun qualities built right into it whether if a V6 or (ESPECIALLY) the v8 offerings. 

I got  downvoted by a troublemaker and Im getting a useless back and forth discussion with you for defending a MUSCLE CAR.  No matter how you slice it, the V6 Charger generates 292 HP and (it could have been better) 260 ft/torque.  That aint too shabby. Its still the BASE offering.  The suspension bits are meant for family duty.  The Hemi R/T aint the sportiest Charger either.  That one too, is mostly tuned as a family hauler...

Grab the Scat Pack, and THEN we are talking about sport sedans...  No! Not time attack suspension bits underneath.  But suspension bits that make muscle car magic happen...but suspension bits that could also handle the curves.  

And at 43 000 dollars, it UNDERCUTS the Lexus version by quite a bit...  

But yeah!  Lets bitch on the Charger with its V8s and RWD... 

Downvote me and give me useless arguments but ignore what the REALITY of it all actually is! 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Robert Hall said:

Not much of anything interesting at $32k new these days.  A lot of boring FWD 4cyl generic appliances mostly.  

Accord Sport 2.0T is about $32k.  I haven't personally driven it but every review says that it is fun to drive.

You can even buy Mustang Ecoboost or Camaro turbo for about 30k, they will be fun too.

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