FROM BREAD AND BUTTER
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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Feb 28, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Doug Stokes
The billboards all over LA had been bidding us to: “Drive the BOLD new Camry” for a couple of weeks now. So we did.
Actually, we had an early peek at this one a little before the winter holidays at a Toyota road show at a baseball park in Anaheim and liked what we saw and drove there. This latest-gen Camry, especially in XSE guise, is a sophisticated and (ever thought you’d hear a Camry called this?) seriously sleek performer that is fully capable of surprise—something that was never, ever attributed to this staid, steady line of well-received machines.
So, here’s a quick look at how you shake off that “a really good, but really boring automobile” mantra: Take a good solid unibody and add even more strength to it. Having a bridge girder-strong structure that does not flex and flop allows the suspension to do a much better do its job. That single step has taken the Camry into the Lexus-like chassis control category. The feel, the ride, the sense of the car being one piece, not a bunch of bolted-together components is palpable. To reiterate, the added chassis strength gives the XSE’s nice sport-tuned suspension a firm platform to work from and that makes (all) driving far more enjoyable, even when one is not out blasting the canyon roads.
One other key to an effective driving experience are strong, supportive seats with good range and shape adjustments (I have, effectively, just described the XSE’s seats). Firm at first, on any trip of more than an hour or two’s duration that sort of seating invariably translates into a more comfortable ride and far less fatigue at the end of the journey. The front pair of seats are heated with the passenger’s comfortably adjusting four ways and the driver’s an additional four on top of those moves for a very compliant eight-ways total.
Speaking of seating, the rear seats, and leg and headroom in this four door sedan are also all about comfort. They have the same sort of “let us drive out to the Thermal Club after brunch” long-ride attitude as the fronts.
Of course, giving the XSE model a super-strong V-6 engine and a great crisp-shifting 6-speed automatic gear box also go a long way toward dispelling any residual plainness that might have been attributed to this nameplate in the past.
We’re talking a brilliant 268 horsepower backed up with 248 lusty pound-feet of torque. Hit the trigger on this four-door Camry and see the road ahead come back your way in fairly large gulps. Even though it’s not sold as a high performance model (the sales brochure alludes to the fact that the 3.5-liter V-6 “puts 268 horsepower under your right foot, making it one powerful ride”) traffic moves and overtaking become something of a looked-forward-to occasion with the XSE set in Power mode.
Not that Toyota had to do much of the above to enhance Camry sales, it is (and has been for a while) the best-selling car model in the United States. But, what the heck. Why not make a full-out luxury model and sell a few more to people who already have had good experience with the brand. The XSE is reason to stay with the nameplate, even as they want more of the good stuff in their next Toyota.
Well, here it is folks, all $34,375.00 of it.
That’s right, 34K for a Camry.
Our luxury XSE-level reviewer’s sticker started life out at $31,370.00 and grew by that $4,005.00 with the addition of a $500 Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic monitors (which are so very easy to get used to and so very hard to give up).
Then there’s the glorious Entune premium JBL sound system with 10 GreenEdge speakers in eight locations (including subwoofer), a nav system with a very usable seven-inch screen, Bluetooth, HD radio, HD Predictive Traffic and Doppler Weather Overlay and three months of SirusXM All Access radio (which, for me, means Siriously Sinatra), and more are included in an “aw, what the heck, why not?” all-time-bargain-add-on package price of $805.00(!). Add the Technology package: Pre-Collision System , Lane Departure Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beam ( those love ‘em-hate ‘em headlights, you know , bright bluish white LED peepers that you love to have looking out ahead, but hate having to look at when they’re coming your way) at $750.00 more.
Throw in the nice upgraded carpets (car interior and trunk) for $250 and pony up for the $850.00 delivery bill and you’ve got the 34,375. But you also have an especially well-equipped mid-size family sedan that’s very satisfying from just about every angle.
Maybe it was the paint that gave us the word “sleek” early-on. This “Attitude Black Metal” (that’s the real name on this one’s build sheet) color had garrulous hints of metallic sapphire in direct sunlight. The car just looked a whole lot more cunning than the just plain competent image that Camry’s have had hung on them for lo the nearly thirty years that the model’s been sold here. It had to be the super-aggressive styling that includes a sinister black wide-at-the bottom grille, what look like giant air scoops on each side of the nose, and big 18-inch machined alloy wheels sporting some low profile rubber that are set tightly into the wheel arches.
Of course, at the above-mentioned price, there’s got to be a list of standard equipment features that can easily fill a couple of pages. Beginning with all the built-in safety systems like stability control, traction control, anti-lock disc brakes all around, and pressing on to ten airbags (!), brake assist and smart stop technology. We did not try it but the literature indicates that: “The Pre-Collision System works with the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system to determine if a frontal collision is imminent. If so, under certain conditions, the system automatically applies the brakes.” Toyota’s Lane Departure indication and Blind Spot Monitoring (which advise the driver in exactly what their names imply) seem far more useful on a daily basis. For me staying out of that kind of trouble (no matter how strong the chassis, generous that a manufacturer has been with airbags, or how “smart” the braking system is) is always a better plan.
There’s more, lots more, on the standard equipment including in-dash wireless charging for Qi-equipped cell phones (er, “devices”), dual-zone climate control, a fully Bluetooth and audio control capable leather-wrapped steering wheel. The instruments and controls are well-placed and perfectly logical, but that does not mean that the cabin interior is not stylish or attractive.
Of course there’s a nice tilt/slide sun/moon roof and just about every sort of hands-free, music, phone-calling, phone-booking, voice-recognition item that modern science has come up with lately. We mentioned the trick LED headlights earlier, but did we tell you that this one has LED DRLs (Daylight Running Lights) too? It does.
Earlier we marveled at the power and performance that Toyota’s thoroughbred 3.5-liter V-6 exudes; turning to the EPA/DOT ratings we find that fuel efficiency has not been forsaken for power with an overall rating of 25 miles per gallon and a range of 21 City and 31 Highway for what is a very muscular motorcar.
For many, thinking about plunking down a number like 34 Gs for a Camry might sound a bit out of character. For others, who have perhaps owned previous Camry models and have witnessed firsthand the progression that the model has made over the years, that leap will be short and sure. -DS
For more information about Toyota products, go to www.toyota.com
Name of vehicle:
2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 4-Door Sedan
$22,970 (base LE)
$31,370 (base XSE)
$34, 475 (XSE as tested, with Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Entune Premium JBL Audio with navigation and App Suite, 7-inch high-resolution touch-screen display, AM/FM CD Player, MP3/WMA playback capability, 10 JBL GreenEdge speakers in 8 locations including subwoofer and amplifier, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, Advanced Voice Recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology, HD Radio, HD Predictive Traffic and Doppler Weather overlay, AM/FM Cache Radio, SiriusXM All Access radio with 3-month complimentary trial, Technology Package includes Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Automatic High Beam)
EPA mileage estimates:
21 city/31 highway miles per gallon
3,5 liter DOHC 24-valve V6 with Dual VVT-i
268 at 6200 rpm
248 pound-feet at 4700 rpm
Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Transmission: 6-speed automatic ECT-I with Eco and Sport modes and paddle shifters Sport-Tuned Suspension Wheels and tires: 18 inch machined alloy wheels with black painted accents and all-season low profile tires Brakes feature power-assisted vented front discs and solid rear discs, ABS (anti-lock brake system), Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology Dimensions Overall length: 190.9 inches Overall width: 71.7 inches Overall height: 57.9 inches