“Not just happy to make a more appealing looking car, the engineers also went about improving the ride, handling and noise inside the car…”
Charlotte, North Carolina.
The launch for the heavily updated Toyota Camry took place here in the heart of NASCAR country.
Along the drive route, there were several NASCAR stops, one at the Hall of Fame, and another at Joe Gibbs Racing and a third at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. This was all to emphasize just how American the Camry has become. The chief engineer of the 2015 Camry is from Michigan, not Japan, as was the case with the rest of the crew that updated over 2000 parts on this latest sedan. The car is Toyota’s cornerstone in the United States, thanks in part to the association the brand and the car has with the immensely popular NASCAR series and the long reputation it has for reliability and value. It is the most popular passenger car in North America and number one in the United States.
When a car is typically refreshed, the designers add a new front bumper, grille headlights and rear taillights and call it a day. Not the case here, the 2015 Toyota Camry has all-new sheet metal, providing a sleeker and more eye-catching design. The wheelbase remains the same length but the track, side-to-side has been widened for more stability. The overall length is only slightly longer, in the nose, to help achieve the more polished look. The interesting thing is this new more youthful design actually makes the car look smaller, mostly due to the less slab-sided look used in the previous car and the tightly wrapped lines and shapes. This is now a very nice looking car but from about fifty paces the new Camry looks very similar to the new Corolla, which was refreshed last year and is selling very well. There is a new trim level in the Camry lineup, the XSE, sportier looking trim that enabled Toyota to lower the price of the, still sporty, SE trim by $2,000 to $24,990. In addition the SE trim has been added to the Hybrid model, enabling buyers of that efficient car to also enjoy a more distinctive design.
Inside, the refresh focuses more on ease of use and refined materials. The top of the dash is the only carry-over part, which is still a soft touch material with French stitching. What has been added is faux suede on the doors with the ability to get two-tone seats in the Camry, also with faux suede, but the updated seats are only in the new XSE trim. The centre stack now has bigger buttons and rotary dials for ease of use, a welcome update for older buyers. To appeal to younger intenders, the Camry has the latest connectivity and on the top XLE models a wireless charging system in the centre cubby but the phone either needs a special sleeve or integrated wireless charging technology. Plus, there is a new screen between the speedo and tachometer for a quick reference of the radio, navigation or phone calls. These are all welcome updates but the major competitor for this car is the Honda Accord and the interior on that car is much more upscale and technologically advanced, with two screens and a higher end feel.
Not just happy to make a more appealing looking car, the engineers also went about improving the ride, handling and noise inside the car. The track of the wheels has been widened and the lower end models also get wider wheels for improved feedback but the biggest change is to the steering feel. The Camry is equipped with electric power steering and these systems have been notorious for poor feedback to the driver. This new 2015 Camry is a big step foreword. Straight-line stability has been improved and the car, with a more rigid platform and slightly stiffer springs and shocks, is now sending good feedback to the driver. To highlight this, a stock off-the-showroom 2015 Camry, with regular tires was used at the Charlotte Motor Speedway for hot laps. With a pro NASCAR driver at the wheel, this new sedan easily navigated around the oval at speeds over 200 km/h. No fuss, no problem. Not something anyone in a road-going Camry will experience but a good demonstration.
What haven’t been updated are the engine and transmission choices. The same 178hp 2.5L 4-cylinder with a 6-speed automatic does duty along with an optional 3.5L V6 putting out 268hp. Yes, this is known equipment and these engines have a proven record but with Honda and other providing direct injection engines and new slick transmissions, it might be safe to go with “tried and true” but at some point these engines will require upgrades or replacements. As it stands, this is much more than a regular mid-cycle facelift. The 2015 Camry looks much better, drives with more confidence and has a pleasant interior. With the help of NASCAR, the Camry will remain a North American staple, this time with a lot more style.
Power: 2.5L 187hp 4-cylinder or 3.5L V6 with 268hp
Fill-up: 9.7L/6.9L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $23.850-$34,550