By Shari Prymak
The Toyota Camry has managed to be one of the best-selling passenger cars in North America for over three decades. It didn’t achieve this impressive accomplishment by being one of the most stylish, fun to drive, or exciting cars on the market. No, consumers apparently don’t really care too much for those things. What they care about is having something sensible and practical that they can depend on. Despite how dull and boring it may be, the Camry accomplishes that task perfectly. Even so, midsized sedans like the Camry are losing favour with consumers thanks to the relentless onslaught of the crossover SUV. As a result, Toyota thought it was time to inject some style and fun into the latest version.
The Camry’s transformation begins with the exterior design, which is far bolder and more aggressive than that of any Camry design to come before it. SE and XSE models, in particular, are especially edgy, with a rather busy-looking front facia and an available colour-contrasting black roof. I’m not sure whether I’d call it stylish, but it certainly can’t be called dull anymore. The L, LE, and XLE models will be preferable to those who prefer a more toned-down conservative look; i.e. a traditional Camry look.
On the inside, the gloss-black centre stack angles toward the driver and includes as well-designed touchscreen with a good assortment of traditional buttons and knobs for common functions. Though it doesn’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the available Entune 3.0 infotainment system is so sharp and easy to use that it’s almost a non-issue. Overall spaciousness in both the front and back seats is quite generous. And a low beltline combined with tall glass all around creates a pleasing greenhouse effect with excellent outward visibility. Materials look and feel fairly upscale with a few interesting options, including a pretty striking red and black colour scheme on the XSE model.
Engine options consist of either a standard 2.5L 4-cylinder producing 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque or an optional 3.5L V6 with 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, both of which come paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid model is available as well. More and more automakers these days are switching over to complex turbocharging technology for power and efficiency gains. After sampling Toyota’s naturally-aspirated engines, however, you might wonder why they bother. My V6-powered test car proved to be impressively smooth, powerful, and about as efficient as most turbocharged rivals. I averaged an impressive 10.5L/100km in mixed driving with a few highway runs as low as 8.0L/100km. The more popular 4-cylinder and hybrid models will manage even better than that.
The Camry’s driving experience will largely depend on which model you decide to go with. L, LE, and XLE models prioritize smooth ride quality over all-out handling performance, whereas the sportier SE and XSE models firm up the suspension for supposedly sharper handling. Even though the Camry now edges a bit closer to the sporty side of the spectrum than ever before, I still wouldn’t consider it to be a sporty driver’s car. Controlled body motions and improved handling are welcome additions to the Camry repertoire, but this is still a car designed more for comfort and refinement, which is why I’d recommend sticking with one of the smoother-riding L models.
Camry pricing begins at $26,390 for the L trim and can stretch as high as $41,190 for the Hybrid XLE. That puts it roughly in the same price range as competitors such as the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima. The Camry’s advantage here is its comprehensive list of active safety features which come standard on every model. These include forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, adaptive radar cruise control, and automatic high beams with LED headlamps.
The latest Camry may indeed be the sportiest and most interesting version yet, but this is still a car defined by its much-loved traditional virtues. Those looking for a stylish, sporty ride will likely be better served by a Mazda 6 or even the Honda Accord. The Camry’s appeal largely stems from the fact that it’s one of the most reliable and trusted midsized sedans on the market. Those who aren’t ready to gamble on unproven turbocharging technology will feel right at home here. The fact that this just so happens to be the best driving, most feature-packed, and most striking-looking Camry to date is just a bonus, and should help keep this long-time best-seller at the top of its game.