The Toyota Camry is like the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.
With the V6, the “Kessel Run” (0-60) is doable in six seconds. On top, 140 is achievable. Plenty to outrun most “imperial” star cruisers, even the big Corellian ones.
Of course, a V6 Accord can do that, too.
But it looks more suspect.
Which makes it harder to do that . . . and get away with doing it.
The Camry’s beauty is its anonymity.
And it has other virtues, too.
The best-selling mid-sized family car for the past couple of decades.
Historically less “sporty” than its main rival – the Honda Accord – it is still capable of wet work in the right hands.
Toyota sexed up the bodywork when the car was last redesigned (2015) but the rep hasn’t caught up. This is good.
Most people – including most cops – still see the Camry as a … family car.
Which it is, absolutely.
One of the (and maybe the) best you could drive home in. Back seats with class-best leg and headroom; a large trunk, plusher-than-most ride and – with the standard four cylinder engine – very good gas mileage, too.
Plus, it’s one of the few cars that can plausibly be considered an “investment” in that it won’t lose half its value before you’ve paid it off.
And if you get it with the V6, you’ll have the guns to make sushi out of cars with bigger guns whose drivers have let their guard down around you. Few people expect that refrigerator white Mom-mobile in the right lane to do much when the light goes green.
That’s all you need.
And when you don’t need speed, the Camry is still one of the most comfortable cars to spend time in – for the driver and the passengers.
Base price is $23,070 for an LE trim powered by a 2.5 liter four. For a few hundred bucks more, you can upgrade to an SE ($23,840) and get a more aggressive (17 inch) wheel/tire package, firmer suspension calibrations, SofTex perforated sport buckets and a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters for the standard six-speed automatic transmission.
There are also XLE and XSE trims, available with the four or – optionally – the get-the-drop-on-’em V6. Which, incidentally, is basically the same V6 you’ll find under the hood of several Lexus models that are well-known for the performance they offer.
Cross shops include the slightly quicker/sportier/more “tech” Honda Accord sedan ($22,355-$34,830) and the slightly-less-expensive, comparably plush but not-as-roomy-in-back Hyundai Sonata sedan ($21,600-$34,350).
The Camry was overhauled less than two years ago – for the 2015 model year – so the changes for 2017 are mostly minor but there is one big one: The formerly optional 10 speaker JBL premium audio rig that was extra-cost in the XLE and XE trims is now standard equipment and included in the base price.
A runner that doesn’t look it.
Full-size car backseat legroom and headroom.
More plush-feeling than Accord.
Available with a V6 – which isn’t offered in the four-cylinder-only Hyundai Sonata.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Sonata costs less to get into (even if its back seats are harder to get into).
Accord has sharper reflexes and is quicker; it’s also still available with a manual transmission (four cylinder versions) if you roll that way.
V6 is an option in higher (and pricier) XLE and XSE trims only.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Camry still offers both a four and a six – neither of them turbocharged. This bucks the trend toward no V6 (even optionally) and fours with turbos, to make up for the loss of cylinders – as in the Hyundai Sonata.
Or, no turbo at all – as in the Mazda6.
Another drivetrain difference is the Camry’s transmission – which isn’t a continuously variable (CVT) automatic, as is the optional transmission in four cylinder-powered Accords – or a complex and potentially very expensive to replace “dual clutch” automated manual, as is used in the “Eco” (1.6 liter turbo) versions of the Hyundai Sonata.
Whether you go with the standard 2.5 liter four (178 hp) or the optional (in higher trims) 3.5 liter V6 (268 hp) you will get a conventional six-speed automatic, which may not be the Latest Thing but it is a proven thing – known to be reliable. It will probably never fail – and if it ever does, the cost to fix it or replace it won’t be so high that throwing away the car seems like the smart thing to do.
With the 2.5 liter four, you don’t get Light Speed, but you do get enough speed for everyday knocking around. This version Camry gets to 60 in about 8 seconds – which is actually speedier than the Hyundai Sonata with its optional 2.0 liter turbocharged four.
A Honda Accord with its standard four cylinder engine (2.4 liters, 189 hp with the available Sport exhaust) and manual transmission is just slightly quicker: Zero to 60 in just under 7 seconds (best in class).
The four cylinder Camry is also solid when it comes to fuel economy: 24 city, 33 highway. The Sonata Eco does better (28 city, 36 highway) but its mileage advantage is so slight as to be negligible in real-world/everyday use. Meanwhile, it has a turbo and an automated manual transmission – both of which are potential financial sinkholes if anything should break, post-warranty.
The four cylinder Accord is not afflicted with a turbo but the same down-the-road potential expense issue applies to its available CVT automatic. But, you can avoid that by sticking with the standard manual transmission, a feature neither the Toyota nor the Hyundai offer.
The Main Event, though, is the Camry’s powerful (268 hp) 3.5 liter V6. It may be an under-rated engine. The same basic engine in other Toyota/Lexus models rates higher and if you pore over the specifications, there doesn’t seem to be that much mechanical difference.
What’s not speculative is the V6 Camry’s ability to run. Zero to 60 in six seconds flat is quick. Much quicker than any version of the Sonata (including both turbo versions, the 1.6 Eco and the 2.0T). Almost as exactly as quick as the V6 Accord – which (on paper) has more power (278 hp).
But, the Camry is lighter by about 140 pounds (3,460 vs. 3,601) and that may account for it.
The V6 Camry’s mileage is also pretty solid: 21 city, 30 highway.
The V6 Accord does slightly better, 21 city, 33 highway – but again, the difference is negligible. The Sonata with its V6 substitute – the turbo 2.0 liter engine – rates 22 city, 31 highway, which is also a negligible difference.
This is a general truism.
The turbo fours that are replacing larger and not-turbo’d V6 engines in many mid-sized (and other cars) may eke out a few MPGs more on the government’s fuel economy test loop (from which are derived EPA’s published MPG stats, the ones you see on the car’s window sticker and which are used to calculate Corporate Average Fuel Economy) but in real-word/everyday driving, the economy advantage of the turbo fours over the not-turbo’d V6s is very debatable.
For a long-haul car, one you intend to drive every day and for the next 10-15 years or more – simpler is almost always smarter because it’ll end up being cheaper.
PS: Both the Camry’s engines are set up to run best on 87 octane regular unleaded; some of the turbo fours want premium.
I was driving a group of friends “down the mountain” and found myself impeded by a 47-in-a-55 Clover. So, when the road opened up and an opportunity presented itself, I hit it and passed said Clover.
At a speed faster than legal.
My V1 began to squawk. That car coming the other way (I’m still in mid-pass at this point) is a cop. But he did not even tap his brakes as we passed one another.
I have been doing this gig for a long time. And bet your bippie (voice of experience) that had I performed the same maneuver in a Corvette – or an Accord – that cop would have done more than tap his brakes.
But he didn’t, and not because I wasn’t “speeding.”
I was, a lot.
But he didn’t do a 180 and come after me because – eh, it’s just some middle-aged dad on his way to pick up the kid from practice; bigger fish to fry… .
I love this car!
Now, it’s not quite as all-out capable as a V6 Accord (or a four-cylinder Mazda6 in the curves). But what good is all-out capability you dare not use more than about 60 percent of? And the troof is that if you can drive, you’ll have no trouble losing an Accord jockey who can’t.
Or for that matter, a Corvette driver who can’t.
Owning a fast car doesn’t make its owner fast.
The Camry’s ride, meanwhile, is still plush (plusher than either the Accord’s or the Sonata’s). The steering – electric-assisted now – is light but not vague; the car tracks tightly and can corner adroitly in the hands of someone not afraid to try – and who knows how.
The main limiting factor is the tires, which will begin to squeal long before the car gets close to coming unglued. But this makes it even more fun to drive. What Car Guy doesn’t enjoy the sound of screeching tires – and maybe a little smearing of rubber on the asphalt – apexing a favorite bend in the road?
And if there happens to be a cop coming the other way, just look befuddled and let the Camry do its thing for you.
Camouflage is nature’s best defense.
Its looks are beginning to betray it.
This is the most aggressive-schnozzed (almost Lexus-looking) Camry to date. The centerpiece being the Cylon Centurion-themed (Lexus calls it “spindle”) grille, with GS 350 F-Sport-style vertical slat turn signals cut into the fascia on either side.
Up above, a set of angry looking LED slit-eyes for headlights.
By your command.
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. This leaves the previous-gen. Camry’s generous glass area – and excellent all-around visibility – intact. It also leaves headroom in both rows (38.8 up front and 38.1 in back; the latter being best in class).
Backseat legroom. meanwhile, is 38.9 inches – much more generous than the 35.6 inches you get int he Sonata – although the Hyundai has a huge (16.3 cubic foot) trunk to make up for this. Camry’s is big – 15.4 cubes – but not quite that big.
A back-up camera is standard but in this car, it’s not necessary because sight lines are so good. Toyota even managed to get past the gantlet of federal roof crush standards without using I-beam thick girders for the A, B and C pillars. You will appreciate this when attempting to pull out from a sidestreet into a busy intersection. Similarly, the not-overly-fastback rear glass does not distort the view behind you.
For the driver, there’s a Lexus-ish Optitron electro-luminescent gauge cluster… two of them, actually. 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 via controls on the steering wheel.
Optional highlights include a Qi wireless smartphone charging port and sound-muting exterior glass.
Despite what it can do (and get away with doing) this is still an exceptionally pleasant car to drive around – whether the trip is short or long and your driving laid back or faster-paced.
None of this is apparent immediately. The Camry’s goodness is subtle. Which is the other half of its genius and probably accounts for the perpetual loyalty this car inspires. Other cars 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 by aggravating you in no way whatsoever.
It is not necessary, as a for-instance, to ponder how to change the radio station or set the temperature. It’s obvious – and you just do it. Thought went into designing these control interfaces. Similarly, the large knobs and big buttons – everything simple and direct. If you want finger-swipe “haptic” or microwave oven-style plastic keypad controls you may find the Accord or the Sonata more to your liking.
Special praise: The Camry finally gets seat heaters that heat. Someone has been reading my rants about Japanese seat heaters – about how they generally suck. Because they generally only achieve lukewarm.
These get nice and toasty.
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.
Most of all – and please cheer with me – the newly available pre-collision system 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 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. Some cars with similar systems will apply the brakes in such a scenario – like a fearful, glaucomic old lady.
The Camry doesn’t do that.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Getting away with it is as much fun as actually doing it.
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I get that these are well built cars, reliable and all that, but why are these like the #1 choice for Clovers?
If I ever see what I call a “Choo-Choo Train” on the highway – that is where there is a line of cars almost bumper to bumper in the left lane with no cars for a mile ahead, 7 out of 10 times the car at the front is some form of Toyota.
I have a term I use privately AT-HUT – Another Toyota Holding Up Traffic, alternately AFT-HUT.
Is it the car that causes people to drive like Clovers or is that Clovers gravitate to these cars?
When I had the tinting done in my E-350, the dealership also owned the Lexus store, the tint shop at Lexus was available for an early appointment, they gave me a Lexus loaner ES something, basically a Camry. The gal who fixed me up for it quipped “Oh you are getting a Lexus, for the day, see me when you want to trade in your Benz.” It is safe to say that will not happen, and I am sure she was not really serious, she knew better.
I had it for the better part of a day. I did like the engine but the rest of the car, Boreyota! Zero car feel whatsoever, it was like driving a simulator. It was like I had no confidence in the vehicle dynamics to get the most out of that terrific motor. It did in fact partially answer my question about the car or drivers, I think it was the car, it just does not make you want to “drive” it.
You just point it down the road, turn on the sound system and disconnect yourself.
Give me Passat any day. They are FUN! a GTI even better, that is a smile maker even at low speeds and traffic.
I do get the stealth aspect of the car, that is an advantage for sure, but from I can see most Toyota drivers don’t need it.
The lotus Evora uses the Camry’s 3.5L V6
A better choice: Nissan/Infinity award-winning 3.7L V6 – 330hp@7,000 rpm. I’ve got both the 3.5 and 3.7.
The thing about the Toyota Camry is that more engineering might goes into that one model than many other car companies’ entire lineup. It might be vanilla, but it’s damn good vanilla. Toyota figured out how to build a car for Americans way back in the 1990s, along with Honda of that era, and they haven’t strayed far from that method. They watch what the car reviewers say, but they also take that with a grain of salt and put more energy into what the consumers themselves say, what brings them back, and what they would really like to have in their next car.
Let’s face it, today’s family sedans can easily outperform the sports sedans of 10-15 years ago on most metrics all while getting better mpg. They also are more reliable than ever and have better initial quality marks, with some notable exceptions and some legitimate concerns over certain aspects (as you mentioned, CVTs, DSGs, turbos, direct injection, etc.). Even the most mediocre family sedan today would have stolen the show merely 10 years ago.
This is capitalism at work. Constant innovation. Constant falling prices (relative to inflation). Constant improvement in quality and features. What’s amazing is that all of this happens in the face of ever-increasing and intrusive government regulations. You can slow the market down, but as long as there’s a way, it will find it and push forward.
So Toyota has every incentive to make this thing as bland and vanilla as possible because you know what the best selling flavor of ice cream in the world is? Vanilla.
On a separate note, though the Camry is ubiquitous and, therefore, doesn’t tend to garner a lot of attention, I’ll toss out an idea from another article I read elsewhere recently. The least likely to be pulled over vehicle in the world is a slightly aged working-style pickup truck with a toolbox in the bed. Rear wheel drive and a V8 and plenty of power on tap, plus a light rear end, and these things actually move pretty good, but they get zero attention from the road pirates. They don’t look like they’re going fast, and they just assume you’re on your way to a job site or some other productive work. Just don’t run pipes or any other objective speed racer looking equipment on them and you’re golden.
You heard about all the Fake News on the INTERNET and social media…
It is any not more incontrovertible than it is in the Automobile Journalism métier.
You would be flabbergasted, if you really knew how many auto reviews are written by marketing departments and persons that really never ever test drove the autos in question. These specious reviews are taken as veracious narratives instead of the fictional writers these hacks are in reality.
I see articles in my local rag that are comparing autos. If a photo was included, which it is not, most of the time, I would be more informed I do not know what type of engine it has and it is really has four wheels. After reading these pieces of rubbish, I know even less about what they were trying to compare and the information they wanted their readers to partake from these factitious stories.
And since my local newspaper does not have a reputation to uphold, they print this garbage with pride.
So, I am left to find truthful articles out on the Google mine fields of the Internet.
This writer’s auto reviews are written with the reader/consumer in mind. He does not practice the Fake News that is pass off as quality journalism that is rewarded and enabled by Google, etc..
(I try to read the auto articles only and stay away from the political swamp of chaos and outlandish views), but the auto articles, I would recommend. The others are up to each reader.
At least he has test drove the autos, more than just to the store or around the dealer’s lot. He shares his pro and cons about the auto in question and hopefully the reader will be a more informed person.
Things like the buttons for the radio, ac controls, etc are very helpful to the readers. I wish they included type or if any spare tires.
A friend of mine, was shock to find his new auto does not have a spare tire… or even a locking gas tank door…like it had in previous models
But Fake Newsers like Google and their ilk, they demand your name address and phone numbers but they are not going to protect them. Look at Yahoo and how that lady in charge had dropped the ball so many times. Of course, when you are in the business of selling or stealing peoples personal information, you are getting what you want. Why worry about truthfulness and protection for your users. Google “rewards” clicks, not TRUTH.
This writer continues to give you his honest opinions on the auto reviews, real life as they may be… but he is swimming against the tide, I think.
Especially, when the you got betes noires and ogres like Google and their ilks..trying to destroy you along with the TRUTH!
Thank you, Steve!
And – welcome to our little (but growing) group!
re this: “but in real-word/everyday driving, the economy advantage of the turbo fours over the not-turbo’d V6s is very debatable”
Not really. I owned a 4 cylinder Camry, and now a V6 Avalon, and the V6 gets significantly worse gas mileage, but is way more fun to drive.
I understand why Toyota is reluctant to mess with the 268 HP V6, which has been around forever, even though newer V6s are more powerful. It is bulletproof reliable. I’ve got over 100K on my V6, and my GF has the same engine in her Highlander with 70k on it, and you don’t have to worry. You start it, it runs, every time, basically forever.
But the Camry’s four isn’t turbocharged. I meant the fours that are – as in the Sonata, for example – and which are intended to replace the V6.
If you drive a turbo 4 the way you test drive a vehicle — pedal to the metal, winding it out to the redline and wringing every bit of power out of the sucker — then, yes, it would get similar gas mileage compared to a V6.
But, the way most people drive — gentle commuting, road trips, stop and go city driving, stuff where you’re not engaging much if any turbo boost — the turbo 4’s much smaller displacement would mean less engine drag, especially at stop lights, compared to a V6.
But, at $2 a gallon gas, I’d choose the reliability of a normally aspirated V6 over a turbo 4 at high boost.
I dunno… while I am guilty of being a speed freak, I am also obligated to convey accurate info and so drive reasonably, too – in order to be able to tell people what sort of mileage they can reasonably expect. This doesn’t mean Clover-style. Just reasonably.
When driven that way, the difference between a turbo four and a non-turbo V6 is not huge or even very large in most cases.
One of the few contraries is the BMW 2.0 turbo four, which really does give outstanding mileage, even when driven …. reasonably!
Reasonably is subjective. I drive my cars so they’re FUN, staying just below the line that would cause the laws of physics or LEOs to take an active interest.
Which in an Avalon in the southwest can be … entertaining. As in pedal to the metal for a few brief glorious seconds while the V6 touches near redline and the clovers let you by, the challenge being to have fun but not be dickish and scare the easily startled.
I had an 07 Camry four. Currently have an 08 Lexus ES350. I notice that when my wife drives, the gas mileage is only slightly worse–maybe 2-3 mpg–than the Camry with the four. When I drive it is significantly worse–4-6 mpg. You need to factor in the “way more fun to drive” factor. If you don’t have as much fun, the difference is negligible. But if you don’t have fun, whats the point of the V6?
I love my V6 engine — if someone from Toyota told me that they’d replace the engine for free, and I could choose either a new V6 just like the one I have now, or a 4 cylinder from a Camry, it would be a no-brainer at $2 a gallon gas. I’d choose fun every time. Hell, if they offered to drop in a V8 from a Sequoia, assuming they could shoehorn it into the engine compartment, I’d take that and deal with the much worse gas mileage.
The 5.7 in a car……….that would be a helluva ride. I’d take one.
It would transform the Avalon from a slightly slower stretched V6 Camry into a muscle car, especially if they dropped a twin turbo onto the V8.
At that point, the tires would become the limiting factor. It’s hard to launch hard without spinning the tires as it is.
Henshaw: “It’s hard to launch hard without spinning the tires as it is.”
Why my V6 RAV4, 4WD gets most off the line – pedal to the metal, no spin or torque steer.
Great review! It would be difficult to top the Camry for performance and reliability, at any price – and I don’t own one.
I do own a 2012 RAV4 with the V6, 5-speed automatic, 4-wheel drive and one more horsepower – 269:). Just about everything to like about the Camry applies to the V6 RAVs – unfortunately the V6 is no longer available.
I’ve driven Porsche SUVs and prefer the V6 RAV4. Definitely like to take on “muscle cars” when the road is a little wet or sandy, 4-wheel drive automatically kicks out at 25 mph.
Discretion is savvy…
All you have to do is own a Camry to see why everyone who has one loves it. The haters just love to hate it because it makes them feel like a contrarian. Real contrarians are contrarian for reasons rather than just to be contrarian. Years ago I didn’t like Camry’s–or anything Toyota–then I owned one, then two and so on and so forth.
Toyota pays attention to what people like, sometimes more so than individuals themselves pay attention to what they like.
About the only gripe I have with my Avalon (which is basically a stretched V6 Camry with all the bells and whistles) is that the cruise control will madly rev to 4K or 5K RPMs if you bump the speed up a 5 MPH increment while ascending even a mild grade. It’s a CVT kind of moment, revving unnecessarily to get you there slightly quicker, when you’d rather just have it quietly and unnoticeably slide up speed at 3K RPM or so.
Maybe put a Sport setting for those who actually like this kind of stuff, and let the rest of us have a normal cruise mode as the default.
I currently have an 08 Lexus ES350–nothing more than a nicer version of a V6 Camry–I haven’t noticed that issue with my Lexus. I did rent a new Corolla a couple years ago that has the CVT tranny. It definitely was a different driving experience. One I didn’t really care for. That is what I like about the Camry vs. Accord. No CVT.
I owned an 05 Accord with a manual tranny. Back then the Accord was much like the Camry. I really enjoyed it. I have ridden in newer models and have been unimpressed by the stiffness of the seats and the shift of the CVT tranny. Maybe it just takes some getting used to, but I truly hate them in my experience so far.
I have a 2007, so maybe they tweaked the transmission settings in the 2008s and later to get rid of this slightly annoying feature. Or maybe the Lexus transmission is more sophisticated than the Toyota one. Dunno.
I have a four cylinder 2012 Rav4 which has the same annoying behavior with the cruise control. I find I’m constantly turning it on and off on the interstate to prevent it from kicking down when going up hills. I believe this is partially due to it being a four speed transmission rather than five or six, so when it does kick down, you notice it more. I had a V6 Nissan minivan which did the same thing. My four cylinder four speed auto Accord doesn’t do it though, so it depends on the car.
Robbie, my question is this: Can you maintain that exact speed the cruise is set to with the pedal and not have it downshift? While that bothers some people, others merely want it to maintain that exact speed regardless.
It came to my attention decades ago that the same vehicle with different engines had a great deal to do with it.
“Can you maintain that exact speed the cruise is set to with the pedal and not have it downshift?”
Yes, I can keep it at the desired speed with the pedal without the cruise kicking down so abruptly and killing my fuel economy. I would prefer if it built speed back up more gradually. It must be kicking down to 3rd gear, then 2nd. Doing that at 80 mph is unsettling.
I can commiserate with you. I have put my foot on the go pedal on vehicles and followed it to see where it was when the cruise engaged the next gear. It was always close to the floor if not nailed to same. So not needing to use that much throttle to keep a speed is fairly maddening to me. I hate those abrupt downshifts but some vehicles have to do it to maintain the speed.
What I don’t get is my 2000 Z 71 that’s obviously been treated like shit will pull hills with its 5.3 and not kick down but a 2006 2 wheel drive pickup would always do it on certain grades, some of the same ones the 2000 doesn’t. I can’t help but wonder if it’s a tune problem on the ’06. Of course it was a company pickup so it was abused by every idiot the boss could find in west Tx. and that’s a lot of idiots. One thing I couldn’t fault that ’06 on was fuel economy though. I drove it hard, like 90 mph every day, sometimes faster and never less than 80 and it returned 18mpg every tank. It wasn’t just an unloaded pickup either. It had a tool box, a 30 gallon nurse tank and lots of tools and parts as well as fluids that weighed a lot. I can’t help it, I treat any vehicle I drive like my own so abusing a company vehicle just isn’t in my repertoire.