For the past few years Toyota has been making its way through their lineup in an attempt to bring new life to the brand. It all really started with the FR-S and the head of Toyota wanting to bring more style and sportiness throughout the brand. Not too long after the FR-S launched Toyota was gunning to bring the soul of that car into cars like the Corolla and Highlander. We’ve driven the new versions of both of these cars and really liked the improvements made. We’re now looking at what is traditionally one of the more boring and uninteresting cars in its respective segment. Although it carries this stigma, Toyota has given this family sedan the same treatment in an attempt to bring new life to the car and hopefully remove that stigma. Right away we can say it has got the looks but what about the rest of the package? Is this finally a car to be excited about?
Let’s start by looking at that killer design. Up front is a new large grille that sweeps wide and back giving a extremely sporty and aggressive looking front end. Adding to the aggressiveness is the sloping hood with two predominant lines bulging down toward the grille. Around the side you have another bold line that sweeps down giving the profile a wedge like shape. Around the back may seem a little more tame, there are still some great lines and available integrated spoiler. You also get dual exhaust with chrome tips poking out. All of this adds up to the best looking Camry ever made and a car that can compete in design with rivals who have been stepping up their designs as well. I’d say it even comes close to competing with Lexus in design.
So we know this new car looks good but what about the interior? Has Toyota stuffed this great looking car with a cheap interior? Not at all. The first thing you’ll notice siting in the driver seat is a beefy steering wheel that would be at home in any sports car. The wheel is wrapped in soft leather and has a slew of controls to help keep you focused on the job at hand. The seat you’re sitting in can also be wrapped in leather or a mix of leather and ultrasuede giving it an even more sporty feel inside. The center stack swoops down from the dash, down past the front seats in one smooth motion. All of the controls are intuitively placed with large push areas to keep you from hunting for the right button. Sitting in the middle is the Camry’s 6.1-inch or 7-inch touchscreen display with Toyota’s Entune system. This is Toyota’s version of an app suite that allows you to connect your devices to the car and download apps for more features.
Another thing you’ll be able to notice right away is the size and how roomy the interior is. I’m a tall guy but there was still loads of room in the back seats behind the driver seat in my position. There was a lot of room between the driver and the passenger as well and it never felt cramped even with the car packed full of 5-passengers.
We’ve look inside and out and so far we’re really liking the car, but what’s under the hood and how does this thing drive? Well you have 3 options when it comes to the powertrain starting with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine pushing 178-horsepower and 170-lbs-ft of torque. Moving up you can have the 3.5-liter V6 engine pushing out 268-hp and 248-lbs-ft of torque. This is the option our tester was equipped with. You can move over to another step up which gets you a hybrid powertrain that consists of a 2.5-liter engine matched up with an electric motor combining to push 200-hp. Obviously the hybrid is going to net you the best MPG and when we drove the previous generation last year we achieved some pretty awesome numbers.
Driving that car though wasn’t the best. The steering was so light you never really felt like you had control of the car. The power delivery seemed skitzofrenik as you would sometimes push the accelerator pedal and get nothing and other times tap it and get a load of power. It wasn’t just the Hybrid that gave you a bad driving experience either; it was the car as a whole. Most people would describe it as a floaty cruising car but in emergencies or during any kind of spirited driving, having a wheel that felt like it was connected with rubber bands can be a bad thing.
I’m happy to report that the most impressive transformation with the Camry isn’t just its looks or interior, but its driving. You get a steering wheel that has some weight to it, although it’s still easy to maneuver and comfortable to drive. You get suspension that lets you know what’s going on underneath you without being rough in any way. You really get the sense that the chassis is solid and you’re in complete control of the car which is more than I can say about any other Camry I’ve ever driven. This car isn’t made to be a sport sedan necessarily but incorporating some real feel and sportiness into the package makes it a great driving car, not just for enthusiasts but for the average commuter.
After our week with the car and seeing how far it has come makes it easy to be impressed but the lingering question still remains. If it was my money would I consider buying this over other cars in the segment? Well let’s look at the competition.
You have the Honda Accord that comes in just cheaper than the Camry, about $70 or so at its base price. Its base engine also gets better fuel economy numbers and it’s about 0.4 cu. ft. larger in the cargo volume. Even with that said I’d take the Camry over the Accord for the overall package. Then you have the Nissan Altima which again is a bit cheaper and a bit more fuel efficient with its base package. Again, even with the Altima’s new design and NASA inspired seats… I’d still take the Camry for its looks and driving dynamics. Man I never thought I’d be typing those words. Where I really see the competition though is with the newly designed Hyundai Sonata and the Kia Optima. Both have great designs, much lower starting prices, and great engines and are fun to drive. I’ve said it before, namely in the review of the car itself, but given the choice with my money I’d go with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. That said this new Camry makes that decision much harder than it should be and I’d never look down on anyone for going with the Camry as it really is a great car now.