2020 Toyota Camry TRD performance model. Photo: Toyota

This week I'm driving a high-performance Toyota Camry, which sounds like an oxymoron, but hear me out.

The big picture: The Camry has long been a practical, reliable choice — it's spacious, quiet and comfortable.

  • My mother drove a beige Camry, which was pretty much ubiquitous in her Florida retirement community.
  • In recent years, though, Toyota has been trying to inject some excitement across its vehicle portfolio, both in terms of styling and driving characteristics.

Toyota takes it to the next level with its TRD performance line, which stands for "Toyota Racing Development" and is inspired by Toyota's racing heritage.

  • For the first time, the Camry is getting the full TRD treatment, combining a track-tuned chassis and a 301-hp V-6 engine.
  • Hard-core enthusiasts will quibble that it's not really a performance car because the engine is not unique and, well, it's a Camry.

All I can say is it's the sportiest Camry I've ever driven.

  • Its bolder stance includes aerodynamic features like side skirts and a trunk lid spoiler.
  • And the engine is tuned to sound more aggressive.
  • I'm not a fan of the latest Camry interior, but the TRD dresses it up with accents like red stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and even red seatbelts.

Toyota doesn't skimp on assisted driving features, even in models like the Camry TRD, which is meant to be driven aggressively.

  • It includes automatic braking and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance technology as standard features.
  • Other systems, including help for backing out of parking spaces, are also available.

The bottom line: The Camry TRD starts at $31,040, which is a lot of fun for a reasonable price.

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