What do you look for in a good road trip vehicle? Some drivers need the latest tech to keep them occupied. Others want fuel efficiency or interior space that fits the whole family. When we set out for a long drive, we want to enjoy the experience. The features we look for include a powerful engine, solid handling, comfortable seats, and user-friendly infotainment. Last week, we road-tripped from Chicago to Princeton, Indiana for a tour of Toyota's Indiana plant and a ceremony for the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander. Our road trip vehicle wasn't the Highlander, however. Instead, we took the 2020 Toyota Camry XSE V6. See what we thought after getting well-acquainted with this sporty sedan over roughly 600 miles.
The 2020 Camry XSE V6 makes a bold first impression that hints at the fun to be had behind the wheel. The XSE trim made us forget about the dull styling of the Camrys from yesteryear. Instead, we admired its aggressive look with a black mesh grille, angular headlights and strong lines running down the sides.
The Camry's low center of gravity and wide stance give it an athletic and commanding presence on the road. The rear end is as attention-grabbing as the front with horizontal wraparound taillights and quad exhaust tips situated around a faux diffuser.
The large "CAMRY" lettering below the Toyota badge emits confidence, and the 19-inch black alloy wheels and the two-tone paint job top off the premium aesthetic. After admiring the exterior for a few minutes (ok, maybe longer) it was time to hop inside, check out the interior, and start our 6-hour drive to Indiana.
The sporty styling cues aren't reserved for the Camry XSE's exterior. As we jumped in to start our treck to the Hoosier state, we were pleased to find premium features like striking red leather, well-bolstered seats, and a unique Y-shaped center stack. The leather-trimmed heated and ventilated sports seats are roomy, supportive, and did a good job keeping us comfortable on our long drive. Only towards the end of the trip did we start feeling the miles traversed.
The rear seats offer ample legroom and similar support to the front seats. Although we did the trip solo, we'd imagine our hypothetical rear-seat passengers wouldn't complain about our reluctance to take rest stops. Our entire drive was comfortable and quiet without annoying wind or road noise.
The driving experience we got during our road trip did not leave us wanting much more. Most of our drive kept us on U.S. Route 41 which was pleasantly devoid of traffic, allowing us to test out the accelerating power of the 301-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine which is mated to an 8-Speed Automatic. The engine did not disappoint and we were confident merging and passing any slower vehicles we encountered. The ride quality was smooth and comfortable, protecting us from any major roughness going over bumps (much appreciated when we have our XL coffee along for the ride).
Four hours into our road trip, we decided to stop for lunch and a coffee refill in Terre Haute, Indiana. Not only did this stop allow us to discover the birthplace of the iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle (Terre Haute's claim to fame) it also gave us an opportunity to test out the Camry's steering and handling on some local roads. We felt confident navigating the small town thanks to precise steering and handling which hugged the road without much body roll.
After our tour of Toyota's Indiana plant, we started our commute back to Chicago. On our drive back, we got to test the Camry's performance in more challenging conditions courtesy of mother nature. We encountered a winter storm a few hours from home that left the roads covered in snow and ice. The Camry handled the slick conditions surprisingly well with just minor loss of traction when accelerating or turning on some local roads we took to avoid traffic. The good news is even the front-wheel-drive Camry held its own in the snow, and the better news is the Camry will soon be available with AWD.
User-friendly infotainment and safety tech is important for a daily driver and it's even more important in a road trip vehicle. Luckily, the 2020 Camry XSE was not lacking in this department as it was packed with the latest tech housed within an easy to use layout. Having our Samsung Galaxy phone with us to document the trip, we were most thankful for the addition of Android Auto to the Camry for 2020. We were able to seamlessly connect our phone to the infotainment system through a USB and use it for navigating to all our stops on the trip. Our road trip soundtrack also helped make the drive more enjoyable and came courtesy of the SiriusXM radio and the booming 9-speaker JBL sound system.
An 8-inch touchscreen for Toyota's Entune infotainment system has an intuitive layout and is responsive to inputs. Physical knobs for climate control and volume, plus physical buttons for nearly every other function complement the touchscreen. Toyota's Safety Sense suite of tech provided us with numerous active safety features including a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.
Our favorite safety feature for a long trip was the 10-inch head-up display with customizable settings including a speedometer, audio, phone and more. The fully-loaded 2020 Camry XSE V6 had all the creature comforts we were looking for in a road trip vehicle and the performance to back them up. The 2020 Camry lineup starts at $24,425 for the L trim and the XSE V6 we drove starts at $35,130.