The 2019 Toyota Camry is pretty much the same car as last year, which is just fine, since Team Toyota really outdid itself for 2018. The Camry was so completely and impressively redesigned that it almost deserved a new name. It was better to drive, much better to look at and its interior took a long trip upmarket. Then there were its engines, which ignored the recent trend toward turbocharging yet still delivered class-leading power and fuel economy.
Frankly, the Camry hasn’t been this competitive in years, even if an also-new Accord and thoroughly updated Mazda6 stole its thunder a bit. It’s also important to note that this long-time stalwart of automotive sensibility has shaken off some of the old crust and injected some personality into its driving experience and styling. Sure, some would say it’s gone a touch too far. Nevertheless, we think its sharper handling, more composed ride, more natural driving position and other range of improvements equal a car that should ultimately be better for most.
Really, the 2019 Camry should be considered by anyone looking for a midsize sedan. Competitors may outdo it in a few areas, but it really doesn’t have a major failing, and with a wide variety of models from which to choose, finding one that works for you should be easy.
What’s New for 2019?
After being completely redesigned last year, the Camry sees no changes for 2019.
What We Like
Superior power and fuel economy; luxurious cabin; user-friendly tech interface; standard safety tech; unique LE and SE “flavors”
What We Don’t
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto not yet available; styling may be trying too hard; V6 lacks the athletic feel of 4-cylinder model
The base Camry engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot for a midsize sedan, and it actually goes up to 206 hp and 186 lb-ft with the XSE trim. Front-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission are standard. Fuel economy estimates are 28 miles per gallon in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. That’s exceptional, and the base L model actually gets two mpg better.
A 3.5-liter V6 engine is available on the XLE and XSE trim levels. It produces 301 hp and 267 lb-ft. The XSE returns 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined, while the XLE returns one mpg better on the highway. It runs on 87 octane.
There’s also a Camry Hybrid reviewed separately that’s good for either 52 or 46 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
Think of there being two different flavors of 2019 Toyota Camry: The more traditional L, LE and XLE trims and the sportier SE and XSE trims.
The base L ($23,845) comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic bi-LED headlights, a backup camera, highway-speed adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, manual height-adjustable front seats, power driver lumbar adjustment, Bluetooth, one USB port, a 7-in Entune 3 touchscreen interface, a Scout GPS navigation smartphone app and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.
The LE ($24,350) adds 17-in alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and an alarm system.
The SE ($25,550) has different styling, altered suspension and steering tuning, front sport seats and a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel. In terms of feature content, it adds 18-in wheels, single-zone automatic climate control and SofTex vinyl upholstery.
Both the LE and SE can be equipped with a sunroof, blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems (packaged together), the Convenience package (passive entry and push-button start, an auto-dimming mirror and a universal garage opener) and the Audio package (an 8-in touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, HD Radio, satellite radio, remote vehicle controls, Safety Connect emergency services and on-board Wi-Fi).
The XSE ($29,475) effectively upgrades the SE, while the XLE ($28,925) upgrades the LE. Both add full-speed adaptive cruise control, the blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, three vehicle setting modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), an electronic parking brake, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an 8-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, rear adjustable headrests, an upgraded backup camera and instrument display, the Convenience package content and three USB ports. The XSE has 19-in wheels, while the XLE has 18-in wheels plus a leather-wrapped version of the LE’s steering wheel.
The V6 engine is available only on the XSE and XLE and brings with it a panoramic sunroof, a color head-up display, wireless smartphone charging, the Audio package content and a 9-speaker JBL sound system with Clari-Fi digital music enhancement. All of these items are available on the 4-cylinder XSE and XLE. A factory navigation system integrated into the Entune 3 touchscreen is an option on the V6 trim levels.
Every 2019 Camry comes standard with stability control, antilock brakes, 10 airbags (front, front-side, rear-side, side curtain, front knee), a backup camera, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, steering assist and automatic highbeams. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are available. Safety Connect emergency communications are standard on the V6-powered XSE and XLE and optional on all but the base L.
The government gave the Camry a perfect 5-star rating in every crash test. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Camry perfect marks in all crashworthiness, crash avoidance, headlight and child seat anchor categories. Such sterling safety ratings are rare.
Behind the Wheel
The 2019 Camry feels like a totally different car behind the wheel than Camrys of old, showcasing a degree of poise, precision and composure that this nameplate has never approached before. Though there are LE and SE trim lines that differ in steering and suspension tuning, their dynamic differences aren’t that great, with both maintaining a fairly comparable balance between comfort and handling precision. The SE just sharpens things up a bit. Some may lament the loss of the old Camry LE’s looser steering and pillowy ride, but we think the majority of buyers will like this change to a more modern car feel.
In terms of engine choice, the base 4-cylinder is a knockout, delivering excellent power and response along with class-leading fuel economy. Its lighter weight also allows for a more natural steering feel than in the 301-hp V6-power model. Sure, there’s obvious appeal in having that much power, but you don’t really need it, and that steering advantage ultimately makes the 4-cylinder the better car to drive.
The Camry’s interior is also a better, more modern place to spend time relative to past versions. Its seating position is lower and there’s a more thoughtful placement of the wheel, shifter and other controls that results in a more driver-oriented cabin. You sit in the Camry now, rather than on it. Everything else inside impresses, too, as the quality of materials highlights a stylish design (though it perhaps tries a bit too hard). Pleasingly, there isn’t that much of a difference between the LE and XLE beyond leather seats and extra features. You don’t have to pay a lot to get a nice Camry.
Space is among the best in the segment, with back seat room and the trunk bettering all but the gigantic new Honda Accord.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Honda Accord — The Camry was on top of the midsize sedan world for a few short months until an all-new Accord launched and stole most of its thunder. Make sure to drive both Camry and Accord — both are excellent.
2019 Subaru Legacy — For those seeking a more conservatively styled midsize sedan (or one with standard all-wheel drive), the Legacy is a good place to turn. Its value, safety ratings and reliability are all strong.
2019 Mazda6 — Oddly, the new Camry reminds us more of the Mazda6 than the previous Camry. That’s saying something, as the 6’s handling and driving experience in general are the sportiest and most driver-focused in the segment. This is a very strong alternative.
Used Toyota Avalon — Much of the new Camry’s refined styling and more luxurious interior was previewed in the previous-generation Avalon, which should be easily found as a used or certified pre-owned vehicle.
We would stick with the 4-cylinder engine — its class-leading power and fuel economy make the V6 a little hard to justify. We also think it benefits handling. Otherwise, drive the LE and SE variations to see which you prefer behind the wheel. Differences are subtle, but you still may like one more than the other. Each also comes with enough feature content that jumping up to their X versions probably isn’t necessary.