By Joe Bruzek on April 16, 2014
Competes with: Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata
Looks like: The Toyota Highlander's grille found a new home
Drivetrain: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 3.5-liter V-6, six-speed automatic transmission; hybrid with 2.5-liter four-cylinder and CVT
Hits dealerships: Fall 2014
Toyota didn't wait long to redesign the Camry, the best-selling sedan for the last 12 years. The Camry was previously tweaked for the 2012 model year. This time, though, Toyota says it has rebuilt the Camry from the ground up with more than 2,000 new parts. The roof is the only unchanged part of its exterior, according to the automaker.
Much of the 2015's focus is on a sportier experience in both the style and driving performance. The current Camry SE trim level is the sportiest variant, accounting for 45 percent of Camry sales, which Toyota took as a hint that its buyers want sportier models. A new XSE trim level tops the SE as the most sporting with unique hardware, while the Camry Hybrid now has its own SE version.
Designers and engineers rethought the entire exterior. The 2015 model is longer than the outgoing Camry by 1.8 inches and features a 0.4-inch wider track. The chassis and body are strengthened with additional spot welds for enhanced rigidity and improved ride quality, Toyota says.
Front styling is more aggressive with a wider, more prominent grille and a significant body line stretching from the front fender through the doors and rear quarter panel. Toyota says this design conveys a sense of motion. The 2015's headlights will be available in LED low and high beams along with an auto-leveling system.
Inside the new Camry are more premium and soft-touch materials, as well as a new 4.2-inch color screen between the gauges of SE, XLE and XSE models for controlling vehicle functions, audio, navigation, warnings and communications. The interior is finished in a satin chrome trim, and premium cloth is the standard interior upholstery; a package with leather and Ultrasuede material with contrast stitching is also available.
A redesigned center console tray forward of the gear selector increases storage capacity and offers a DC outlet, USB port as well an available wireless charging system for select smartphones, which Toyota says is a segment first.
One focus of the redesign was to quiet the cabin. Toyota says it has addressed road and wind noise by improving window and door seals and adding 30 percent more insulating material to the carpet. The side mirrors are also redesigned to reduce air turbulence and noise.
The existing four-cylinder, six-cylinder and hybrid powertrains carry over, though two new trim levels, the XSE and Hybrid SE, bring new performance flavor to their respective models. The XSE adds unique 18-inch wheels, its own shock absorbers, firmer bushings, higher rate coil springs and unique steering tuning to make it what Toyota calls the sportiest Camry yet.
The electric-assisted power steering gets a tweak for better feel and straight-line stability, and the brakes have also been modified to offer an improved feel. Like other SE models, the Hybrid SE has its own suspension tuning and chassis stiffening parts to offer a more spirited driving experience.
The Camry will offer driving aids such as lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, automatic high beams and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe