The midsize sedan, just summed up in 3 words. Average. Boring. Appliance. Right? Not quite, says Toyota wanting to break the mold with their newest Camry. Have they done it?
Yes and no. Why?
My test Camry was a 2015 SE, in Attitude Black Metallic, with an Ash Fabric interior. The MSRP for this specific model is $24,925, and that surprised me. It felt as if it was closer to the 30 grand mark, but no, it’s only $25K. Not bad, Toyota. Not bad at all.
Let’s start on the powertrain. This Camry came with the standard 2.5 liter, 178 horsepower 4 cylinder 2AR-FE engine, mated to the standard 6-speed automatic transmission, with a Sport mode and paddle shifters. A 3.5 liter, 268 horsepower V6 2GR-FE engine is optional, and worth it if you want a lot more power in your Camry, at the expense of fuel economy.The 4 cylinder option provides plenty of power for most people driving their cars every day. At brief stints of above 100 mph on the highway, acceleration was effortless, even at full throttle at those higher speeds. Acceleration from a stop was excellent. The engine’s power came on in the midrange, and so did the torque, although top end is where the power peaked. The 4 cylinder also got good fuel economy, even when ragging on the engine with a lot of foot-to-the-floor driving, we got an average of 28.5 MPG between the city and fast highway driving. The 4 cylinder is a good engine in my opinion and for most people, and the V6 option isn’t necessary for daily driving, if you want it, get it, but the 4 cylinder engine is plenty for most people.
How does the Camry handle? Like weak duct tape that has been reused. Why, the sport SE model, why does Toyota seem not to care about handling in their sport model? Here’s why! Well, the suspension is firm, but the tires don’t seem up to the job of handling a fast corner, without having to back off a little, because of understeer due to the compound of the tires. The brakes, however, are excellent. In one situation, In some cases we found ourselves, coming up short, underestimating the brakes. Not bad, Toyota. Just give us some better tires.
What does the Camry look like outside of the engine bay? Like an aggressive angular carp mixed with a rather too large parallelogram. It seems Toyota took Ford’s idea of passive aggression on the front fascia and makes it one of the weakest point of the exterior really. gently sweep up from front to back, not too crazy, considering this car’s target market. The rear fascia has the current market trend of taillights sloping downward towards the license plate, and ugh. Chrome stripping. Get rid of it. If there is little to no chrome on the rest of the car, why should it be right above the license plate?
To the interior we go! Yay! Uhm, what’s going on in here? Well, my first thought was, “Oh, this is nice”, followed by “What the heck is that?” I was looking at the rear door panels and the seat fabric choices then. Well, let’s start on those rear door panels. The front versions have soft-touch portions where the rear panels do not have that luxury but do keep in mind the rather decent MSRP.
The seat fabric is another part of the interior that I’m not a fan of. The leatherette accenting the seats adjacent to the fabric feels like plastic, the main fabric itself feels like 80-grit sandpaper mixed with rough office chair tweed. Inside the rear armrest area is a bit of gray fabric that feels so much better, if Toyota would have used that, the seats would be more comfortable. The black vinyl on the areas that shouldn’t be touched feels like recycled tires. Anyway, the other interior plastics feel fine, and everything is seemingly well-built, the seats are a bit too firm for my taste though, I doubt anything will break within a period of about 10 years unless you have children. What a shame.
Delving further into the tech inside the Camry, I like it. To a point, of course. The Entune system, which in our case lacked navigation, is a nice infotainment system. It’s simple to use, with big buttons and knobs, making it easier to use without being distracted and confused, and the screen’s UI is simple and clean. I like the system, but it’s the components that are attached that degrade it. The whole system is 4 6x9” speakers as the main woofers, and 3.5” speakers for the midrange and treble detail in the dash. It’s not bad, but it’s not perfect. I listened to music from T-Mic Beats to Mariah Carey on it, and well. Hmm. It doesn’t sound too bad to my observant ear, but there are some issues. Those mid-high drivers in the windshield, although doing a good job at giving you a sense of where the performers are on the stage of your dashboard, they are a bit too loud, being bounced off the windshield. When listening at higher volume for a while, your ears will get tired, and you’ll find yourself needing to turn it down. That’s not fun when Mariah Carey is wailing in the beautiful way she does, which makes me sad. The 6x9s in the front are just wired for bass signals, and although when blasting bass-heavy music made them thump, the flat basslines in T-Mic Beats’ music just seemed off, like they were muddy and sloppy, and reminded me of listening to earlier models of Beats headphones. The 6x9s in the rear parcel shelf are worse than the fronts. Because there isn’t a component system of speakers in the back trying to play full range, and it just isn’t good. If you want to enjoy the music, don’t sit in the back, otherwise, the stereo is decent, and so is Entune.
Moving further back, there’s a donut spare, instead of a can of Fix-A-Flat, it’s still not a full-size spare, and that makes me sad, because there is enough room for a full-size spare, and full-size spares are the exact same tire you have, without having to fumble with speed limits and mileage limits. Room in the trunk is plenty, enough for 4 or 5 big bags. We fit 3 large suitcases and a cooler in it. Not bad, Toyota.
In summary, the Camry is usually the formula of typical point-A to point-B car, a car used as an appliance, and the new Camry seems to be making strides away from that formula. Toyota did a good job in some places, such as the brakes, trunk, and other things, but some aren’t so nice, like the interior material choices, stereo system, and tires. But in general, they will sell nonetheless, but there are some better choices out there for some people. The Mazda6 is better for the track destroyer who had to get a midsize sedan and wants it to look good, the Fusion for the fashionista, and the Accord and others for the people in the middle, and the Camry is just midpack. If you are an Average Joe, in the middle class, with the middle of the road spouse and children, a Camry may be a good choice, but there are other choices too. Keep that in mind, but the Camry is OK.
Now to actually break the mold, Toyota.