Would you believe that Toyota is an innovator when it comes to family sedans?
|Engine: 2.5L 4-cyl or 3.5L V6 Transmission: 6-speed automatic Horsepower: 178 hp (4-cyl), 268 hp (V6) Torque: 170 lb-ft (4-cyl), 248 lb-ft (V6) Fuel Economy: 25/35/28 city/highway/combined (4-cyl), 21/31/25 (V6) Price: Starting at $23,795 the SE is priced at $24,665 and the XSE at $26,975 (all prices include destination)|
Regardless, Toyota is staking its claim to the innovation title, so to put that assertion to the test we made the enviable trek to the big island of Hawaii for the launch of the significantly updated 2015 Camry.
A Bold-ish new look
The juxtaposition is dramatic. The Camry is the dictionary definition of automotive sensibility in the most mundane of climates but in a tropical paradise even the more dramatic new styling is one-upped by Mother Nature’s exotic flowers and lava flows.
We’d wager new looks should win new buyers and help attract those new car shoppers apprehensive of the car’s conservative reputation and style.
Still, the new look isn’t noteworthy enough to claim any level of innovation. Instead that lies with the truly significant level of upgrades Toyota has made to the car just three years after its launch, with 2000 new parts – or roughly one-third of the car overall. More specifically, innovation comes in the form of yet another new model, the XSE.
And if one new trim level seems like a far cry from being a “game changer” in the segment, consider this. . .
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From SE to XSE
Just three years ago Toyota rolled out a new Camry and introduced the SE trim level.
We vividly recall driving it and highly recommending the specific car.
And we weren’t the only ones who saw its merits. The SE now accounts for roughly 45 percent of all Camrys sold, and it’s likely the reason the Camry has been able to hold onto the position of America’s best selling car for what is now 12 consecutive years.
To keep the innovation ball rolling there’s now the up-market XSE.
So what’s so special about it? Well, first it’s important to know what the SE is.
For starters it doesn’t stand for Special Edition, but rather is an indication of a more sport-focused model. It comes with a unique body with a new black mesh front grille, rear spoiler and chrome tipped exhaust, as well as a sport tuned suspension with larger 17-inch wheels on wider low profile 215/55 tires, not to mention sports seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Despite the upgrades if you want sporty you’re better off looking at a Fusion or Mazda6. What the Camry SE offers is a more premium look, feel and drive for a minimal upgrade.
In fact, it starts at less than a grand more than a base model Camry at $24,665 versus $23,795 for the LE (all priced including destination). The SXE will cost you quite a bit more, however, priced at $26,975.
With that you get heated front seats, a 4-way power passenger seat, custom 18-inch wheels with even wider and lower profile 225/45 tires and a leather interior with “ultrasuede” inserts that looks almost as nice as the Alcantara you might find in a Mercedes-Benz.
Upgrade to the V6 engine ($32,195) and Toyota tosses in keyless access with a push-button ignition, a power moon roof, upgraded audio and 7-inch display screen with navigation and apps plus one feature you really won’t find anywhere else: wireless charging for you phone!
XSE Driving Impressions
Even with the big wheels it’s a comfy ride. The steering has a nice on-center feel helping you place the car on the road and it’s weighted so as to give a feeling of authority to the driver. Inputs feel organic, and it’s not the overly stiff setup that some automakers pass off as a sport model.
Overall the XSE is less floaty but we’re still reluctant to use the S (sporty) word.
If you’re shopping at the higher-end of the price range you’re probably interested in the new technologies available and there are plenty including lane departure warning, a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and an auto-high beam feature that turns out high-beams off automatically so you don’t accidentally blind oncoming cars. Plus there’s a new adaptive cruise control setting with a pre-collision system that will alert you of an impending impact and even apply the brakes if necessary.
So How is New Camry in General?
Apart from all this confusing SE, XSE trim level stuff, you’re probably wondering what the new Camry is like overall. Well, it’s another big step forward.
There are 150 new spot-welds to stiffen up the chassis and the track is roughly a half-inch wider to help all models driver more like the SE. There are new window seals, thicker carpeting and even redesigned mirrors to reduce wind noise. Overall it’s quieter, more comfortable and both feels and looks a lot nicer. In fact, every body panel but the roof has been changed.
Inside almost every surface the driver or passengers touch has been updated. The styling is still rather simplistic but the materials are top notch. And a benefit of the minimalist design is that all the controls are just so easy to use.
Vehicle information is also more readily accessible to the driver with a new 4.2-inch color display screen between the gauges, which is standard on all but the base model.
Under the Hood Innovation? Not So Fast
Sadly, there is one area Toyota isn’t innovating with this new car and it’s under the hood. There are no new powertrains, just the same old engines we’ve been seeing for quite some time.
There’s the same old six-speed transmission too, when some rivals have as many as 9-gears and even Honda has made the switch to a more fuel efficient CVT. At the same time, we really do love the feeling of a proper automatic like this. There’s never any wondering how the car will respond, it just does.
All that means fuel economy is unchanged and in an increasingly competitive segment that’s not good. The 2015 Camry is three miles per gallon back of the Altima and Accord and is just behind the Sonata and Fusion in combined fuel economy… though considering the issues Ford and Hyundai have had with the legitimacy of their numbers lately, we’d wager the Camry’s still competitive with those two.
Speaking of Fuel Economy…
Along with the SE model, the Hybrid version has long been one of our recommended picks. Combing the two seems like a perfect plan.
Unlike a lot of hybrids it gets a respectable 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds, while also achieving 41 MPG combined.
For just about $1,000 more ($28,820 versus $27,615) it’s an easy choice to make for hybrid buyers without coughing up the premium for the Camry Hybrid XLE ($30,805).
2015 Toyota Camry Review: The Verdict
So the new Camry is another great car and an undeniably smart purchase. The SE Hybrid is pretty much a no-brainer and the XSE seems like a real winner too.
Before, if you wanted to move up a level you could only get the XLE, which had more features, but wasn’t as nice to look at, sit in or drive.
While we’d like to see more innovation under the hood, Toyota has made a huge effort in trying to keep its top seller at the top of your shopping list.