If you want a mainstream mid-sized sedan with all-wheel-drive today, your only choices wear Subaru, Chrysler or Ford badges. Five years ago? Subaru, Ford/Mercury and niche player Suzuki. Sensing a theme here? For whatever reason, automakers don’t seem to concern themselves with this niche, not even Toyota. Well, except from 1988 until 1991 when they offered the Camry All-Trac.
Toyota seemed to be on a bit of an AWD binge at the time, offering All-Trac variants of the Camry, Corolla, Celica and Previa in the North American market. As the 1990s rolled on, these All-Trac models disappeared one by one.
The second generation of front-wheel-drive Camry saw its lineup expand in meaningful ways. There was a new wagon, a V6 engine and available all-wheel-drive, none of which were available on the arch-rival Honda Accord.
The All-Trac Camry had a full-time all-wheel-drive system, unlike the shift-on-the-fly system employed in the similarly-sized Ford Tempo. As with the Tempo, there was little difference visually from FWD models; the Camry All-Trac was distinguished only by badges and a tiny increase (1mm) in ride height.
There was a higher level of sophistication in the Camry overall, befitting its almost $4k premium over the Tempo. The All-Trac’s sole engine was a 2.0 fuel-injected, double overhead cam four-cylinder engine producing 115 hp at 5200 rpm and 124 ft-lbs of torque at 4400 rpm. It had to haul around 3086 pounds of Camry as the AWD system and various internal modifications (including two reinforcing crossmembers) added 353 pounds. Unlike the Tempo, you could buy an All-Trac with either a manual (5-speed) or automatic (4-speed) transmission. Despite the extra weight, the All-Trac didn’t feel much slower and the differential ratio was changed to compensate for the added bulk. Four-wheel disc brakes were also added.
For whatever reason, Toyota chose to restrict the Camry’s all-wheel-drive availability to the sedan body style. It was a curious decision as Subaru had taken the mainstream AWD wagon ball and ran with it; Toyota also anticipated from the start that the All-Trac sedan would only account for a meager 5% of Camry sales. But for those who didn’t mind the reduced practicality of a sedan, the Camry All-Trac was a very appealing package with competent handling, a well-packaged and high-quality interior and inoffensive styling. However, the All-Trac models cost almost $2k more than their FWD counterparts. Given the generally acceptable winter weather capability of FWD vehicles, perhaps it’s clear why the Camry All-Trac was a slow seller and lasted only one generation.
Curbside Classic: 1990-94 Subaru Legacy
CC Capsule: 1990 Subaru Loyale
Toyota was in early on the AWD wagon with SUV styling cues trend, first with the Tercel 4WD wagon and then the Corolla All-Trac wagon. The Tercel wagon was considerably longer and taller than other body styles; the Corolla AWD wagon had a modified appearance compared to the FWD wagon, including an odd pinched rear-side window that has since become trendy. But the market for these wasn’t really established yet, and Toyota gave up just as Subaru, Audi, Volvo, and others were gearing up to build SUV-ish wagons. The Camry AWD would probably sell better today, and its platform supports it if they decide to give it another go.
Keep in mind, the Highlander is built on the Camry platform more or less, and is available with AWD, so that’s where Toyota will send you if you want an AWD Camry. (Which means the AWD mechanicals are in production and the Camry sedan body is in production, it would just take a decision by Toyota and some tweaking to put them together.)
@cfclark, exactly. I have a 2010 Highlander V6 AWD and FWIW I think that if you took away the increased ground clearance the Highlander is to the Camry what the B-body wagon was to the B-body sedan. Two vehicles cut from the same basic cloth just one has more cargo room and a folding 3rd row.
Exactly, when the Highlander came out, I likened it to an XV10 Camry Wagon with a lift kit. Not sure a Highlander back then could get 29mpg though, but maybe it can now in Hybrid form.
I thought the Venza was the “Camry wagon?” Of course the Venza is out of production now.
The Venza came out much later than the Highlander, but true, it could be thought of as that since it’s also based on the Camry K platform. Toyota has K-cars too!
I guess it’s because Toyota once took so many chances that we condemn Toyota for being so boring/pedestrian.
When the AWD Tempo and this Camry were new I can’t say I remember seeing them advertised, maybe all ads were in “hunting and fishing” type magazines?
In the 25 years since the AWD Tempo and Camry were produced, I think I’ve seen 3 Tempos and 1 Camry advertised in want ads
If Toyota re-introduced this model today I think it would still be a sales dud. If you want something along these lines from Toyota today you can have an AWD Sienna.
And conversely one of the reasons Subaru took AWD and ran with it was because it was in such dire condition, at least in the US—their only chance was to find something that distinguished them in the marketplace and cater to that niche. Their genius was in managing to grow that niche into something sustainable from a business perspective.
Nice find. I wonder what the actual percentage of All-Trac Camry’s were? 5% of sedan sales seems woefully optimistic. I don’t remember seeing very many when these were common.
Sad to see this one slowly rotting away, but at least it’s out there still doing its job. The ’91 DX wagon my parents had also rusted through the front fenders, but remained a smooth runner to the very end.
You forgot to mention one other modern alternative for an AWD sedan – if you want a mainstream AWD 4-door that’s reasonably priced and is currently sold, there is the Volvo S60 and S80. They have been available with AWD in their current generation(s).
I think by mainstream he means non-luxury brand.
Agree. I was going to point out the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 but then caught the “mid-size” qualifier as well…Nevertheless they are options and not necessarily priced much higher.
But there IS the Chrysler 200 AWD sedan that should qualify in all respects.
You’re spot-on, Jim, and I’ve made that change. Completely forgot about the new 200 AWD because the last time Chrysler offered AWD in a mid-size, it was literally for one year and I wrote about it last year:
It’s very interesting they reintroduced an AWD mid-sizer after the last one flopped so badly, but I’m glad they did. The new 200 is nice.
NO! Dont make me talk to a Toyota dealer about a Highlander…no. It sounds like a terrible way to spend a Saturday.
These were great cars. I know a gentleman that had a white 1990 Camry DX All-Trac sedan with 399k miles on it and it got totaled right before it turned 400k. He was so mad that he didn’t get to see the 400k milestone! He often bragged how good that car was in the snow/bad weather. In both the All-Trac and FWD versions these cars ran forever with very little headaches and minimal maintenance.
I remember the Camry All Trac. I’ve never owned one, nor have I driven one. I was disappointed when it was discontinued.
It is interesting to note how ahead of the curve Toyota was with an AWD Camry, and that they’ve yet to re-introduce it, despite the all-wheel drive craze in recent years.
This may not have been they most interesting-looking Camry, even by Camry standards, but they were nonetheless dependable and comfortable cars that largely helped establish the Camry’s mainstream appeal and reputation. My mom owned two of these in a row when new.
Honda did have a 4WD model in the early 90s, the Orthia, Ok its a rebadged Mazda Capella with the same dual pump4WD decals but it was in Hondas line up I saw one yesterday.
No, the Orthia was based on the EK Civic.
Actually Joe if you’d ever seen one you’d know its not a Honda and if your checking on Wiki be aware they only know about the later model not the earlier version based on the previous model 626/Capella wagon, The replacement panels were sold through Ford mazda dealers here where my BIL was a panel rep, thats how I found out and having seen many of them the minor alterations to trim and grilles made by Honda a glaringly obvious but the dual pump 4WD decals on the rear doors exactly in the same font and placing as the mazdas have is blatantly obvious.
didn’t realize their was an awd camry as well. remember a widow in town went thru both an awd 6000 and a topaz in the late 80’s early 90’s.
Corolla Corona Camry Celica all had a 4WD version a friends sister has a 98 Corona Premio 4WD sedan 2L manual it seems to go all right, 4WD camrys have turned up ex JDM here along with all the others, I looked at a 4WD Corolla diesel manual but it was really rough so I passed and havent seen another since.
My dad had one of these. It was pretty cool. Had a “DIFF” button in the center console, I’m guessing to lock the center diff. His was 5 speed too.
It would be fun to pick one of these up, slam it and drop a 3S-GTE or the 3.0L V6 that mates to these transmissions in. They look dowdy stock but they look really really good lowered.
I didn’t know about those 4×4 Camry, it is cool. My first car in North America was a 1988 Camry…. Very good car as everybody knows but the total lack of personality was killing me. I was happy to see that car going away when I sold it.
My dad had an 88 Camry – non 4wd – he put over 250,000 miles on it. Sold him forever on Camrys. He later bought a 99 and 05 – which my mother is still driving.
A friend from my college days had a Camry All-Trac, which was a model that I previously hadn’t known existed. (This was in the 1999-2001 time frame.) Hers was white with black bumpers, which makes me think that the All-Trac package must have been available on the lower trim levels as well as the higher-end ones? If I remember correctly, it was a 5-speed as well. Quite a rare bird.
As she attended a university in the mountains that got quite a bit of snow (by mid-Atlantic standards, anyway) I’m sure the AWD came in handy from time to time!
The VW Passat 4Motion isn’t available in the US ? I’m sure the Skoda Superb 4×4 (below) isn’t. It’s a hatchback by the way, but it sure looks like a sedan.
The Opel Insignia 4×4, another one. No Buick Regal 4×4 in the US ?
No US Passat 4Motion anymore. Remember the US gets the NMS Passat which is completely different than the European MQB-platform Passat that most of the world gets. Which means no wagons/estates and no AWD.
I’ve driven at least two Toyota Camrys, but never a Camry All Trac. It’s a shame it was discontinued when it was.
I have a 1991 Toyota I’ll track and I love it. It has a tiny leak in the fuel tank and I can’t seem to find another fuel tank. I’ve tried to patch it but it only holds for about a month. It does great in the snow. I live in Nampa Idaho but I’m from Tacoma. My email is Mlbjohnson33@gmail.com.I’m looking for a fuel tank or to sell for $1400. Not any tank will do for this model.
I have a 1991 Toyota Camry LX all track. I love the car and it did great in the snow last winter. It looks and runs great but it has a tiny leak in the fuel tank. I cannot seem to find another tank nor do they make them anymore. I’m asking $1400 for it. If I could find a tank I’d keep it forever. Any one have a tank? They’re not made anymore and I can’t find one. Not any Camry tank will work with an Alltrak. I’ve tried to patch it but it only holds for a month or so .
This is first time I’ve used this format
Hah, funny to come across this old thread but at least I found what I was looking for. I have a 91 Camry All trac.
I’m glad to read it does well in snow since I’ve only used it in Socal and AZ. Soon I’ll be shipping it to NC. It only has about 130,000 miles on it and is still in pretty decent shape. I got it from my friend’s grandpa who hadn’t really been driving it much.