Vanilla might not be exciting, but it sure can be profitable. Just like many ice cream companies, Toyota has made a lot of money over the years by selling its “vanilla” Camry in mass quantities, and now the automaker is attempting to sprinkle in some flavor with an extensively reworked version of its high-volume sedan that it refers to as the “boldest Camry ever.”
After 32 years on the market (including the last 12 of which as the best-selling car in the U.S.), there are many things that the Toyota Camry can boast, but boldness hasn’t ever been on the list. Looking to change that, the 2015 Toyota Camry has been heavily updated with the mother of all mid-cycle design updates consisting of completely new sheet metal, an updated interior and a tweaked chassis.
It’s been just three years since the Camry was redesigned for its seventh generation in 2012, but in this short time, sedans like the Ford Fusion, Mazda6 and Chrysler 200 have pushed the envelope for styling and efficiency while the Honda Accord has narrowed the sales gap.
The problem with being at the top is that you're the constant target of rival automakers not to mention the unenviable task of trying to attract new buyers without offending loyalists, and Toyota hopes that the 2015 Toyota Camry can do just that with improved styling and technology to go along with the same reliability, resale value and comfort that Camry buyers expect.
From a styling standpoint, the 2015 Toyota Camry gets a look that is a far cry from the appliance-like design found on the previous generations. Except for the roof panel, every inch of the Camry’s body work has been replaced, which is something more commonly reserved for new models rather than a refresh of an already popular sedan.
The overall look of the 2015 Camry builds on the styling we’ve grown accustomed to on the 2014 Corolla – itself long known for a bland design before the current offering – and there are also some cues shared with the current Toyota Avalon and even some subtle Lexus influences.
It is obvious that Toyota spent a lot of time focusing its efforts on the exterior design of the 2015 Toyota Camry
Up front, the new Camry has a surprisingly aggressive and upscale look starting with its narrow, scalloped headlights, vertical lower marker lights and a polarizing grille that bears more than a passing resemblance to the signature spindle grille found on current Lexus products.
In standard form, the front lighting consists of conventional halogen headlights and turn signals, but the top XSE and XLE trim levels get LED daytime running lights in the fascia to go along with full LED headlights for the V-6 models while the four-cylinder and Hybrid models get projector beam headlights.
While the narrow headlights give the new Camry a sportier face, the rear end of the sedan gets a more upscale treatment with thick chrome trim spanning the enlarged taillights. Oddly enough, as cool as the trick LED front lighting is, the taillights don’t get the same lighting technology, which is a huge missed opportunity if you ask us.
Moving past the front of the car, the Camry’s styling is far less dynamic but still a huge departure from previous designs. There is a broader shoulder line that spans the full length of the car and the lower body crease now rises creating an added element of sportiness, but any good will these cues bring to the 2015 Camry might be offset by the oddly placed black trim in the C-pillar that appears to mimic a quarter window in a possible attempt to make the pillar look narrower.
To some degree, this helps create a more upscale roofline similar to the larger Avalon, but in the metal, it is a bit of a visual distraction. The 2015 Toyota Camry and 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid are available in a total of seven trim levels including the new XSE (which replaces the short-lived SE Sport) and the Hybrid SE (available for the 2014.5 model year as the Hybrid SE Limited Edition), and the key differences between each model revolves around a variety of fascia designs and an assortment of 17- and 18-inch wheels.
Inside, the new Camry built upon the stylish cabin introduced a few years ago with better materials, softer touch points and, perhaps most importantly, new technology. The latter is evident with features like the latest Toyota Entune app-based infotainment system, a neat wireless smartphone charging dock and an all-new instrument “Optitron” gauge cluster that houses a 4.2-inch TFT color screen on all but the base model.
Unlike the restyled exterior, the overall cabin design carries over relatively unchanged with cues such as the three-dimensional instrument panel and the stitched leather accents. One key exception is the center stack and center console area, which has been reorganized for a cleaner, more functional look. In the center stack, the Camry now gets a larger touchscreen display and a simpler HVAC
head unit with a digital display and fewer buttons. The best change Toyota made to the interior is a new shift lever with a full boot instead of the previous design’s tacky chrome knob sitting atop a cheap-looking shift lever. The minor changes do a lot to add to the Camry’s ambiance, which makes it more pleasant to spend time in. And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what people buy this car to do.
Although the overall length of the 2015 Camry grew by almost two inches, all of the other measurements remained unchanged as did the passenger accommodations and cargo space, but that doesn’t mean Toyota failed to make the interior any more comfortable.
Above all else, the one thing that the Toyota Camry does well (and always has done well) is comfort, so Toyota upped the ante for 2015 by improving upon an already well laid-out cabin. This starts with the high-quality touch points including the padded door panels and instrument panel, but the XSE trim we tested stands out even more with a suede-like material used on the seats and door panels while a thick red stitching added a perfect contrast throughout the cabin.
Based on the feedback of its customers, the majority of the changes made to the 2015 Toyota Camry were limited to the exterior and interior, which left the powertrain lineup unchanged for 2015. The LE and SE trim levels can only be had with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 178 hp and 170 lb-ft (230 Nm) of torque, which paired with the six-speed automatic transmission returns an EPA-rated fuel economy of 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km) city, 35 mpg (6.7 l/100km) highway and 28 mpg (8.4 l/100km) combined.
The XSE and XLE trim levels also come standard with this engine, but they can also be equipped with the optional 3.5-liter V-6. Even though power output is increased to 268 hp and 248 lb-ft (336 Nm), fuel economy stays reasonable with official estimates of 21 mpg (11.2 l/100km) city, 31 mpg (7.5 l/100 km) highway and 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km) combined.
For maximum fuel economy, customers still have the Camry Hybrid from which to choose with a 156-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a 140 hp electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) returning up to 43 mpg (5.4 l/100km) city, 39 mpg (6 l/100km) highway and 41 mpg (5.7 l/100km) combined, although the numbers on the sporty SE and XSE trim levels are notably lower.
The base four-cylinder engine is the obvious choice for budget-minded buyers
Even so, the V-6, which we spent most of our time in, delivers a decent amount of bang for your buck. The 2015 Camry V-6 isn’t going to win you any drag races, but its acceleration is more than sufficient when you’re trying to merge into traffic without fearing for your life.
We can only imagine how much better the Camry will get if/when Toyota ever decides to add some more advanced engine and transmission options into the mix. With other automakers shifting to smaller, downsized engines with turbocharging and direct injection and transmissions with as many as nine speeds, the drivetrain components used in the 2015 Toyota Camry might be the car’s weakest link in this highly competitive segment.
Even though the powertrain is a carryover, Toyota still made sure that all of the new Camry’s upgrades weren’t just skin deep. To go along with its new body, the 2015 Toyota Camry also received a stiffened chassis thanks to additional spot welds in the door openings.
While this – along with added sound deadening, new window seals, redesigned door mirrors and an optional acoustic windshield – helped reduce cabin noise and overall NVH
, it did nothing to improve the disappointing tinny noise that resonates when the doors are closed, which still sound like they’re from a 1990s Camry. The good news is that other than the cheap-sounding doors, there is little else to complain about on the 2015 Camry. The cabin is comfortable, quiet and roomy enough for five adult passengers.
Aside from the spacious interior, millions of consumers have likely flocked to the Camry over the years because of the sedan’s smooth, compliant ride quality. Not wanting to mess with success, Toyota left the suspension tuning unchanged on standard models, but it did make improvements to the brakes and steering systems including a new two-stage brake booster and a retuned electric power steering system. While the 2015 Camry is still a big family sedan at its core (around 3,500 pounds for the V-6 and Hybrid models), these changes help the base models feel far more engaging to drive than past iterations. The retuned steering now has an excellent on-center feel with improved responsiveness that benefits from a slightly wider track.
Just as the new design is by far one of the best looking in the car’s history, the ride quality of the 2015 Camry might be one of its best, too. Even with the bigger wheels, the suspension absorbs just about any road imperfections, and the overall driving dynamic should definitely keep the 2015 Toyota Camry at the head of this class.
Stepping up to the new Camry XSE trim level, Toyota says that it has added a unique suspension setup stiffer springs and shocks, firmer bushings and tighter steering. Building on the SE trim, the XSE does offer a slightly different ride, but don’t expect the XSE goodies to instantly transform the Camry into a sporty sedan like the Mazda6.
The varying levels of “sportiness” possible from a Camry might be best explained with the aforementioned comparison to vanilla ice cream
Let’s say the standard Camry is your French vanilla, while the XSE is Natural Vanilla flavor… they both sell well, but the latter has a flavor that is ever-so-slightly more enjoyable.
Despite the extensive enhancements that the Toyota Camry underwent for the 2015 model year, pricing has remained relatively flat. Although the base Camry L trim has been dropped, the 2015 Camry LE starts at $22,970, which is an increase of just $100 over the same trim level from 2014, extending up to $26,150 for the equally priced XSE and XLE trim levels.
The 2015 Camry Hybrid ranges from $26,790 for the LE up to $29,980 for the XLE. During this drive event, we tested a loaded up Camry XSE in Ruby Flare Pearl with an as-tested price of $34,645 as well as a Camry Hybrid SE in Blue Crush Metallic with an as-tested price of $31,409.
In the past, words like “vanilla,” “unexciting” and “appliance” have come to define the Camry, but this 2015 Toyota Camry might be Toyota’s best attempt ever to equate adjectives like “bold” and “expressive” to its high-volume car.
Although Toyota still has a long way to go to rejuvenate its enthusiast credibility (which essentially died off along with the Supra and MR2), it has made significant improvements in terms of quality and design. Among mid-size sedans, the 2015 Toyota Camry is suddenly one of the best looking, most entertaining and most tech-laden cars in its class, and that should be more than enough to extend the Camry’s best-selling streak in the U.S.