Camry continues to please
Dull or not, Toyota stalwart still sells like crazy
SAY what you will about the Toyota Camry and its somewhat dull personality, it’s been a bestseller for years and any car that has survived the ups and downs of the auto industry for 30 years and 16 million sales worldwide deserves some respect.
The current Camry was refreshed last year and it is arguably the bestlooking Camry yet. Some may remark that considering the rather uninspired interior of the previous generation model, it wasn’t hard to make an improvement.
The mid-size sedan market is hotly contested, and competition is tough. Camry buyers are a bit different than other consumers when it comes to picking their cars: Toyota has some very loyal customers for the Camry and Corolla models. This loyalty is built upon Toyota’s reputation for reliability at a reasonable cost, which are admirable goals, but hardly the sexy and exciting driving experience television ads are fond of promising buyers.
The Camry has matured into the automotive equivalent of sensible shoes: good sturdy transportation that will get you to work or school and back again. No slow-motion pans of handsome 30-something couples as they race across a desert landscape.
The 2013 Camry has one of the better-looking front ends from Toyota in recent years. A pair of chrome bands sweeps across the top of the grille opening, framed by upswept headlight clusters. A trio of large secondary openings — only the centre one is functional — fill the lower valance under the bumper, giving the car a slightly sporty look, thanks in part to a vestigial chin spoiler.
Toyota has paid attention to aerodynamics, not for styling, but to improve fuel efficiencies. Thankfully, most of this extra effort results in a more pleasing appearance. The SE models take this a step further than the LE, with rocker panel extensions and a small rear spoiler.
The base-level LE model, as tested, comes with 16-inch steel wheels and P205/65R16 all-season tires, which, in this day and age of 18-inch rims or bigger, appear on the small side.
The interior of the Camry has also been a point of contention because of its conservative design and hard surface materials. It’s human nature to equate soft-touch materials with quality and hard ones with... well, can we say “cheaper”? Toyota has always had the goal of keeping the Camry affordable for the widest market, and perhaps the more economical choice of materials isn’t a concern for this demographic.
The layout of the instruments is predictable and minimal, gauges are large and easy to read, both very good things. The seats are comfortable but do not embrace you like a sports car.
There is room for five without squeezing anyone to the point of numbness. Oddly, the centre console is quite wide, especially where it rises to the dashboard, impinging on the space for one’s knees.
The centre stack is topped with a 6.1-inch screen for all the usual audio and climate controls. Here, simplicity reigns and the various controls are quite intuitive.
There are many scales of performance, including 0-100 km/h times, top speeds or horsepower. There’s also performance in terms of fuel economy, and that’s what Camry owners are most interested in.
The LE comes with a base 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder engine, DOHC, 16 valves, dual variable-valve timing with intelligence, sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection, electronic throttle control with intelligence, acoustic control induction, and stainless steel exhaust.
All power is fed to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic, superelectronically controlled transmission with overdrive and a sequential shift mode.
This translates to a typical powertrain for this class of car that is designed and tuned for good fuel economy over acceleration and top speed. The numbers back this up with a rating of 178 hp at a screaming 6,000 r.p.m. and torque measured at 170 pound-feet at 4,100 r.p.m. In return for this modest engine, estimated fuel consumption is a low 5.5L/100 km on the highway and 8.2L in the city.
The 2013 Toyota Camry LE drives like an entry-level mid-size sedan. It has no surprises, good or bad; it just goes about its business, providing reliable transportation.
This is exactly what millions of buyers have wanted and what automotive journalists have lamented — we tend to be very passionate about cars and the driving experience. We get all excited about driving mega-horsepower coupes and get perplexed when people are happy enough to have a beige or silver sedan in their driveway.
So, for a moment, I’ll put aside my passion and look pragmatically at the Camry. It’s not the best-looking midsized sedan on the market. I prefer the Ford Fusion’s European styling. But the Ford’s complex technology concerns me in the long term.
The Toyota engine gives good fuel mileage, but the Ford engine has more power for the same rating. The Camry’s handling is uninspired but safe and secure at commuting speeds and we’re not likely to go auto-crossing at the track.
The Camry’s cabin is spacious for up to five people and there is enough cargo room in the trunk for when you shop at Costco. The surfaces on the dash and armrests are still too hard for my liking.
I can find no glaring faults with the Camry, but I also can tell you that I haven’t fallen in love. Please don’t be mad with me, Toyota. It’s because I love to drive.