2015 Toyota Camry

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Don’t worry – they didn’t mess it up.'15 Camry lead 2

The “bold” and “sporty” 2015 Camry is – wisely – more or less the same as it was before. Yes, it has a new face. And there is a new (and “sportier” optional gauge cluster). But it’s no Altima/Maxima/Mazda6/Accord … thank god.

Toyota isn’t stupid, after all.

And it would be exceptionally stupid to take the best-selling family sedan on the market and me-too it into another “sporty” sedan, thereby giving buyers little reason to buy it over the others except that it’s still a blue chip Toyota.

Thus, the minor facelift inside and out. A little Botox here and there to tighten up the sags. But underneath, the hard-won wisdom of experience remains.

WHAT IT IS'15 Camry side view

The Camry is not just another mid-sized, family-friendly sedan in the $20-$30k-ish range. It is the best-selling such sedan on the market – and has been for years. Yin to the Honda Accord’s (and Nissan Altima/Maxima, Mazda6 and other such cars’) sport-sedan Yang.

Historically less aggressive, both visually and operationally – and esteemed for precisely these qualities by a demographic that just wants a large, roomy, comfortable and quiet car that also has a top-drawer rep for reliability, durability and high resale value.

Those things haven’t changed.

Base price is $22,970 for an LE powered by a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine. A top of the line XLE with 3.5 liter V-6 lists for $31,370.

WHAT’S NEW'15 Camry interior shot

A new skin, revised dashboard design and some tightening up of the car’s handling feel comprise the major changes for 2015.

Both the standard and optional drivetrains carry over essentially unchanged and – critically – the Camry’s generous interior dimensions also carry over, most especially its exceptionally roomy back seat.

WHAT’S GOOD

Still a Camry … rather than a Camry trying to be an Altima (or even an Accord).   

Still available with a big V-6 (you may have noticed this type of engine is quietly fading away in favor of turbo fours, which are more fuel-efficient but also more complicated and potentially down-the-road expensive).

Full-size car backseat legroom.

Nothing objectionable about it.

While it’s silly to speak of cars (which are disposable appliances) as “investments,” this one is without question among the best values out there.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Vanilla is not everyone’s favorite flavor.

Chrysler 200 (a very Camry-esque sedan in terms of it plushness and quiet) is available with all-wheel-drive.

Camry is not.

UNDER THE HOOD'15 Camry 2.5 engine

As previously, the Camry is available with an economy-minded four cylinder engine and a more powerful V-6. Both are paired with a six-speed automatic driving the front wheels.

The four – displacing 2.5 liters and producing 178 hp – is at a bit of a disadvantage both output wise and mileage-wise relative to some of the newer-engined competition. The Chrysler 200, for instance, comes standard with a 184 hp 2.4 liter teamed up with a nine-speed automatic. This combo rates 23 city, 36 highway – slightly better than the four-cylinder/six-speed Camry’s 25 city, 35 highway. The new 200 is also available with a 295 hp 3.6 liter V-6, whereas the Camry maxxes out at 268 hp with its optional (and carryover) 3.5 liter V-6.

You can also get all-wheel-drive in the new 200, a feature that’s fairly rare in the class (and unavailable in the Camry).

But, both Camry engines are still close enough to the class leaders, in terms of power (and mileage) to not be liabilities. Indeed, the V-6 Camry – though on paper not as powerful as some of the others in this class – nonetheless posts among the quickest 0-60 times (about 6.1-6.2 seconds). This can be credited to its lower curb weight relative to its rivals. At just 3,300 pounds, the Camry is fairly light for a mid-sized sedan.

The Chrysler 200, meanwhile, is pretty heavy: 3,473 pounds.'15 Camry V-6

Toyota also thoughtfully gives the Camry a suitably family car-sized gas tank: 17 gallons, vs. the 200’s smaller 15.8 gallon tank. If that doesn’t sound like a big difference, maybe this will: The Camry’s “city” range on a topped-off tank is 425 miles – vs. the 200’s 363.

A word also on the complexity issue. A six-speed transmission may not seem as ultra-modern as the nine-speed box in the 200 but it’s proven technology (read: reliable) and the truth is the additional gearing (as in the 200) is chiefly there to eke out fractional gains in mileage unnoticeable to the owner but noticeable in terms of the automaker’s “fleet average” fuel economy totals. On the other hand, the more-than-six-gear transmissions sometimes can’t quite decide which of the many gears to be in at any given moment – and that may be more noticeable to you, the owner, than plus or minus 1-2 MPG either way.  '15 Camry shifter

Similarly, the Camry’s V-6 makes power without power adders such as turbochargers – which are becoming as trendy as glam rock back in ’77 but which could also prove to be as short-lived a trend – if the turbos prove to be long-haul unreliable  (as they have, in the past). Maybe the engineers have figured out how to build 150,000-mile plus turbocharged fours. But, maybe not.

Are you willing to take the risk?

On your nickel?

Both Camry’s engines are set up to run best on regular (87 octane) unleaded.

ON THE ROAD'15 camry silver & red

What they’ve done is tighten up the steering (electric-assisted) and reduce body roll when cornering at speed – while keeping the ride serene. The previous Camry’s old-school Buick Roadmaster comfort (and quiet) has not been mucked up, but you no longer need to slow to 5 MPH below the posted limit in the curves to keep the tires from squealing – and worrying that the car’s going to fling hubcaps into the woods.

This is no common thing. All the cars in this class – all modern cars, generally – “handle” well. Meaning there is no functional necessity to slow for most curves. One can usually maintain speed (assuming a non-nitwit driver) without  the car conveying the impression of imminent loss of control – much less the actuality. Accord, Fusion, Altima or Maxima – they sail through them with one finger on the wheel and you hardly paying attention.

But to be able do this, most also have pretty stiffly sprung suspensions – and so, a pretty stiff ride, comparatively speaking. If you are old enough to remember how family-type cars used to ride, anyhow. Family-type cars were once soft. But the downside was, they wallowed. Camry used to, too. But not anymore.

It’s still not a sport sedan – thank the gods.'15 Camry road 2

But it can handle itself now, if the urge arises.

Also: You can do a burnout if you like. No mention of this is made in the press kit materials or the owner’s manual, but Toyota has reprogrammed the traction/stability control to be a bit less helicopter mom. You do still have to come to a complete stop to disable the buzzkill electronics (there’s a button on the dashed to the left of the steering wheel) but unlike previous Camrys – unlike every previous Toyota I have driven – it actually stays off. It does not (as in previous Camrys) come back on once the car reaches say 35 MPH. This means not just burnouts are enabled. It also means you’ll be able to power up a slick driveway without the well-intended e-nanny fighting you all the way.

It is a small thing – but a very big thing, if you have to deal with snow every year.

AT THE CURB'15 Camry curb 2

The way you tell one new car from another these days is – for the most part – by looking at the front clip. From the sides, it is damned hard to tell one from another. This Sameness Effect is a function of the need for all car companies to fit their designs within the template of crash standards in tandem with the general urge to make every car (well, every sedan) look like a BMW 3 Series.

From the front, though, this Toyota is trying to look like a Lexus. The centerpiece of that effort being the huge new cowsweeper-style grille (Lexus calls it “spindle”) with GS 350 F-Sport-echoing vertical slat turn signals cut into the fascia on either side. Up above, a set of angry looking LED slit-eyes for headlights.   

There have also been some changes to the side sheetmetal – including what Toyota calls “bold” new character lines – as well as a revised rump with “maximized” tail-light appearance – but these tweaks are less obvious and (wisely) don’t screw with the Camry’s fairly conservative overall shape, especially as regards the forward sweep of the windshield (not too much) and backward taper of the rear glass (ditto). This leaves the previous-gen. Camry’s generous glass area (and excellent all-around visibility) intact. Also headroom in both rows, which stays the same at 38.1 inches (a solid inch more than in the “sportier ” – you bet it is – Nissan Altima sedan).'15 Camry back seats

In fact, the “new” 2015 Camry’s physical specifications mirror the previous Camry’s almost exactly. The ’15 has 41.6 inches of legroom up front… and so did the ’14. Backseat legroom stands at 38.9 inches in the ’15 (almost three inches more than in the Altima, fyi) which is the same as it stood in the ’14. Shoulder and hip room in both rows is identical, too, 2015 vs. 2014. Both the New and the Old also share the same 109.3 inch wheelbase.

Where the ’15 differs from the ’14, specs-wise, is overall length – 190.9 inches vs. 189.2 previously. It’s interesting that this lengthening does not change any interior (or trunk capacity) specs and seems to have been done chiefly to give the car more visual presence. Which it does. Or rather, has.

But looks are secondary when it comes to taking the measure of Camry. The styling tweaks are nice, certainly. But what sells this car is its equally accommodating first and second rows (especially that second row), the way the A and B pillars do not occlude your view when attempting to negotiate busy intersections or pull out from a side road into traffic; the not-overly-fastback rear glass – which does not distort the view behind you – and so on.

A back-up camera is standard, but this car doesn’t need it.'15 Camry sport cluster

Inside, there’s a new-look dashpad (also Lexus-ish) and your choice of two different gauge clusters. There is the standard display – and a “sportier” Multi-Information display, which expands the sizes of the tachometer and speedometer and places other readouts in between them in a smaller LCD rectangle that can be scrolled through at will via controls on the steering wheel. 

Optional highlights include a smartphone charging port, sound-muting exterior glass and a swell 10 speaker JBL audio rig.   

THE REST

“Sportier” it may be, but the don’t take the advertising hype too seriously. This is still an exceptionally pleasant car to drive around – whether the trip is short or long. None of this is apparent immediately. The Camry’s goodness is subtle. Which is precisely its genius – and the reason for the fierce (and seemingly, perpetual) loyalty this car inspires. Other cars try to get your attention with highly styled interiors or various electronics (often, gimmicky).The Camry wins your heart by just being incredibly competent at everything you’d expect it to be good at – and aggravating in no way whatsoever.'15 Camry buttons

The fact that it is not necessary to ponder how to change the radio station or set the temperature shows just how much thought went into designing these control interfaces. Large knobs, big buttons – everything simple and direct. If you want  finger-swipe “haptic” or microwave oven-style plastic keypad controls – well, this car’s not for you.

Bonus points : The new Camry has seat heaters that heat. Someone has been reading my rants about Japanese seat heaters – about how they generally suck. These don’t. They’re not quite as toasty as, say what you’ll find in a VW or a Mercedes or a BMW (Germans know seat heaters). But the Japanese are learning.

Well, these Japanese are learning.'15 Camry ipad

In the same vein: They’ve relocated the iPod USB port to a place where you can see it and get to it – up ahead of the shifter, in the little cubby at the bottom of the center stack. In several previous Toyotas, the USB port was buried out of sight – and reach – in the recesses of the center console storage area behind the gear shifter, where it was almost impossible to access without stopping the car, unbuckling your seat belt and twisting your body around.'15 Camry last

Most of all – and please cheer with me – the newly available pre-collision system (like the less pre-emptive traction control) does not come on when there’s no good reason for it to do so (as, for example, when there’s a car 50 yards ahead of you that’s in the process of turning off the road and so you know there’s no need to jam on the brakes because he’ll be gone long before you get to where he is now). The system is so background, in fact, you won’t notice it’s there unless you do almost hit something and it prevents that from happening.

Which is just the ticket, right?

THE BOTTOM LINE

Despite the wow-wow commercials, rest assured Toyota has done the smart thing – and not fixed what isn’t broken.  

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24 COMMENTS

  1. What in GODS NAME they did with this 2015 Camry is anyone’s guess. Because as far as i’m concerned they had a GREAT thing going with the 2014 model particularly the inside. The 2014 XLE model had FAR greater faux wood trim all around which just added to it’s interior elegance. Now the 2015 models looks well just plain “bland”. I’m content with the rear design and would even be with the front except for that massive lower plastic cheap looking grille. Folks if your going to do a wide mouthed grille at the very least put some chrome strips going across all those bar lines. Because yet again they’ve taken a beautifully well done 2014 chrome grille and ruined it was a “Mazda like” smiley face which is utterly a MAJOR turn off to me and quite a few other folks from what I’ve read online thus far. Also, throw some chrome door handles on your top of the line XLE models at least Nissan has it right offering these “luxury esthetics” as standard features. Bottom line, you ruined a great car Toyota you had something going for you up until this new 2015 release and lost a customer do to these radical changes as well. Looks like Nissan or Kia will be getting this long time Toyota buyers FULL attention now. And quite honestly, that’s a damn shame to…(g)

  2. re this: “This combo rates 23 city, 36 highway – slightly better than the four-cylinder/six-speed Camry’s 25 city, 35 highway.”

    Math fail. Unless more than two-thirds of your driving is on the highway, the combined city/highway mileage of the Camry is better, assuming these numbers can be trusted.

    Also, I have the Camry’s V6 in my heavier and larger Avalon, and it’s plenty fast — almost 60s muscle car levels of fast. Should be even faster in a car that’s about 300 pounds lighter and with less wind drag from less frontal area.

  3. This Camry doesn’t give up that much in objective performance parameters compared to the more “sporty family sedans.” (Hmm that’s almost an oxymoron, isn’t it?)

    Along with all it’s quality/reliability virtues, it is practically invisible on the road. That hint of homeliness is just enough to make it even less visible. The Camry would make an excellent Stealth Car, for moving along at extra legal speeds.

    As much as I appreciate these virtues, and really like Toyotas in general, I would never buy a Camry. Too much like a plain woman who would make a “fine wife.” But without going too far into the Taylor Swift end of the spectrum, I want to spend my time with something a little more “interesting.”

    • Hi Mike,

      As you know, I am not the biggest fan of new cars generally – and find a lot to bitch about. But it’s hard to come up with anything significant to complain about with this car. Which is another way of saying: It’s a pretty damned good car.

      • Eric,

        I agree. But let’s run a hypothetical…..

        If you “were” going to buy a new car in this price range, would you choose the Camry??

        Be honest, now. 😉

        • Yeah, but that’s me!

          I try hard (really) to write each review from the perspective of the needs/wants of the likely buyer; the person interested in that type of car. It would be insolent of me to assume my needs/wants jibe with other people’s’… or worse, that other people’s needs/wants ought to jibe with mine!

          • And if the Camry would not be just a “strong recommendation,” but actually your Personal Choice, I couldn’t fault that. Was just curious.

            In this rather utilitarian segment, I finally would jump on your beloved diesel bandwagon, and go with a Passat TDI.

            If I could pony up just a bit more cash, I’d choose a low optioned Mercedes CLA.

            Or within the same general niche, I could be happy with a Golf GTI.

            Or, to stick with an “apples to apples” Asian Car menu, I’d buy a V-6 Accord.

            All before a Camry.

  4. It’s not trying to be a Lexus, it’s trying to be ugly. Sorry, hate that front clip. WAY too big. The back end ain’t too clever either, as the lines make it look a bit like the front end to me. Confusing.

    Although the rest of the car looks nice, the vertical slats stand out as if they don’t belong. they’re far too aggressive for the car’s general shape.

    The price seems pretty good tho. I remember when I was building Nissan’s in ’87, the Skyline Silhouette (http://80shero.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/the-silhouette-assortment.html) sold for near 16K.

    • I concur that it is kind of ugly. But, I think that many new cars are ugly. They all look the same, as many of us, especially Eric have mentioned many times.

      In my opinion the slats would fit better if the car were less rounded and had a little sharper angles. The same goes for the Corolla.

      Toyota has built a car that will probably work for the silky boners and their plastic surgery riddled wives who want to appear “sporty”, even though they never were. And it will also work for guys like me who understand that if we are buying a Camry, we aren’t doing it to stand out above the crowd–not that sport sedans actually do that, since several other pretentious people have them also– but because we want a reasonably priced, really dependable car.

      • True Ancap. Lots of cars in recent years have developed a “bullnose” front. Don’t know if (errant) pedestrian saaaaaaaaafety legalese has anything to do with it, but there’s probably little scope for the designers to work within such constraints, such also being that grille shapes are a kind of trademark.

        You’re right about the slats, they’d suit better on a car with sharper angles, like Mitsu.

        The rest of the car’s ok in looks, but everything below the headlights went awry. They tried to make an aggressive bolt-on that doesn’t suit the rest of it.

        Don’t know if you’ve noticed that car badges have been getting bigger too, almost the size of saucers on some makes. Someone started the trend and the rest followed.

  5. Great rundown on the Camry, Eric.

    Your assessment about the car writers beating down the Camry is spot on. If you want a “sport sedan”–whats the point, imo–get a Lexus, Beamer, Mercedes, etc. If you want a roomy, decent all around people mover, daily driver, family trip, point a to b auto, that will not be likely to see a shop for anything other than routine maintenance until the odometer reads at least 250,000, you want a Camry.

    I can’t praise my 2007 Camry with 173,000 miles and ticking, enough. The last 50,000 miles have been taxi miles. My only complaints would be what you covered and they have fixed: the power outlet and aux input inside the console.

    Camry’s are bullet proof. The people who hate them are trying to put on a show that they are “sporty” and too tough to drive a “grandma car”. They can squawk all they want, sitting at the repair shop getting their car fixed, while people are driving their Camry’s all over, waiting for the maint rqd light to tell them it’s been 5k since their last oil change….and the damned govt mandated tire pressure sensors. Those may turn on too. Damn them to hell for ruining my light free dash.

    I’m glad they didn’t fix what wasn’t broken, and that “what’s not so good” is only the lack of an all wheel drive option.

    Along with what Ciph has to say, the Corolla is kind of lame, but I had a new Corolla as a rental car 2 weeks ago. It wasn’t a bad little car. It seems to have leg room of a lot of other bigger cars in the back seats. Outside of the cvt tranny–I’d never driven a cvt previously and it seemed to do strange things–I liked it. It’s better than the old ones, which I only experienced last year as a rental car. I’d take a Corolla over a Jetta which I rented once too. I thought that was a terrible car. I can’t think of one good thing about the Jetta.

    • Thanks, Ancap!

      This mad rush to “sporty” everything would be less absurd if people actually were (and drove) “sporty.” But mostly they’re “safety” obsessed women and eunuched men who rarely, if ever, drive much above the PSL and who always slow for the curves. All the way through the curves. They need a “sporty” car as much I need a sail fawn!

    • I am not sure which vintage of Jetta you rented but I traded out of a newer (’14) Corolla into a ’14 Jetta and the Jetta is superior in every way except fuel economy, but they are pretty close on that. The Corolla seats were awful for me. Any drive over 20 minutes or so and I started to get significant back pain. That car also caused a nerve issue in my left arm that has still not fully healed. In contrast I jumped in the Jetta and drove it 6 hours and got out at my destination feeling almost as refreshed as when I got in. The one time I took an hour drive in the Corolla I felt like an old man getting out of it.

      • Matt,

        It was a little over two years ago when I rented the Jetta. It was the new design(at the time). One of the things that I hated was lack of an armrest in the center. Under powered, even compared to the Corolla, which I also felt was under powered before the redesign this year. It is still under powered in my opinion, but I think they made this new one more like the Camry, which is a good thing.

        I rode in my friends passat TDI last spring. It was a more loaded car, so not apples to apples, but much better than the Jetta. If I were looking in the family sedan segment, I’d shell out the extra money for the larger, more powerful passat. But, I’m honestly inclined more toward Aisian cars than German. German cars breakdown as often as domestics sometimes and they aren’t at all cheap to fix. Asian cars seem to go and go and go.

        My personal car is an 08 Lexus es350, which I got for cheap. I love that car. Before that I had my Camry which is now a Taxi. I had an 05 Accord(2 model years before they became “sporty”) I liked that car. I owned an 04 Nissan xTerra–pure garbage. My brother had a late model Maxima–not impressive at all. I don’t like the firm ride of the new Accords. Didn’t like anything about the Jetta. But rental cars are always stripped down models.

        The Jetta is a bigger car than the Corolla too. It seems to be the same size as a Camry. If it is, Camry destroys it in every way, imo. If you want a firmer sportier ride, Id go with Accord. I guess I’m a reliability guy in the end. If it weren’t for reliability issues, Id be a 60’s-70’s Cadillac/Oldsmobile guy. Those cars were a pure pleasure to drive. Sporty they were not. But the seats and leg room was great. The only thing close to those in size that has any reliability is an LS460, but I don’t have $70,000 laying around. I don’t have $25-$30 for a used one either. And close in size is used loosely.

        Damn uncle and his minion union bosses for ruining what cars may have become. Imagine old Caddy size mixed with some of the new features and technology–minus all of the safety bullshit. The 6.2 litre with 6 speed tranny would be just the ticket–along with no UAW putting it together. A modern 1960 Cadillac. That’d be cool.

  6. Toyota has taken the complaints of all their cars being “beige” seriously, and have started an internal marketing plan (which has crept outside the company) to inspire their engineers to create cars with heart. This plan is called “Wakudoki”.

    So they hired pop band World Order to star in a couple of commercials (World Order’s frontman is former mixed-martial-arts star Genki Sudo, which just confirms my opinion that Japan is a strange place)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ3aXcoDoiM

    We’ll see what the next iteration of the Corolla looks like – it couldn’t possibly get blander.

    • Hi Chip,

      I think the majority of these complaints come from automotive writers – not buyers. How else to explain the ongoing success of both Corolla and Camry?

      • {sigh} I know. I think there are a vast number of people out there who *aren’t* car enthusiasts and are just looking for reliable transportation. And the Camry/Corolla are perfectly fine transportation appliances.

        My real opinion is that the Corolla is the cockroach of cars. The last running car on Earth after the planetary apocalypse will likely be a Corolla. But I wouldn’t want the neighbors to know I have one in my house. Ewwww.

        There’s a Top Gear clip on YouTube, where a much younger (and thinner) Jeremy Clarkson is walking down a line of white goods — clothes dryers, washers, refrigerators, .. and a Corolla. “No … no … no … wait a sec, there it is!” He then talks to an older couple who are currently on their *ninth* Corolla. I guess once you find a car that’s good enough, it’s time to stop looking for something better.

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