Toyota just made the biggest mid-course correction in the history of America’s best-selling car. The 2015 Toyota Camry (I give it three out of four stars) gets sharper steering, new looks and interior upgrades to keep pace with other midsize sedans.
In earlier days, Toyota might have tweaked the Camry’s bumpers and lights at this point, three years into the current model’s run. That leisurely pace won’t do anymore. Automakers have taken to speeding new features into vehicles, increasing the competitive pressure even on the leader.
Changes to the Camry include a stiffer body, dramatic new grille and 2,000 new parts. Every exterior panel save the roof is new. The interior gets soft new materials and controls.
The updates don’t lift the 2015 Camry to the head of its class, but they’ll catch shoppers’ eyes and keep it relevant.
Prices for the 2015 Camry start at $22,970 for a base model with a 178-hp 2.5L four-cylinder engine. An optional 268-hp 3.5L V6 starts at $31,370. The Camry hybrid uses a 156-hp 2.5L engine, continuously variable transmission, batteries and electric motor. Prices start at $26,790.
The four-cylinder accounts for 84 percent of Camry sales, the hybrid 10 percent and the V6 six percent.
I tested a well-equipped four-cylinder Camry XLE with a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, touchscreen, voice recognition, blind-spot alert, push-button start, Bluetooth phone and audio, JBL audio and navigation. It stickered at $32,623. All prices exclude destination charges.
The Camry competes with midsize sedans like the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Passat. My test car’s price was comparable to similarly equipped competitors.
The Camry is a roomy and comfortable car, as I learned on a 1,100-mile drive from Jacksonville, Fla., to Detroit. It’s quiet on the highway, and the 2.5L engine is more than adequate for cruising on highways, Appalachian hills and city streets. The steering is responsive and firm. The suspension absorbs bumps with aplomb.
The Camry’s drivetrain is unchanged for 2015. Its fuel economy falls in the middle of the pack. The four-cylinder rated 25 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 in combined driving. The combined rating trails competitive models of the Malibu, Accord and Altima; beats the Fusion and Optima; and matches the 200, Sonata and Passat.
The Camry’s front seat has plenty of room and lots of cubbies for phone, iPod, sunglasses, etc. The rear seat has good knee and head room. The trunk is smaller than most competitors’, but a wide opening and regular shape make it accommodating.
Toyota focused on the interior’s materials, adding soft-touch covers to the dash and door tops. They look good, and the padded doors are elbow-savers on a long drive.
The center stack is new, to accommodate the latest version of Toyota’s Entune system for audio, navigation and connectivity. The touchscreen looks good, and using phone apps like Pandora Radio is far easier. The voice recognition in my car was frustratingly slow. The screen’s touch points are too small to use in a moving vehicle, though, and its response was slow.
Happily, the climate-control system uses big, welcoming buttons and dials.
The Camry’s driver-assistance systems include blind-spot, cross-traffic, lane-departure and collision alerts. They’re effective and unobtrusive.
The tuning of the adaptive cruise control needs work. It’s not as smooth or quick as the best competitors when it applies the brakes or accelerates on the highway.
Despite some shortcomings, the sum of the Camry’s new parts is likely to keep Toyota’s stalwart sedan America’s best-selling car.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
2015 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L
Front-wheel drive, five-passenger midsize sedan
Price as tested: $32,623 (excluding destination charge)
Rating: Three out of four stars
Reasons to buy: Passenger and luggage room, interior materials, steering, feel, reputation
Shortcomings: Fuel economy, voice-recognition and touchscreen response, refinement of adaptive cruise control
COMPETITIVE EPA FUEL-ECONOMY RATINGS (Automatic transmission, four-cylinder models)
Toyota Camry XLE: 25 mpg city/35 highway/28 combined. Regular gasoline
Chevrolet Malibu LTZ: 25/36/29. Regular gasoline
Chrysler 200 C: 23/36/28. Regular gasoline
Ford Fusion SE 2.5L: 22/34/26. Regular gasoline
Honda Accord EX-L: 26/35/29. Regular gasoline
Hyundai Sonata Limited: 24/35/28. Regular gasoline
Kia Optima SX: 23/34/27. Regular gasoline
Mazda 6i Grand Touring: 26/38/30. Regular gasoline
Nissan Altima SL: 27/38/31. Regular gasoline
VW Passat 1.8T Sport: 24/36/28. Regular gasoline
COMPARATIVE BASE PRICES (excluding destination charges; automatic transmission, four-cylinder models)
Toyota Camry XLE: $26,150
Chevrolet Malibu LTZ: $27,130
Chrysler 200 C: $26,225
Ford Fusion SE 2.5L: $23,935
Honda Accord EX-L: $28,420
Hyundai Sonata Limited: $26,525
Kia Optima SX: $25,700
Mazda 6i Grand Touring: $29,895
Nissan Altima SL: $28,150
VW Passat 1.8T Sport: $27,835
SPECIFICATIONS AS TESTED
Engine: 2.5L 16-valve four-cylinder
Power: 178 hp @ 6,000 rpm.; 170 pound-feet of torque @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 190.9 inches
Width: 71.7 inches
Height: 57.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,340 pounds
Where assembled: Georgetown, Ky.
KEY FEATURES ON VEHICLE TESTED
Standard equipment: Antilock brakes, stability control; brake assist; electronic brake-force distribution; smart stop; 10 air bags; leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls; leather-trimmed seats; heated front seats; six-way power driver seat; four-way power front passenger seat; power windows, locks and mirrors; backup camera; 60/40 split folding rear seat; dual zone climate control; two 12-volt outlets; one USB port; one auxiliary input.
Options: Blind-spot and cross-traffic alert; push-button start; smart key for doors and trunk; auto-dimming rearview mirror; universal garage door opener; alarm; stolen vehicle locator; roadside assistance; automatic crash notification; JBL audio; 10 speakers; subwoofer; USB 2.0 port; iPod compatible 7-inch touchscreen; AM/FM/CD audio with voice recognition; HD radio, traffic and weather; three months of SiriusXM service; pre-collision alert; lane-departure warning; adaptive cruise control; automatic high beams; power sunroof; wireless charging for mobile phones; floor mats; rear spoiler; remote start; illuminated door sills.