2014 Toyota Camry: New Car Review
The 2014 Toyota Camry is entering its third model year in its current form. Updates for 2012 included bolder exterior styling with jagged taillights that we deemed "adventurous." The interior had a makeover, too, departing from the Camry's traditional conservatism with an eye-catching variety of textures, shapes and curves.
We wondered whether no-nonsense Camry buyers were ready for such a major makeover. But the market has spoken, and it turns out Americans can't get enough of Toyota's new midsize sedan. The Camry remains one of the top-selling vehicles on the market and by far the top-selling car.
Aggressive styling aside, we're not surprised that the new Camry has met with such success. Toyota has managed the neat trick of pleasing Camry loyalists while also broadening the car's appeal with new features. In keeping with tradition, the 2014 Camry rides smoothly and quietly, and fuel economy is better than ever, touching 35 miles per gallon in standard trim and up to 43 mpg in the Hybrid. Yet the latest Camry also handles pretty well, especially with the SE model's sport-tuned suspension, and its technology offerings have gone from lagging to leading, highlighted by standard touchscreen infotainment and USB/Bluetooth across the lineup.
Notably, a number of rivals have received redesigns of their own recently, including the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Mazda6. They're all strong contenders, so we recommend test-driving as many as you can before deciding. But the 2014 Camry remains an excellent choice, leveraging the fruits of its recent redesign to retain its class-leading position.
What's New for 2014?
Following its 2012 redesign, the Camry is unchanged for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Roomy interior; smooth and quiet ride; surprisingly capable handling; plentiful standard features; great fuel economy (especially in the Hybrid); optional V6 is an all-time fave
What We Don't
Entune smartphone integration isn't available on L or LE; inconsistent build quality; polarizing styling
The front-wheel-drive Camry starts with a 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder rated at 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Optional on SE and XLE is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.
A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines; shift paddles (with rev-matched downshifts) are included in both 4- and 6-cylinder SE models.
The Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gas engine with a battery-powered electric drive system to produce an even 200 hp; its transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT).
Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings for the regular 4-cylinder Camry are 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy, while the V6 checks in at a still-respectable 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.
Predictably, the Hybrid blows them both away with ratings of up to 43 mpg city/39 mpg hwy, though the Hybrid XLE drops slightly to 40 mpg city/38 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2013 Camry is offered in four basic trim levels -- L, LE, SE and XLE.
The base L ($23,000) is, as expected, quite basic, from its manual cloth seats to its 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. But it does provide a 6-speaker touchscreen stereo with iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. That's good for an entry-level model.
The LE ($23,500) adds automatic headlights, variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry and steering-wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls.
If you want navigation or Entune smartphone-app integration, you'll have to step up to the SE ($24,200), which also features sporty exterior styling cues, 17-in alloy wheels (18-in with the V6), sport-tuned suspension and steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles and what Toyota optimistically calls "sport seats."
The top-of-the-line XLE ($25,500) drops the SE's sport-themed goodies but adds standard power front seats (optional on LE and SE), dual-zone automatic climate control with rear vents and wood interior trim.
Note that the Camry Hybrid is available in LE or XLE trim only, and comes with an exclusive suite of gauges and hybrid monitoring displays. The Camry V6 is offered in SE or XLE trim only.
Trunk space ranges from a healthy 15.4 cu ft in regular Camry models to 13.1 cu ft in Hybrid form. But don't worry too much about the Hybrid's space deficit, because the load floor remains nice and flat, unlike the lumpy floor in the rival Ford Fusion Hybrid.
The 2014 Toyota Camry has the usual assortment of safety equipment and then some, boasting stability control and no fewer than 10 airbags (front, side, side curtain and knee). A blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is optional on SE and XLE.
So how does it all work? In government crash testing, the latest Camry wasn't perfect -- but its scores of four stars for frontal protection, five stars for side protection and four stars for rollover protection were good enough to earn the maximum overall score of five stars. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Camry its top rating of Good in every category.
Behind the Wheel
The latest Camry retains the smooth, quiet ride that Camry fans have come to expect. So that's no surprise. What is surprising, though, is the Camry's newfound surefootedness around corners. Even the nonsporty trim levels handle well, while the sport-tuned SE, which benefits from sharper steering, wider tires and a firmer suspension, brings the Camry's athleticism close to that of class leaders such as the new Honda Accord. That Toyota has managed to add this sprightliness without compromising the Camry's ride quality is impressive.
Inside, we found that the Camry L and LE's standard manual front seats cover the basics, including a height adjustment for the driver. However, the power front seats -- optional on LE/SE and standard on XLE -- are a worthwhile upgrade. Unlike in previous models, the power driver seat has a bottom cushion that tilts independently, so drivers of all sizes can dial in perfect seating angles.
Whichever trim you choose, the backseat is palatial, providing ample leg- and headroom along with excellent under-thigh support for taller passengers. You can certainly buy a bigger sedan than the Camry (Toyota's own Avalon comes to mind), but you probably won't need more rear passenger space than this.
The Camry's primary gauges remain among the simplest and most legible in the business. As usual, Toyota nailed the ergonomics, too, thanks to big knobs and clearly marked physical and virtual buttons. Build quality may be an issue, however, as the plastic trim pieces at the bottom of the center stack were loose and creaky in two Camry models we tested. Also, the array of shapes and patterns may be a bit much for folks who like to keep things simple.
Other Cars to Consider
Honda Accord -- It's back! After ballooning to full-size status in the previous generation, the 2013 Accord has been reinvented as a taut, sporty model that reminds us of Accords past. Interior quality is much-improved, as well.
Kia Optima -- Sharing many parts with the popular Hyundai Sonata, the sexy Optima is the supermodel of midsize sedans, and it comes in regular, performance and hybrid models, just like the Camry. Take a look at the excellent turbocharged EX as a cheaper, more fuel-efficient alternative to the Camry V6.
Volkswagen Passat -- The American-built Passat certainly has the size and softness to win the hearts of Toyota devotees. It also features an attractive interior, a turbodiesel model that's nearly as frugal as the Camry Hybrid and an optional 3.6-liter V6 that gives the Camry's V6 a run for its money.
It's hard to find a bad apple in this barrel. The 4-cylinder L and LE are certainly the value leaders, but if you want extra fuel economy or performance, you can't go wrong with the Hybrid or V6, respectively. The Camry lineup is exceptionally well-rounded.