The late 1980s were a halcyon era for all-wheel-drive cars. Mitsubishi made all-wheel-drive Galants, Honda had the Civic Real Time 4WD, Pontiac introduced the 6000 STE AWD, and Ford offered an all-wheel-drive Tempo. The period gave us various AWD Subarus and Audis, the BMW 325xi, and Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic system. Toyota even built an all-wheel-drive Camry, the All-Trac, from 1988 to 1991. Then the SUV craze took off, everyone bought a Ford Explorer, and all-wheel-drive cars went back to being freaky things for rally-racing fans and rich Vermonters.

Okay, we’re oversimplifying. But if SUVs and crossovers killed the mainstream all-wheel-drive sedan, we can also argue that they’re the proximate cause of its current minor renaissance, since carmakers want to give their sedans a fighting chance in showrooms bursting with new utility vehicles. So, Toyota’s AWD Camry has returned, this time less because of direct all-wheel-drive competition (Subaru Legacy, Nissan Altima) than to fight the more general adversary known as “all crossovers.”

Photo credit: Brian Rozar – Car and Driver
Photo credit: Brian Rozar – Car and Driver
Toyota introduced all-wheel drive as a midyear addition to the 2020 Camry lineup, and it went into production at the company’s factory in Kentucky last March. Considering what else was ramping up last March, you’ll be forgiven for missing that news. Toyota figures 15 percent of Camry buyers will choose the all-wheel-drive option—which is limited to the North American market—but we predict that only a tiny subset of those will add their own All-Trac badges. That’s too bad. As it stands, a subtle AWD emblem on the trunk is the only giveaway that your Camry is packing more than one differential.

Unless, that is, you jack up the car, which we did to take a peek at that rear diff. The complete system adds roughly a claimed 165 pounds yet makes no impingement on trunk space. The rear seats lose 0.4 inch of headroom, and overall passenger volume declines by less than a cubic foot, both of which are metrics that fall under the heading of “not so you’d notice.” Oddly, all-wheel-drive Camrys have a wider turning circle (39.3 feet versus 38.0 for front-drivers) because of a slightly wider rear track and different suspension geometry.

The rear-axle hardware also crowds the exhaust system a bit, resulting in the all-wheel-drive models making one horsepower fewer than their front-drive siblings. We suspect that, in a drag race, the weight penalty will make a bigger difference than the single-pony deficit.

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