Rental Car Review: Back Where We Started

This cycle of Rental Car Reviews has come full circle. 

The concept of this mini-series of review articles was to take the energy of the Mid-Continent Road Trip and create some content to fill the month with vehicles that should have been covered on this site. The result is what you have read on this site so far.

I said farewell to two models that will be eliminated from their lineups this year. I also added two more vehicles from a growing and very competitive class to the mix. On top of all of that, I also brought you another version of the best-selling non-pickup truck in the past couple of years. 

These vehicles represent what consumers have either embraced or walked away from in the past few years.

Now, we come full circle with this final Rental Car Review for this summer. In essence, I have brought you back to the beginning with another version of the car that brought me to Omaha, Kansas City, Wichita, and back

The 2020 Toyota Camry has become the hero of Victory & Reseda this summer. That black SE rolled through five states, two new cities visited, and miles of new-to-me stretches of Interstate highways. The once best-selling non-pickup truck for several years, the Camry proved its worth every step of the way. 

Just a bit lower down in the lineup is this rented white 2020 LE sedan. This is the value leader of the Camry lineup, as most budget-minded consumers usually pick before even considering an upgrade to an SE, XLE and beyond. It seems appropriate that I end this July run with a proven automobile, as well as an exploration of value for a vehicle that still satisfies its owners over the past three-plus decades.

This specific LE represents the most typical value-laden configuration. There are a few twists, however. The standard 203-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, connected to an eight-speed automatic certainly does not sound “basic.” Nor does the trim’s standard Toyota Safety Sense P set of driver assistance features, including Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist. Even Apple CarPlay and the handsome 17-inch alloy wheels seem to be luxuries set as standard on the Camry LE.

The interior is more mid-level than "basic." An all-cloth upholstery made things a bit more comfortable in the heat. Along with a "basic" air conditioning system, the comfort level on the Camry LE was simply fine for in-town runs and stretches out on the highway. Over time, I have remarked on the interior space of the Camry, which will accommodate an adult family of four in comfort. 

Where the "basic" is played out is in the driving. The 2.5-liter engine/8-speed automatic transmission driveline held its own on highway driving, as well in in-town. Ride quality is quite good, especially on smoother surfaces. Handling is superb, as is the steering and braking systems. No surprises on this LE, but I noticed that it did felt a bit softer than the SE driven on the road trip earlier in July.

Even better news in the fuel economy front. In the white LE, I averaged 34.0 MPG for my run up to the Iron Range and back. 

If you are considering a 2020 Camry, an LE in the configuration I drove would come with a sticker price of $25,925. My recommendation is to look at the three packages available for this trim level and make the upgrade. That way, you can more than just basic transportation when you add Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, auto dimming rearview mirror, and so forth.

In all, the Camry LE was a good driving car for the paces I out it through. You can’t snub your nose at renting one. 

Since this new Camry was introduced, I have now driven every driveline – except for the new all-wheel-drive model – and almost every trim level – except for the base L and the new TRD model. This was not my intention to accomplish this. However, they do point to one overarching theme across all experiences with this generation of the Toyota Camry: It is a better car than ever before. Not to mention, it is one of the better sedans we have left in this country. 

These Rental Car Reviews that have been published in the last month or so serve as a reminder of how this work began and where it has taken me professionally. Looking back at the reviews I published before the site was renamed Victory & Reseda, I can see how my evaluation and writing techniques have evolved towards today’s work. It was good to revisit these old reviews and took what I learned from them onto these past several articles. 

Lastly, if you’re traveling or needing a vehicle temporarily for some reason, remember that when you roll the wheel of Rental Car Roulette, you may never know where the ball will land. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda

All photos by Randy Stern

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