The Toyota Camry is spacious, comfortable, packs a powerful V-6 and a silky smooth transmission. For all those strengths, though, new competition from Hyundai, Kia and Ford are considered on par with the front-runner, and are usually a better value.
Where does that leave the Camry? It's a terrific option for commuters or anyone else looking for a pleasant ride they don't have to think too much about. It's not thrilling, but it's as solid a car as you can buy. And folks keep buying it, year after year.
Buyers are increasingly shifting to four-cylinder engines in their midsize sedans, and the Camry's held up well in a recent Cars.com Shootout. It's competent and shifts well.
While the optional 18-inch sport-oriented wheels harshened its vaunted ride a bit, the Camry's cruising comfort is well-established. The steering isn't crisp, and handling is mediocre, but if you're going from point A to point B and would rather pay more attention to NPR than the curves in the road, this is a good choice.
The optional 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that powered my recent tester proved to be incredibly quick, which was the most surprising aspect of the Camry on the road.
While I can justify the tradeoff in handling finesse for comfort, I can't abide the Toyota's subpar brakes. It's endemic in the brand: You have to push too far down to get the response you want. Slack steering is one thing, but coming to a stop is as vital a driver input as there is.
Honda's brakes can be overly grabby, but Ford, Hyundai and Kia models respond with the typical feedback drivers should expect.
Because the Camry is an aging platform, the company hasn't addressed gas mileage in some time, so it falls short of most competitors. At 20/29 mpg city/highway, 23 mpg combined, the V-6 is slightly behind the Accord's 24 mpg combined but ahead of the Ford Fusion's V-6, at 21 mpg combined. The real stunner is the new Hyundai Sonata Turbo; instead of a V-6, it offers a turbocharged four-cylinder that has more power than the Camry V-6 and mileage that bests even the Camry's four-cylinder power plant: 22/33 mpg city/highway, 26 mpg combined.
Toyota sells a Camry Hybrid that's more expensive but returns mileage of 31/35 mpg city/highway, 33 mpg combined. But — you guessed it: The Sonata has a hybrid variant, too, and it outdoes the Camry handily, with mileage of 35/40 mpg city/highway, 37 mpg combined.
As the Camry platform ages, the interior has held up pretty well against the competition. Plastics are high-quality, even measured against the Sonata. I liked the dashboard's simple, somewhat elegant design, with a glowing centerpiece around the radio controls.
The front seats are incredibly wide — the widest I can recall in a car this size. Decked out in leather that my tester had, they are also incredibly comfortable, even on long drives. The backseat has plenty of room for adult passengers and child-safety seats.
The trunk is also on the large side, at 14.5 cubic feet. It features an incredibly wide opening, so it's easy to get bulky objects inside.
Features & Pricing
A big issue for any car shopper today is bottom-line price. As sensible as it may be, the Camry does come with a price premium. When looking at equivalent Sonata trims, the Camry is always more expensive, by a margin of $500-$2,000. At base levels, the Sonata comes much better equipped than the Camry, packing standard Bluetooth and USB inputs.
If the Camry were vastly superior in all other respects, perhaps it would be worth its higher price. But that's not the case; Hyundai has a better warranty, and that brand's reliability is also improving, even if it can't boast Toyota's long track record.
Using the government's new five-star rating system for crash tests, the Camry earned four stars overall but only after making changes in the production of the new model. 2011 model year Camry sedans manufactured after November 22, 2010, are those that earn the higher, four-star rating. You can check a vehicle's build date on a label affixed to the driver-side doorjamb.
The Camry earned the top score, Good, in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal and side crash tests, as well as the roof-strength test, but managed only a Marginal score in rear crashes, preventing it from earning a Top Safety Pick designation.
This is another area where the Hyundai wins out. The Sonata is one of just a few vehicles on the market to have a government five-star safety rating and to be an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Camry in the Market
For years, the Toyota Camry has been the champion in the market when it comes to sales. Even after dramatic recalls in the past two years, the car still tops sales charts.
All those loyal buyers must appreciate comfort and serenity over all else, because the Camry is targeted by every new sedan to hit the market, and for the most part it's held its own.
That sedan shootout of ours I mentioned earlier? The Camry finished a very respectable second place against seven of those newcomers. It was bested only by the Hyundai Sonata.
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