Camry con­tin­ues to please

Dull or not, Toy­ota stal­wart still sells like crazy

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - AUTOS - By Jim Leggett

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.

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