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2015 Toyota Camry: First Drive Review

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2014

The 2015 Toyota Camry isn't fully redesigned, but it's close. Just three years after the Camry was redesigned for 2012, Toyota is giving the car a major facelift. At this point in the life-cycle of most cars, a minor to moderate refresh is usually in order. For the 2015 Camry, Toyota is making a bigger than usual change. Toyota says it's committed to making the Camry more competitive, more enjoyable and more refined. So, did they succeed? After spending a day behind the wheel of the new model, we've collected our thoughts and impressions.

Looks Totally New

Even Toyota admits that a few of their cars are less exciting than vehicles made by their competitors -- especially in the crowded midsize-sedan segment, where rivals such as the Kia Optima and Mazda6 sell bold styling and sharp handling over practicality and dependability. With new body panels on almost every surface, the 2015 Camry is supposed to up the ante, giving customers new styling that's designed to inspire a more emotional connection with the midsize sedan. In terms of looks, we think the car has largely succeeded: It certainly has a bolder, more eye-catching design than that of the outgoing model and even Mazda6 shoppers will likely find the new look appealing. 

Unfortunately, the new Camry's interior isn't quite as consistent. Yes, it's true that some models, such as the upscale XLE and the newly renamed XSE, have made marked improvements. Those trim levels now offer a luxurious, well-made cabin that will stand up to rivals like the Mazda6 Grand Touring and the Honda Accord Touring. We especially like the Camry's stitched dash look and the wide range of new soft-touch surfaces on the center console, door panels and dashboard.

Improvements to the Camry's interior aren't universal, and we happen to think that base-level LE and SE models get the raw end of the deal. While entry-level Camry models benefit from a few new upscale interior materials, these trims still don't feel quite as special as rivals like the Honda Accord and Mazda6. This is largely because of the overall interior look, which remains a bit dull. It;s better than before, but we suspect that Toyota had some limits about exactly what could and couldn't change with the revised Camry's interior.

How Does it Drive?

Major updates to the 2015 Camry go beyond styling. Toyota has also focused on improving the sedan's driving experience to entice younger shoppers who want a more enjoyable new car. To us, the updated Camry succeeds here in more ways than one.

For one thing, we certainly enjoy how the latest Camry drives, though we've long been a fan of the sporty Camry SE V6, which has historically offered slightly better suspension than other trim levels. The latest Camry, however, has raised the stakes even further with the XSE V6 boasting an especially enjoyable driving experience. It has nicely weighted steering and excellent suspension and handling -- even when compared to the 4-cylinder Camry SE. As we previously noted, we also like the Camry XSE's high-end interior, which makes it our top pick in the new Camry lineup.

In addition to changes that made the new Camry sportier, we also think the family sedan is now a lot quieter on the road. In fact, we think this is the latest Camry's most immediately noticeable change. Current Camry drivers will quickly recognize that the new model offers a quieter, more refined driving experience. To us, top-level Camry models are now closer to Toyota's luxurious Lexus brand than they've ever been before.

As for acceleration, the latest Camry feels about the same as the older version, which makes sense considering that the engines have carried over unchanged from last year's model. That's hardly a demerit, though. The Camry's V6 makes a muscular 268 horsepower, and even the 4-cylinder puts out a respectable 175 hp. Indeed, we suspect few Camry buyers are clamoring for more power, and we certainly aren't either.

Good Enough?

Although we didn't have any major issues with the old Camry's performance, we certainly concur with Toyota that it was far from the most exciting car in its class. As a result, the 2015 Toyota Camry is certainly worth a look if you're interested in a family car with a little more pizzazz than you might expect from a typical Camry. No, it's not more fun-to-drive than other midsize sedans, but it's certainly just as good as some of our favorites. That's a big step up for the formerly bland Camry, especially when you consider that it adds its new-and-improved driving experience to a wide range of other Camry attributes, such as a comfortable, roomy interior, notorious reliability, competitive pricing and a long list of available features.

If you previously wrote the Camry off due to its lackluster interior and so-so exterior look, we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the 2015 XLE and XSE trim levels. The car can easily hold its own alongside some of our long-standing favorite midsize sedans.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Toyota Camry: First Drive Review - Autotrader