Rental Car Review: The Toyota Camry vs. The Minnesota Winter

Remember when this sedan was considered the default car for everyone?

No matter the time of year, a Toyota Camry will get you through it. In sub-zero temperatures, scorching 100-degree summer days full of mosquitoes, and everything else in-between – this is the car that you always counted on for decades.

You would think that talking about a Toyota Camry would be absolutely boring. Remember when they were actually mundane and milquetoast? That was when Akio Toyoda declared by the debut of the current generation Camry that his company will no longer build boring cars.

This particular rented 2020 Camry LE makes it the third such sedan in less than a year. Toyota’s mid-sized family sedan already proved itself as a long-distance cruiser delivering on superb fuel economy. 

As I pointed in another 2020 Camry LE, it is not just the fact that this car is no longer boring. It is also no longer basic. 

Last year, I already gave an updated opinion on the LE trim level model, as well as an SE model. We already know what’s underneath the hood – the 203-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. We already know that it has a decent level of standard fare – from smartphone integration to radar cruise control. We also know that it can seat four adults comfortably with a nice sized trunk to boot. 

What else should we know about the Toyota Camry LE? 

Two things. One, at just about 29,000 miles on the clock, can this 2020 Camry LE still run as good as a new one? This will be helped by considering the “normal abuse” given by other rental car customers. 

Two, this Camry LE will be driven in another set of climatic circumstances. This week will only see single digits as the high, with negative overnight temperatures. Will it hold up to these temperatures at its odometer reading?

These are questions that rarely get answered on this website. 

In some cases, I have driven vehicles with odometer readings beyond 25,000 for publication even before this site became Victory & Reseda. In other cases, some vehicles were tested in even colder weather in years past – newer ones, to be exact. 

It has been a long time since these two factors came in to play. My curiosity is piqued now. 

Yet, this Camry LE already had two strikes against it. It was not equipped with heated seat controls and a heated steering wheel. You can get a Camry LE with heated front seats as part of an upgraded package. As for a heated steering wheel, you would have to upgrade to at least an SE or XLE. Even on both, they come in another upgrade package to get them.

It is also worth noting that the 2021 Camry comes with an all-wheel-drive system. Since my rental is a 2020 model, it is a moot point. If it were my money, I’d consider getting a 2021 Camry with all-wheel-drive. 

When you have to do without these winter-ready features, you hope for the best. 

However, the Camry did come through. While this rental was shod with all-season tires, it got really lucky with dry highway surfaces and some iced/caked parking lots. The amount of traction was fine, but it worked for this purpose. 

Without heated seats and steering wheel, the heater itself worked very well to keep the cabin heated. I felt warm – really warm – as temperatures fluctuated around the five degree Fahrenheit level. The defroster worked quite quickly to keep the windshield clear, as well as to fight icy buildup on the outside. We did get a bit of snow, which came off nicely from the windows – especially the rear window through the defroster.

Even at cold temperatures, the naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic was never taxed. It went about its business, as expected. I also turned a fuel consumption average of 28.7 MPG. It is lower than usual, but please consider the fact that it was very cold when I rented this vehicle.

As equipped, a new 2021 Camry LE model will sticker at $25,965. If live in the northern climes, I actually recommend adding the Cold Weather Package with options for another $1,890. If you also add the all-wheel-drive system, your total sticker will come to $29,225. Considering the price of automobiles these days, this is a great overall value! 

In all, the venerable Camry LE did the job. It was as I expected it to do.

There is another thing about this generation of the Toyota Camry. In the past, there have been certain vehicles I would end up renting that would be an automotive equivalent of “comfort food.” A vehicle so comfortable and easy to drive anywhere that would actually put a smile on my face. I’m talking about vehicles, such as the 1986-1991 Ford Taurus, the 2000-2007 Taurus and the 2006-2016 Chevrolet Impala/Limited

Well, guess what? The Toyota Camry just joined that lofty designation for me. Not a bad designation to have. The Camry might not excite everyone, but one cannot deny how far this Toyota have gone in terms of delivering satisfaction without it being completely mundane.  Believe me, that’s a good reason to drive one whenever possible. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda

All photos by Randy Stern

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.