Sunday, June 7, 2015

The new standard for midsize sedans

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The generational lifecycle for Toyota cars and trucks are usually pretty consistent. Every 5 or 6 years, the company typically debuts a new generation of a given car and apart from some mild updates like a strip of chrome here and there, usually leaves them alone until the next generation. The 2015 Toyota Camry however represents a huge departure from that norm, as it just went through an overhaul 3 years ago. Whatever the reasons are for the change, the end result is certainly great news if you are shopping for a midsize sedan.

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     The Camry's changes on the outside are rather obvious, where all but the roof has been restyled. The grille is bigger, more prominent and indicative of the pricier Toyota Avalon, and its Lexus cousins. In profile, the 2015 Camry is more sculpted, and less melted slab of butter,  and the rear styling has been smoothed over as well. Overall, you could say that the Camry looks more grown up. Inside, the 2015 Toyota Camry's design and generous passenger space remain unchanged, but Toyota has made great changes to the quality of the plastics. The buttons and the knobs for the climate controls are bigger and less toy-like, and as a result, are not only easier to use, but give off a higher-end look and feel. Plus, every Camry now gets classier gauges and a user friendly Entune touchscreen interface.

     The 4-cylinder and V6 engines remain unchanged, but Toyota did make rather significant changes to the Camry's body structure and suspension tuning. The result is a more buttoned down confident driving experience that Toyota says their customers have been requesting. This latest Camry still isn't what I would call sporty, like a Mazda 6 or Ford Fusion, but it is more responsive and generally easier to drive.

     The 2015 Toyota Camry is a 5 passenger midsize sedan that comes in LE, SE, XSE, and XLE trims. Still available is the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

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Standard equipment on the base LE includes 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, air conditioning, keyless entry, a rearview camera, cruise control, 8-way power driver seat, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, cloth seating surfaces, Bluetooth, a 6.1 inch touchscreen interface for Entune, a 6-speaker sound system with CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.

     The SE builds upon that with 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, unique exterior styling and interior trim elements, sport fabric and simulated leather upholstery, a leather trimmed steering wheel and upgraded gauges.

     The XSE builds upon the SE's equipment with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lamps, leather and simulated suede upholstery, heated front seats with more aggressive bolstering, a 4-way power passenger seat, dual zone auto a/c, satellite radio and HD radio.

     The Convenience Package on the SE and XSE 4-cylinder models include keyless entry and ignition, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
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     The XLE is equipped similarly to the XSE, however it has the LE's more comfort tuned suspension, and lacks the SE/XSE's sporty styling elements. It has 17-inch alloy wheels, and full leather upholstery.

     The following items are optional on the 4-cylinder engine XSE and XLE and standard on their V6 versions: LED headlamps, a noise-reducing windshield, sunroof, the Convenience Package items, a 7-inch upgraded Entune touchscreen interface, a navigation system, Qi wireless smartphone charging and a suite of smartphone integration apps.

     Optional on the XSE and XLE are a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross traffic alert system, the Advanced Technology package which includes lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision warning and braking system, and automatic high-beam headlamp control, and a 10-speaker JBL sound system.

     Every 2015 Toyota Camry trim comes standard with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine that produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission come standard.

     In testing, a Camry LE with that powertrain did 0-60 mph runs in about 8.4 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined which is at least 2 mpg behind some of its competition.

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 The Camry XSE and XLE can be equipped with a 3.5 liter V6 that produces 268 horsepower, and 248 lb.-ft of torque. It too has front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission. A Camry XLE V6 sprinted to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, making it one of the fastest cars in its class. EPA estimated fuel economy of 25 mpg puts it on par with the competition that still offers a V6.

     Every 2015 Toyota Camry comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, front knee airbags and a rearview camera.

     Options on the XSE and XLE include a blind spot warning system paired with a cross traffic alert system. The Advanced Technology package adds a lane-departure warning system and a pre-collision system. Optional only on the XLE is Safety Connect, which is just like OnStar.

     In government crash testing, the Camry earned 5 out of 5 stars for overall crash protection.

     The 2015 Toyota Camry is blessed with one of the most comfortable and spacious cabins in the midsize family sedan segment. Even tall adults will find plenty of space above their heads and in front of their knees, while a rear facing child seat will fit in the back with ease. The fixed rear-seat headrests make it difficult to properly secure a front-facing child seat, however. Space in the trunk, rated at 15.4 cubic feet, is average for this class of car.

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 In terms of controls, the center stack's buttons are big, easy to read at a glance, and glove friendly without being laughably large or ugly. This is especially true for the sensibly designed climate controls.

     With improvements to its body structure, suspension and steering, every 2015 Toyota Camry is more responsive than the previous versions to driver inputs and more controlled when going around turns. This is certainly true of the SE and XSE models, which turn the driver engagement notch up a bit. True, they don't reach the same level of sharpness offered by some of its competitors, but they make it feel ok for some reason.

     Both the base 2.5 liter 4 cylinder and the optional 3.5 liter V6 engines deliver satisfying acceleration in a pretty smooth fashion. Transmission downshifts are commendably responsive, which is noteworthy given that some competitors transmissions are on the slow side in the name of better fuel economy.

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