Makers of iconic performance cars like the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Corvette have to balance evolution and tradition with every redesign, but what happens when the “fans” are legions of average new-car buyers?
The Toyota Camry is the best-selling car – and the third best-selling vehicle – in the United States, yet it’s also at a crossroads (pun intended).
Since it first arrived in showrooms, the Camry was won buyers with reliability, practicality, and value. Performance and style were never part of its mission.
That means the 2014 Camry is incredibly competent, but also incredibly boring, something Toyota is seeking to fix with a new 2015 model, unveiled last month at the 2014 New York Auto Show.
Consumers seem to like the 2014 Camry well enough despite its lack of visual zest, but with competitors like Ford, Hyundai, and Chrysler emphasizing styling, the 2015’s makeover was well-timed.
Gone is the unattractive angular styling of the previous model, which has been replaced by curvier lines, and a mix of styling cues that seem to be taken from the Avalon and Corolla.
SE and XSE models also get a massive grille that looks a bit like the “spindle grille” from Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand, or maybe a black hole.
The 2015 Camry is the clear winner here, but given the 2014 model’s aesthetic issues, that’s not saying much.
Interior design, comfort, amenities
The design changes are a little less drastic on the inside. Major upgrades include a 4.2-inch TFT screen wedged between new Optitron gauges on SE, XLE, and ZSE models, and a storage bin in the center console with available wireless smartphone charging.
The rest of the interior gets a somewhat-sportier appearance thanks to satin chrome trim and optional French stitching.
There was nothing wrong with the 2014 Camry’s interior but, as with the rest of the car, there was nothing particularly memorable either. The 2015 Camry adds some high-tech touches, but doesn’t really change that.
The 2015 Camry may have a flashy new exterior, but underneath are powertrains that carry over from 2014.
The base model comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, or buyers can upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 hp and 248 lb-ft, both paired with six-speed automatic transmissions.
There’s also a Camry Hybrid with a carryover 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder, electric motor, and nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total system output is 200 hp; Toyota doesn’t list combine torque.
The 2014 Camry is not a sporty car. That wasn’t part of its mission and, that’s understandable, if a bit boring.
However, with sportier models like the Ford Fusion and Mazda6 on the market, the 2015 Camry will have to be a little bit better than adequate.
Toyota says the new model has a stiffer chassis and recalibrated steering. It’s also added the XSE trim, which is supposed to impart a bit of sportiness to the mainstream sedan.
Still, given the limited mechanical changes, it’s likely the 2015 Camry will still do sedate and comfortable better than fast and aggressive.
Toyota hasn’t announced pricing for the 2015 Camry, but not expect the numbers on the window sticker to rise too much.
For reference the 2014 Camry starts at $23,235, including destination. That price buys a base-model Camry L with the four-cylinder engine, while the stop 2014 Camry XLE starts at $31,515.
The base price for the 2014 Camry Hybrid LE is $27,140; you’ll pay $28,755 for a top-of-the-line SE.
Given Toyota’s reputation for reliability, a used example of the outgoing generation (which was introduced as a 2012 model) could be a legitimate alternative to a new 2015, if the price is right and you can do without new-car smell.
It may be one of the most sensible midsize sedan choices, but the Toyota Camry is one of the least cool cars around. It has little to offer when it comes to styling and performance.
It’s too early to tell if the 2015 Camry’s mostly-visual makeover will change that, but the new look definitely makes this redesigned model cooler than its predecessor.