The Toyota Camry reigns as America’s best-selling car, despite zealous competition from the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and Mazda6. Redesigned for 2014, the current-generation Camry got a thorough freshening for 2015, including body stiffening and more sound insulation.
Little is new for the 2016 model year except for a new Camry Special Edition. Smartphone navigation has been added to the Entune Audio Plus system.
The Camry is refined, modern, and surprisingly bold in appearance. Cabins are roomy and refined, though trim elements in the base LE model look a bit barren.
The Camry XLE, in particular, delivers a sophisticated experience, blending the familiar smooth ride with greater control and stability. For more invigorating responses, the Camry SE and XSE ride on 18-inch wheels and tires and a firmer suspension, while losing little in ride comfort.
Three powertrains are available. Standard is a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which trails in performance compared to its rivals. The 3.5-liter V6, developing 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, is stronger and more satisfying, capable of 0-60 mph acceleration in less than 6 seconds, which is pretty quick.
Toyota also offers a fuel-efficient Camry Hybrid gas-electric car, and it’s a smooth, sophisticated machine, very pleasant to drive.
In the highly competitive family-sedan category, Camry stands tall in terms of features, including up-to-date, lag-free infotainment systems with intuitive menu selections. Even the base Camry LE comes with Entune audio/infotainment, six speakers, touchscreen, voice recognition, USB port, Bluetooth phone/audio streaming. Midrange models step up to Entune Audio Plus, featuring a new Connected Navigation Scout GPS Link App.
Active safety features include Lane Departure Alert, a Pre-Collision System with automatic high beams, and a Blind-spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Adaptive cruise control is available.
Camry has mixed results in crash-testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a Good score in each category. Coupled with an Advanced score for frontal crash protection, the Camry earned Top Safety Pick+ honors. Testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resulted in a five-star overall rating, but four-star for frontal and side pole collisions. Those figures place Camry below the scores for Honda Accord and Subaru Legacy.
The 2016 Camry comes standard with a four-cylinder engine. Only XSE and XLE have a V6 option. Camry LE ($23,070) is equipped with air conditioning, power driver’s seat, Entune touchscreen audio/infotainment, rearview camera, 16-inch steel wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination.)
Camry SE ($23,840) features a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch graphite-finish alloy wheels, black headlight bezels, a rear spoiler, and a black mesh grille. Inside are SofTex simulated-leather upholstery and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Camry Special Edition ($25,715) adds to SE a sunroof, keyless entry/starting, Qi wireless charging, Entune Audio Plus, blue interior accents, and 18-inch wheels.
Camry XSE ($26,310) and XSE V6 ($31,370) adds 18-inch wheels to the SE, along with leather-trimmed Ultrasuede seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and LED headlights. Camry XSE V6 also gets a universal garage-door opener, sunroof, and wireless charging.
Camry XLE ($26,310) and XLE V6 ($31,370) include dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather power front seats, driver’s power lumbar support, and 17-inch Super Chrome alloy wheels.
Camry Hybrid models are similarly equipped.
Ten airbags are standard, with front-passenger knee bags and rear side airbags.
The 2015 freshening gave the Camry greater visual appeal, in contrast to earlier models that looked plain. Only the roofline was retained, giving the sedan a gracefully handsome new look, though short of striking. The front end is especially bold, with a wide opening below a thin upper grille, accented on upper trim levels by LED front lights.
A relatively wide track (the distance between the left and right wheels) makes the front end look broader. Nicely detailed, swept-back headlights have clear lenses. Bodysides flow smoothly, separated by a sloping character line.
Quiet and comfortable, the Camry’s interior has a straightforward appearance and feels more spacious than the cabins of many midsize sedans. Soft-touch surfaces are more numerous than in the past, accented by contrasting stitching that enhances both texture and visual appeal. Ahead of the gearshift, an enclosed bin has space for personal electronics items, with a USB port and (in upper trims) a wireless charging pad.
Most models have a 6.1-inch touchscreen, surrounded by large buttons, while the center stack contains big buttons and knobs. Even the touchscreen’s virtual buttons are intuitive.
Sport seats in SE, Special Edition, and XSE are more assertively contoured than in lower trims. Lateral support isn’t much different, but the sport seats feel snugger, with greater thigh support.
All models have split-folding rear seatbacks, which don’t fold totally flat. Seats are abundantly padded and contoured for adults. Because the Camry’s roofline slopes less than some, adults can expect good rear headroom.
Every version of the Camry delivers a smooth ride along with confident handling. These are easy cars to live with.
2016 and 2015 models benefit from suspension tuning that offers a dash more control, enhancing driving character without affecting the traditionally smooth ride. At low speeds, in particular, drivers can expect a responsive manner, with confident control. On the highway, the tauter spring/shock settings help constrain harshness and overcome bumpy stretches. While absorbing the most troublesome pavement defects, the Camry’s suspension rebounds with full control.
Brakes, too, feel confident, and wind noise is nicely subdued.
For most drivers, the four-cylinder engine suffices easily, performing smoothly, though languid when starting off. Strain may often be felt with passing or climbing a modest grade, but only until the 6-speed automatic transmission downshifts. Fortunately, the transmission reacts quickly and decisively.
With the 3.5-liter V6, the Camry feels quick, with excellent driveability even when carrying a full load of passengers. In real-world driving, the V6 isn’t as thirsty as its EPA rating of 21/31 mpg City/Highway might suggest, but it’s no fuel-miser, either. Even the four-cylinder falls short of class-leading status, EPA-rated at 25/35 mpg City/Highway, or 28 mpg Combined.
Long known for dependability and value, as well as family-size comfort, the Camry can no longer be dismissed as vanilla ice cream. Ride/handling score highly. Performance is another plus, whether you take the four-cylinder or V6 engine. Gas mileage could be a bit better, but you have the option of a 41-mpg Hybrid.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.