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Old 6th September 2021, 00:20   #1
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Default 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Hi all,

Let me introduce the star of this thread: Snow white (swhite). It's a 2020 Toyota Camry AWD in "SE Upgrade" trim that I bought new last November here in Toronto, Canada. The car currently has ~25k kms on it.

2020 Camry AWD SE Upgrade

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-camry-cover.jpg 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-ext10.jpg


  • 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD with Upgrade package
  • 2.5L D4-S naturally-aspirated inline-four 16V DOHC direct and port-injected (non-hybrid)
  • 202bhp @ 6600rpm
  • ~245Nm @ 5000rpm
  • 8 speed torque converter
  • All-wheel drive (new for the 2020 model year)
  • 235/45/R18 Hankook tires and disc brakes all-round

What's great?

  • Reliable 2.5L i4 engine that Toyota has nearly perfected over the years and is in use in the RAV4, Avalon, Lexus IS, Lexus ES, etc. in addition to the Camry
  • Adequate performance: 0-100kph in just under 8 seconds, enough reserve power even at 100kph for passing
  • Efficient: does 16-19kpl on the average commute consisting of 70% highway + 30% crawling city traffic. 20kpl (5L/100kms) on extended highway runs!
  • On-demand all-wheel drive for the winter here that is surprisingly capable
  • Sporty suspension tuning- provides great grip and minimal roll while not trading ride quality too much (again- the LE/XLE trims are more comfort-tuned in this department)
  • Well-equipped in the SE Upgrade trim with a moon-roof (not pano), 8" infotainment + 7" Multi-info display, heated seats + heated steering wheel + heated ORVMs, auto headlights, etc.
  • Well-rounded Safety package: 10 airbags, Toyota Safety Sense including autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian/ animal alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.
  • Classic sedan proportions with a good measure of aggressive and contemporary cues thrown in ("No more boring" in Akio Toyoda's words). Sporty inclination in the SE/XSE line-up (versus the LE/XLE lineup that are sold in India and are more luxury-oriented)

What isn't?

  • Not the most engaging drive- mostly due to the old-school transmission (more on this later). It sometimes downshifts 3 gears to pick up 5kph of speed (more noticeable when using adaptive cruise control)!
  • Over-styled front fascia may not appeal to all tastes- I don't mind it, but I'd have preferred a slightly more "mature" look myself.
  • Not cheap anymore- $36k (all currencies in CAD) for the trim I selected, but even the lower-end ones are upward of $28k (breaching the psychological $25k barrier)
  • More jack of all trades than master of any- which makes it an "appliance"
  • No audiophile-level sound: JBL audio is only offered in XSE and XLE (and isn't all that great either)
  • Fewer color options in Canada than in the US. The "Blue print" shade that looks gorgeous would've been my first pick.
  • Some nice-to-haves aren't offered in North America (rear armrest like in the Indian Camry, memory seats, overall "premium feel")

The run-up

I moved to Canada a little under two years ago and was itching on getting back to driving and riding (the latter is yet to be accomplished). I owned a pre-worshipped 2006 Honda Civic SMT back home in Bangalore and had the best 4 years of automotive ownership on it, which I sold prior to moving to a friend who continues to worship it. Here's a quick picture before I move on from my automotive iVTEC R18A hangover:

The ex that I haven't gotten over:

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-d1c0aa005136481d8d563d6b49adc111collage.jpg

For the first year in Canada, I had remote jobs for the most part and needed to only rely on public transit to get around. But a new job in October forced me to get on to the driving scene quicker than I had planned to (I hadn't made much headway in getting my driving license here, thanks to the pandemic).

I've always looked at new car purchases as a financially ill decision so I immediately jumped into the used car market looking at everything from beater Civics (~$10k) to used 3/4 series and A6s (~$30k). I drove several examples and saw several more but the interest rates + bank fees from dealerships can be super high considering a weak credit situation that newcomers face. It was highly unappealing to pay close to 15-20% more in fees + higher interest rates compared to what I was offered by new car dealers/ my own bank for any new car purchase.

Now to be really honest (and which is highly uncharacteristic of me), I didn't really do a whole lot of research into the new cars that I could buy. But I did know this much:

  • No crossovers- I just don't need the practicality that a crossover offers, and I have a thing for dynamics that crossovers generally can't match (I may be met with resistance here- and I recognize that crossovers like the Mazda CX-5 at this price point and the Macan at much higher price points are close to sedans/ sportcars).
  • No SUVs- again, no need of the extra space. There's a phase almost every North American family will reach (kids) when a soccer mom van/ SUV becomes imperative but I'm not there yet.
  • Pickup trucks- I've always been a sedan person but with an increasing passion for overlanding, my interest in trucks like the Tacoma has piqued since moving to Canada. Also looked at the Chevy Colorado ZR2- but both options were significantly more expensive and would be overkill for my current needs (commuting 120kms each day and driving alone 95% of the time).
That left me with sedans such as the Camry and the Accord- and one of the casual website enquiries on the Toyota build tool had led to a pre-approval for a Camry. Made an appointment and headed to the dealer after work one day.

Test-drive experience & selecting a trim

I went into the Toyota dealer with little enthusiasm for any of their offerings (except the Tacoma of course- which will most likely be my next purchase in a year or so).

(Side note: Car dealerships in North America are a thing of marvel. In India, I worked in Toyota's plants but got to visit some of the largest dealerships in India as part of my work, but the scale of those pales in comparison. Here's a little perspective: this Toyota dealer that I bought from has on-site inventory of over 6000 cars)

I casually walked around looking at their demo cars but this Camry somehow stole my attention:

A dealership demo of the "Nightshade" edition

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-demo.jpg

Still, it was just an appliance.

I got around to discussing the trims with my salesperson and quickly realized I've been ignorant all along, believing the Camry only came with a CVT (big turn-off for me) and only in FWD. Only the hybrids were CVT (and not bad ones at that) and 2020 revived AWD for the Camry for the first time since 1991. Here's a summary of the trims (if I remember correctly, there are about 16 different trim/powertrain combos to choose from):

Powertrain options:
  • 2.5L i4 Gasoline with 8-speed automatic (FWD/ AWD)- available in all trims
  • 2.5l i4 Gas+hybrid with CVT (FWD)- available in LE/SE
  • 3.5l V6 making 301bhp with 8-speed automatic (FWD)- available in XSE/ TRD trims

Trim levels:

"Luxury" line-up- characterized by softer suspension, lighter interior colors, less aggressive front & rear design

  • L (discontinued for 2021)
  • LE
  • XLE (this is what's offered in India if i'm not mistaken)

"Sporty" line-up- characterized by firmer suspension, choice of only black or red interiors and the sporty appearance front & rear

  • SE
  • SE Nightshade
  • SE Upgrade
  • XSE
  • TRD (V6 only)

The SE Upgrade in AWD spec is better equipped than the SE Upgrade in FWD spec... yeah it's all confusing. The 2021 Model year added more complexity (read: confusion) by adding XLE and XSE trims to the Hybrid.

This is the beauty of the North American car market though- being spoilt for choice is a real issue to deal with. (Ford cars like the Bronco take top honors in this round with a gazillion ways to spec your car).

In no time, I was handed the keys to a 2020 AWD SE demo car (with the upgrade package that I was interested in) and got to go on a long test drive on the highway + city roads. Was a pleasant surprise to note how well it drove, significantly better than the Korean sedans and the CVT Civic I'd extensively driven in Canada- had great (heavy) steering feel, drove planted on the highway, was well equipped, etc. The "Meh"s in my head reduced in frequency while the "Hmmm"s increased....

Came back to the dealer, discussed the pricing + availability, put down a $1000 refundable deposit just in case I did decide to go ahead with this purchase.

Over the next few days, did some window shopping on the internet to look at equivalent new car options (had ruled out the used at this point). A huge part of owning a car here is the insurance, which depends on several factors like the area we live in, driving history, presence of safety features, etc. Just for perspective, annual insurance prices can range from $1200 to $6000 depending on those factors. I once got an insurance quote for a used 2013 C300 4-matic for $9600/year, owing to its age + outdated safety features + theft rates + my new driving record. No typos here. I do live in Toronto which has higher insurance prices than smaller towns.

The other serious contenders

1. Honda Accord- the most significant competitor. Pros? It's a Honda- thus feels like family to me. Drives well (better than the Camry), good interiors (more minimalistic than the Camry's edgy interiors), similar efficiency and costs. Why didn't I pick this? I know I can't digest its pseudo-fastback looks but that wasn't really the reason. No AWD is offered + it was just another appliance-option and I overlooked all other appliance options.

2. Subaru WRX- the non-appliance threat. I was seriously interested in this- considering it is frighteningly close in terms of starting price. But add the manual (heck no, I'm not buying the CVT) and a few other options and the price shot up to over $10k more than the Camry. Not a lot considering what I'd get but insurance quotes were 40% higher than the Camry's and that was a downer. Enthusiast pipe dreams can wait.

3. Acura TLX- I really do like this car. It looks great, drives great. But a sticker price of over $10k more than the Camry didn't justify it. And the subsequent facelift (which came out a few weeks after I bought the Camry) was going to be significantly better so I looked away.

I didn't really bother looking at too many other options (German cars new were ruled out- so were the Koreans and the Americans).

The final choice and welcoming swhite

Called the dealer a week after the test drive, told them I'd be interested in pursuing this purchase. Since I was pre-approved, the final approval took <2 hours- just had to email some documents and that was it.

The sales rep called me to confirm my color + trim. I opted for "Super White" over the only other option that I was also considering (Supersonic red- way too vibrant for me). Trim of choice was SE Upgrade AWD.

Was promised a delivery date 10 days later- since they had no inventory of the AWD trims. That worked for me okay, but when the delivery day came closer, there were slight delays in registration (Thanksgiving weekend if I remember correctly).

The day eventually came (November 12)- the day I take delivery of my first new car.

A picture of swhite from D-day:

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-mine2.jpg

Shopped for winter tires on new rims and a dashcam on the next day:

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-ext11.jpg

Some more exterior shots

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-exterior3.jpg 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-rear1.jpgAttachment 2203342

Here's a more recent picture- with the stock all-seasons and rims back on the car (I dipped the rims myself- not a fan of chrome)
1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-mine7.jpg 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-rims.jpg

Price Breakdown:

I paid $35k before 13% taxes and a $1.5k add-on for the extended warranty + prepaid maintenance for 120k kms + rust prevention. Discounts of around $1.5k on the actual MSRP of $36.4k plus $500 on the maintenance package were offered.

The Camry lineup starts at $28k and goes all the way to $42k- there's some overlap between top-trim Camry and the Avalon (even the Lexus ES).

Last edited by ajslave : 13th September 2021 at 05:42. Reason: Updating post with more content
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Old 7th September 2021, 02:22   #2
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Default re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Driving Impressions

Is it a driver's car? Short answer is No.

But it isn't as black and white...


The 2.5L non-hybrid engine (apologies for the dirty bay- and the yellow hues are from the anti-rust coating)
1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-engine-bay.jpg

The 2.5L powertrain is not the most torquey- it makes peak torque at 5000rpm. The horsepower numbers (202bhp for this powertrain and trim combo) are also about average- which means "sufficient" is the adjective here versus "exhilarating".

6750rpm redline (peak power at 6600rpm)

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-redline.jpg

(On a side note, the XSE trim makes +2bhp because it has dual exhausts, while other trims have a single exhaust. Mine being the AWD also loses 1bhp. Also, this engine actually works surprisingly well in Atkinson cycle with the hybrid, where the electric motors can fill in the initial torque gaps)

From the test drive, I knew this large-displacement engine is a revvy (but coarse-sounding) unit, aided by the DOHC plus delayed power and torque curves. This engine feels more like a short-stroke, high-revving engine than like a modern small-displacement turbocharged engine (of which there are so many now).

There's fairly noticeable exhaust note- doesn't sound particularly pleasing but isn't drony or too bad otherwise.

On city roads and with a light right foot, the engine works butter-smooth. It's fairly quick off the line, upshifts are seamless and there are no jerky power surges typical of turbocharged engines. I think the phrase I'm really looking for here is old-school. Put this engine alongside a 2010 Camry's, and the character is similar (albeit its quicker + more refined etc.)

Highway driving is a mixed bag. While the chassis and engine are great, the transmission's deficiencies come to surface here.


Since buying the car, I've thought about the best way to describe this transmission and here's what I came up with- this 8-speed transmission works like a 6-speed for the first 4 gears, and like a 10-speed for the next 4 gears. It holds gears way too long in 2nd, 3rd and 4th, but goes through the gears way too quickly between 5th and 8th.

This seems to be a function of the gear ratios themselves but more likely because of the transmission logic which is heavily set towards efficiency at highway speeds (granted, which it delivers). The transmission logic is also adaptive- which means over time, I've felt it responds closer to the way I like it so long as my throttle manipulation is on-point.

And the same automatic transmission actually works much better in some Lexus cars like the IS AWD and ES- which further points towards the programming being at fault here.

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-paddles.jpg

There is a sport-mode and mine has paddles- but it isn't a true "manual mode" as it only has different shift-points without allowing to stay in gear. The transmission programming takes away from the engine's actual capabilities to a great extent- and I keep thinking how well a manual would work with this (I think they discontinued the Camry manual several model years ago- although the Corolla still comes with it).

My direct comparison here was with a BMW 335i- so I'm probably being harsh. But compared to the CVT Civic and a Nissan Rogue that I drove here in Canada a lot (rented), the Camry powertrain outperformed those on every front that matters to me. As mentioned earlier, I can't live with CVTs, although the recent crop has gotten way better than before.

Suspension & dynamics:

The stability at highway speeds is incredible (for a Camry)- and I don't say this lightly because being in the automotive industry while I was in India, I've gotten plenty of driving time testing early builds of cars like the Innova Crysta and MG Hector/ZS (in India) along with several other cars that I drove here on the highway.

You could compare the highway manners of this Camry with the German cars from a couple years ago- my point of reference is the F30 3-series I've driven here extensively.

Lane changes are "firm", no floaty ride over the expansion joints that dominate the highways, and feels planted and centered (even with the lane-keep assist turned off). Wind-noise and overall NVH are also well-contained with adequate wheel-well and hood insulation. Cost-cutting in these areas isn't an option in markets like these.

Overall performance:

But all things said, the performance is there. 0-100 in under 8 seconds can't lie. My Civic in India did around 10 seconds. The extra performance over that is definitely noticeable (again, the 70-bhp gain is masked by the weak transmission in the Camry). On-ramps are a breeze to take on also thanks to the grippy suspension setup.

Disregarding the transmission's reluctance to abet in spirited driving (which is what makes the Camry a great appliance), the Camry really shines on the highway, cruising along at steady speeds with the occasional passing and gap-closing required.

Like I mentioned earlier, gears 5 & 6 go through way too quickly- but once in 7th and then in 8th, the engine settles into a comfortable 1400-ish rpm at 100kph.

Fuel Economy:

The non-hybrid Camry that I have is a "thirsty" variant, considering the Hybrid easily offers +30% over this powertrain. Mine being AWD does lose another 0.5kpl-ish.

So far, I've averaged 5.8-6.5L/100km on my daily commutes. That translates to 15-17kpl on 60% highway/ 40% city commutes. Not bad. A friend's 2020 Elantra does 20kpl on a similar commute though (another win there for small turbocharged engines).

I recently went on a 1600km round trip to Northern Ontario- and the trip average was 5.2L/100km (>19kpl).

A full tank of gas usually costs about $50 and lasts ~650kms. Doesn't pinch my wallet at all.

Winter driving:

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-winter.jpg 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-ext9.jpg

South-east Ontario's winters can be brutal with the lake-effect causing massive amounts of snowfall. There's a good reason why pick-up trucks and 4WD SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer are favored here.

Sedans aren't great for such driving, naturally. Traction is an issue but not as much as ground clearance. In smaller towns where snow isn't ploughed as often, I can see how sedans will be useless (in 5 feet of snow- unless its a WRX). But here in Toronto, snow gets ploughed quick but even otherwise, having lived with swhite for a winter already, I can safely say sedans can be lived with- as long as you know not to dive (drive?) into hairy situations.

Winter tires are almost essential- and the on-demand AWD system does kick-in right on time. Switching the set of tires twice a year also increases longevity- I should be good for at least 3 years before needing to replace tires.

Overall, I'm quite satisfied. Yeah, it's not great for spirited driving. But fits my current needs like a glove. As for the next aspirational purchase, I'll be getting a pick-up truck. Maybe for a third car several years down the line, I will look at super-sedans or tuner projects.


1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int1.jpg

The SE trims in Canada only get black interiors. They're full-fabric in the lower SE trims, but with the upgrade package, we get the "SofTex" material which is Toyota's animal-free leather (US cars do get an ash-grey option for these trims). Beige (XLE) and red (XSE) are trim-specific.

Mine has the black SofTex with grey fabric inserts and some contrast stitching:

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int2.jpg

The dashboard design follows lots of asymmetric geometry. The screen is subtly tilted towards the driver (not as much as in the current VWs). More on the infotainment to follow...

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int3.jpg

A big frustration is with the use of piano-black in the dash and other high-contact areas. It's impossible to not notice dust or smudges. It forces me to clean more often- which is a positive offshoot if I decide to see it that way. More expensive manufacturers are still struggling to get away from this (the Mercs are atrocious in this regard)- so have to live with this.

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int5.jpg

The driver's seat has 10-way powered adjustment including lumbar and under-thigh (passenger seat is manual 6-way):

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int4.jpg

The overall ergonomics are decent, although I miss my FD1 Civic's. It can be a little tricky for a tall person (I'm 6') to get the best balance between seat inclination and reach. The armrest on my Civic was supremely comfortable (since it would slide) but this Camry's is fixed and can make it tricky to find a good position to rest the elbows.

Another irk is with the operation of the armrest console- the button to operate is usually several inches behind my natural wrist position so its a circus of sorts to operate it while driving.

Speaking of armrests, here's the foldable rear (I miss the audio controls from my Civic):

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int6.jpg

The rear space has always been a strength with the Camrys. I don't know if that's entirely true anymore since the competition (Accord) has caught up. Even the Civic has an inch or so more legroom. Still, plenty and can easily seat a 6-footer without the knees touching the seat backs.

Seats do fold 40-60 but don't recline. Carrying a bicycle in the trunk (or golf clubs) is no problem with the seats folded.

There are rear AC vents (comes with SE Upgrade/ XSE/ XLE) although no USB ports. The hump is prominent though, eating into the 5th passenger's comfort:

1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-int7.jpg

Other interior shots:

Door pad showing all 4 auto up/down mirrors plus ORVM adjustment (they don't fold electrically)
1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-door.jpg

Decent sized glovebox
1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-glovebox.jpg

The only incandescent lighting on the interior (all others are white LED)
1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-visor.jpg

Qi-wireless charging (I believe its 5W- so not particularly useful these days)
1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD-wireless.jpg

Last edited by ajslave : 7th September 2021 at 04:27. Reason: Added more content
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Old 13th September 2021, 07:10   #3
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Reviews section. Thanks for sharing!

Going to our homepage today . Absolutely love the new Camry, Toyota has truly done a fantastic job with this generation.
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Old 13th September 2021, 12:46   #4
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

I read the title header and decided this is not going to be in India! Wish you many more miles on your Camry AWD.
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Old 13th September 2021, 14:17   #5
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Great detailed review. Wish you many more happy miles on your Camry AWD.
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Old 13th September 2021, 20:45   #6
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Congratulations on no nonsense and reliable car (and nicely done rims, maybe you should wrap the roof in black too). I wonder if you considered a Honda Accord 2.0 turbo while evaluating options.
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Old 14th September 2021, 06:56   #7
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Camry as an AWD, i was truly living under a rock!
I like how Toyota has redesigned the new Camry to make it more visually appealing. The version just prior to this one was as staid as they come.

Thanks for sharing your ownership experience, made for a good read.
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Old 14th September 2021, 07:13   #8
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

Toyota's PR department has an ad campaign going on titled "Rebooted and Revisited, For Your Reappraisal", for this new Camry. I don't think there is a more fitting tagline for it. Toyota have done a phenomenal job with this one.

There is uptake for the new Camry even among private buyers. This is one nice looking car, especially when specified like yours.

I guess your car comes with the new Direct and Port Injection fuel delivery system or D-4S. The gearbox is supposed to have a launch gear too, wherein, its an actual gear cog for the first gear before it transitions to the cvt. These are small notable improvements to keep the car up to date.

Insurance is out of whack for used cars in your part of the world! For comparison, I report from Kiwi land, the insurance for a Mercedes C300 of the same age you were looking at is ~$1000, comprehensive (or $900 Canadian). A tidy car costs about $17,000 Canadian. I guess it boils down the size of the economy and overall affordability index which for New Zealand, is a tiny dot compared to North America.
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Old 14th September 2021, 15:41   #9
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Default Re: 1-year review | My 2020 Toyota Camry SE AWD

That is a very premium looking sedan compared to Indian standards and the power/torque figures are good too, so is the dash to the ton. A practical sedan while in Canadian environment IMO. Also the design looks so smashing. Loved your review.
Wish you many happy miles with it.
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