2015 Camry: Toyota's No-Fail Formula

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 8th, 2014

For 2015, Toyota's Camry is subjected to a substantial dose of upgrades and features -- even though it is in the middle of its four-year model cycle, when manufacturers usually freshen a car with minor trim and sheet metal changes.

Everything visible on the Camry, except for the roof and glass sunroof, has been redesigned. Underneath, the engines and transmissions are carried over, but the 2015 Camry now carries 2,000 new or redesigned parts, Toyota says.

Overall, the changes are not the sort that attract attention. Rubber-necking by pedestrians is almost nil. But when Toyota's selling upwards of 400,000 models a year, the company doesn't want to mess much with its successful Camry formula.

In the last dozen years, Toyota customers have bought 10.2 million Camry sedans (and occasionally wagons), and 6.6 million of them are still on American roads, according to the company. Currently, all of them are built in the U.S., with 75 percent of the content from North America.

The Camry recipe remains as it always has been: a durable and reliable midsize family sedan, inoffensive with modest and pleasant styling, decent fuel economy and performance, and all-day comfort.

strong>Four versions are offered: LE, XLE, SE and XSE, with four-cylinder or V-6 engines, as well as a hybrid, which comes in LE, SE and XLE trim levels. The base LE has a starting price of $23,795 and the prices, including options, go up from there.

Versions with an L designation are tuned for comfort; those with an S, including the hybrid, are set up for a more sporting feel and are easily identified by a massive black mesh grille. Other Camry models carry the traditional horizontal five-bar grille.

The drivetrains include the 200-horsepower hybrid that combines a 2.5-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine with an electric motor mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission. Others are powered by the buyer's choice of either with a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. Non-hybrid models are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles on the steering wheel.

This review focuses on the four-cylinder XLE, with a starting price of $26,975. That includes such items as automatic climate control, leather upholstery, and Toyota's Entune multi-media system. A long list of options bumped the price up to $33,448. The Camry XLE is the luxury/comfort sedan with a look and driving feel not unlike that of its more expensive sibling, the Lexus ES.

The XLE is a cocoon of comfort and serenity: The interior is quiet, with little intrusion of wind, road, or mechanical noise, thanks to additional welds in the body structure and insulation in the carpeting.

Among the new items on the 2015 XLE model are a smartphone wireless charging pad installed in the console. It requires an attachment on the phone to do its work, but it might be too small to accommodate some of today's larger smartphones. However, there's also a USB port for wired charging.

The XLE also has such modern safety devices as pre-collision warning, a rear camera with cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and adaptive cruise control. However, the last is not an optimum design; it turns off when the car reaches less than 20 mph. Other systems will bring the car to a stop and resume when the car ahead moves off.

Should the XLE's comfort setting not be what you are looking for, any of the S models inject some extra sharpness and control with only a slight degradation of ride quality. The engineers took a bit of play out of the front differential to improve the handling and straight-line tracking.

Camry S models also benefit from additional suspension tuning and shock absorbers with internal valve modifications that soften the ride on harsh surfaces and stiffen it during driving on curving roads. Camry offers all this without a price penalty: The XSE's starting price is identical to that of the tested XLE.

Though the XSE would not be regarded as an all-out sports sedan, it is the preference here for the crisper handling.

Specifications

Base price $26,975 (as tested: $33,448)
Curb weight 3,340 lbs.
Displacement 2.5-liter
Engine type 16-valve TwinCam 4-cyl. w/TDI
Epa mileage rating 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 17.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 178 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 190.9 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 170 at 4100 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
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