ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: The 2015 Toyota Camry represents quite a substantial midcycle update for the best-selling car in America. It’s not just new fascias and wheel designs, it’s also new sheetmetal all around. The only carryover part from the previous year is the roof.
Even more interesting, in my opinion, is that the body itself benefits from additional spot welds to up rigidity, and the suspensions for all models have been retuned. Also helping handling is revised tuning of the electric power steering system and brake system that now features a two-stage booster.
Our XSE tester is also a new trim level to the Camry lineup; it offers sportier styling and performance. A unique front fascia gets a piano-black mesh grille, LED headlights on the V6 model, 18-inch wheels, and a more performance-oriented suspension with its own shocks, firmer springs, bushings and steering tuning. Inside the cabin, there’s a leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel and sport seats with larger side bolsters.
You can get an XSE with the four-cylinder, but we were fortunate to have the V6. With 268 hp, this is one quick Camry. It has no problem breaking loose the front Michelin all-season tires, and it pulls well throughout the rev range. It’s also a fairly smooth runner. I have to applaud Toyota for giving its customers the choice between the two engines in this sporty XSE model, while Honda with its Accord Sport sedan only offers that sportier focused version with a four-cylinder. But you can get the Honda in a six-speed manual, while the Toyota is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission.
It’s common for car writers (and people in general) to bag on the Camry as a dull car to drive. For the most part, that’s true when you talk about the L and XLE models --they cater to the people looking for an appliance to transport them from point to point. With that said, this XSE Camry is the most athletic-behaving Camry that I’ve driven. It’s not bad in corners, with steering that feels direct and is responsive to inputs, the body stays well controlled without a bunch of roll, and the brakes with the upgraded booster are stout and feature firm pedal feedback.
With that sport-tuned suspension, you do give up some in the ride comfort department. The frost-heaved roads around Michigan right now are felt in the cabin. The ride isn’t terrible, but it’s definitely a little bouncier compared to a non-XSE model.
Inside, controls are simply laid out, and it wasn’t a problem for me to find a comfortable seating position. Materials are good for the class and the sport seats are comfy enough.
After each drive of a Camry, I always come away understanding why it remains the best seller. It’s just solid all around with no glaring downfalls, but no super high points, either. It’s a safe, can’t-go-wrong purchase when it comes to midsize sedans. But the fact that Toyota is offering an XSE model is indeed nice to give people the option for a Camry that’s a little more entertaining to drive.
ONLINE FEATURES EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I’ll say with 100 percent confidence that this is the best-looking Camry ever. It used to feel tall and narrow, now it looks lower and wider. The new grille, headlights and fogs look sweet, but that intake, unfortunately, has most of the black parts filled in. Only a small central portion is open to the engine, which you don’t notice until the rest of the crosshatches are filled with snow and salt. It’s like a hood scoop that’s blocked up. I do like the dark wheel choice, though.
The interior is probably the best I’ve ever seen from Camry as well. The suede (or suede-like) inserts look good, I like the red stitching and everything else looks very clean. No big panel gaps, either. The seats are supportive, too, I’m assuming these are the sportier versions, but I’d option them in every Toyota they make.
The radio and all of the other controls work fine, but something about those big plastic buttons looks a little cheap to me. I can’t complain about the big knobs for tuning, volume and heating controls though, they work well and are easy to find without looking. I like the style of the gear selector, too, all black with piano black on top. Good feel in the hand, too, and good sound as it clicks down to drive.
The V6 in this car pulls strong. It has enough to spin the front tires, sometimes when you don’t want it to. Like when you’re pulling out onto a fast-moving street. A few times it killed the power for several seconds straight; not sure if it’s supposed to do that or not. Passing on the expressway is surprisingly easy, and it’s easy to keep the speed up. Shifting is also super smooth at nearly any speed.
I can’t vividly remember the suspension feel of the last Camry I drove, but the XSE does get extra stiffening parts. It doesn’t corner like an AE86, but it doesn’t corner like an old Camry, either. I do remember driving one a few years ago and wondering if the steering wheel was actually connected to the wheels. No more though! Potholes jar my kidneys loose, but I would say this Camry is on the stiffer side.
I think I’m a bigger fan of the Honda Accord in every area but the look. If I had to take a four-door, with a V6, this would be the one. On the other hand, all things being equal, four-cylinder, four-doors, I’m still taking the Mazda 6.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: It’s all new! Or so they tell you. The body is all new; the powertrain is a couple/few years old. (A few years ago Toyota revised its model cycles so that every other year they’d offer a new powertrain and then, two or so years after that they’d offer a new body.) At last year’s New York auto show, Toyota introduced the all-new 2015 Camry and it looked pretty good: nice, creased lines on the outside and soft-touch amenities throughout the interior. It was definitely the nicest-looking Camry yet, which admittedly isn’t saying a lot considering it competes in the fairly bland midsized sedan segment. The 2015 model’s 2.5-liter four and a 3.5-liter V6 were carryover, but still perfectly suited to the task. Both were mated to six-speed automatics.
My XSE-model test car had the V6 and six-speed auto. It was a pretty busy week and I didn’t get to drive it as much as I’d wanted, but the Camry was ideal in its performance of multiple suburban-lifestyle tasks. I would have liked to have strapped the test box to it to see what it would take to get to 60. Published figures have it at just over six seconds, which is more than enough to get up the freeway onramp and outgun the guy next to you when the lanes go from two to one. Heck, a decade or two ago a six-second 0-60 would’ve been pretty impressive for just about anything.
My first impression when getting into the XSE was that it was smaller than I’d assumed. Most car models get bigger and bigger with each new iteration until a whole new model has to be inserted underneath it where the original once was. This one is 2 inches longer than the last Camry, but overall the car feels relatively small. I first drove a Camry in about 1987 and I thought even then that this was the perfect car for about half the population. That sentiment holds true today for this new Camry.
Along with a stiffer body structure, the XSE trim level gets a “sport-tuned suspension.” Believe it or not, you can actually feel a little difference. The car turns more sharply and seems to roll less. It’s not a sports sedan, but if you have been assigned by your spouse to get a Camry, you can at least get the XSE and get some enjoyment out of life. Compared to others in the segment, the Camry is probably above average in that regard. The Accord can be upfitted into a very sporting proposition, and that Mazda 6 might be fun, too, but I’d put the XSE Camry ahead of most of the rest of the field.
As the biggest-selling car in America for over a decade, the Toyota Camry has been about as perfectly matched to American tastes as a car is ever going to get. This one offers all that mass-appeal and manages to look a little better and feel a little more fun doing it.
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