Thursday, 17 April 2014

All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance

Toyota finds itself in a precarious position. Those that enjoy cars as more than a simple means of transportation think of the Camry as a bland spongecake gone stale. And yet it's been the best-selling vehicle in the entire industry for the past 12 years, with a car rolling off the production line every 65 seconds. So how do you add flavor to your insipid dish without alienating your loyal -- and vast -- customer base?

Enter the 2015 Camry: Toyota's attempt to engage enthusiasts while appeasing to those that think a turbo is nothing but a cartoon snail.

In 2011, when Toyota launched its sportier Camry SE grade, the average buyer of said model dropped 12 years to 45 years old. It also equated for 45-percent of all Camry sales, proving that buyers were eager for an increase in sportiness. For 2015, Toyota has added an XSE model, making driving dynamics and edgy looks more of an importance. The SE model also moves over to the hybrid Camry, hoping to prove that sportiness and the environment can go hand in hand.

As with the new Corolla, the updated styling works well, offering front bumper vents and a grille that bridges the gap to Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus. In the XSE trim, the Camry adds some needed spice, and under the bright lights at the Javits center in New York, where Toyota has just revealed this latest version, it looked quite slick. As you go down in trim levels, like on the Corolla, you do, however, lose a lot of that flavor, ending up with your typical, bland Toyota sedan.

Inside, Toyota claim to have the most premium interior in its class, offering more leather and soft touch materials as well as a 4.2 inch screen nestled between the instrument clusters and a more intuitive center stack. Thanks to a 30-percent increase in carpet insulation and a more aerodynamic body, cabin noise has been decreased too.

Under the hood you have the same power options -- a 2.5-liter 4 cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V-6 meshed to a six-speed automatic. The 2.5-liter hybrid power unit, linked to a CVT gearbox, is also still on the menu. Pricing and fuel efficiency has not yet been released.

While the 2015 Camry's appearance does tick the edgier box, the main aspect that needs addressing is its floaty, nondescript handling. To combat this, the upper trims feature unique shock absorbers, firmer bushings and higher rate coil springs. The new car is said to be stiffer, but there's no mention of how much stiffer. That makes me think that the answer is "not much."

And that is the biggest issue the new Corolla has faced. Sure, it looks better. But under the skin it's business as usual. And I expect the same with the 2015 Camry, hitting dealerships this fall. But when you already have the most successful car in the industry, did you really expect anything different?

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