There's a reason the Toyota Camry is a ubiquitous sight on the highways and byways of the United States: it's one of the better-rounded midsize sedans available, with a spacious interior, comfortable ride and efficient engine options like a 43-mpg hybrid powertrain. Exciting it is not, but for buyers who place a premium on practicality and reliability, the Camry is an option well worth considering.
After receiving upgraded interior materials for the previous for the previous model year, the only news for the Camry this year is a new SE Sport trim level that adds a sunroof, upsized wheels and a power-adjustable driver's seat to the driver-focused SE model.
Quiet, comfortable and understated, the Camry features a commodious, well-built interior with an attractive dashboard rendered in soft-touch materials. Passenger space is ample, especially for those riding in back. All Camrys are outfitted with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, which includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen for the audio system in addition to apps like Bing, Facebook Places and Pandora. An optional navigation system adds a larger 7-inch display.
The standard Camry is offered with buyer's choice of two engines: an entry-level 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, and a stout 3.5-liter that's good for 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. Both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission, which helps return fuel economy of 25/35 city/highway mpg for the four-cylinder and 21/30 mpg for the V6.
Toyota also offers a Camry Hybrid model that pairs with a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder with an electric motor for a total system output of 200 horsepower. With the help of a continuously variable transmission, the setup is good for 43/39 mpg for models equipped with 16-inch wheels; opt for snazzier 17-inch rims, and mileage falls to 41/38 mpg.
While all three engines are adequately powerful - the V6 actually provides a sports car-rivaling zero-to-60 mph time of under six seconds - the Camry's numb steering and copious amounts body roll mean it doesn't score many points for driving enjoyment. A sport-focused SE trim level with special suspension tuning is moderately more engaging, but still far from the best-handling model in the segment.
Though it isn't a canyon carver, the Camry impresses with a cushy ride, hushed cabin and supportive seats that make long road trips a relaxing experience.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Camry is available in five different trim levels: L, LE, SE, SE Sport and XLE. The Camry Hybrid is offered only with LE and XLE trims.
The L trim, despite being the bargain basement model in terms of price, still offers power windows, A/C, a six-speaker sound system with a USB port that supports iPod connectivity, power mirrors, the a 6.1-inch "display audio" system and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
Stepping up to the LE adds keyless entry, phone pairing via Bluetooth and a backup camera.
The sportiest of Camrys, the SE brings 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, sport side rocker panels, a color-keyed rear spoiler, chrome-tipped exhaust and a sport-tuned suspension. The SE Sport builds on those features with a wunroof, power-adjustable driver's seat and 18-inch wheels.
The top-level XLE includes integrated fog lamps, color-keyed power heated outside mirrors, a power moonroof, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone front automatic climate control, a larger screen for the backup camera, leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic four-spoke steering wheel with a Multi-Information Display and voice-command controls.
Optional features are plentiful and can be bundled together in myriad combinations. Buyers can choose from heated, power-adjustable leather seats, a smart key system with push-button start, an auto-dimming rear view mirror with a compass and an alarm system, a navigation system and a JBL premium audio system with 10 speakers.
Regardless of trim level, the Camry offers ten airbags: dual front, side, knee, seat-cushion and rear-side airbags, to be exact. ABS, traction and stability control systems are standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and seats designed to lessen the likelihood of whiplash round out the Camry's safety features.
Optional safety features include a blind-spot warning system and rear cross traffic alert, which warns the driver of objects in the Camry's path during backup maneuvers.
Before pulling the trigger on a Camry, those looking for a mid-size sedan should also consider the revamped Volkswagen Passat, which boasts a spacious interior and an optional diesel motor that returns over 40 mpg. The capable Nissan Altima is also worth a look, as is the sleek and value-laden Kia Optima.
Meanwhile, the Camry Hybrid can be cross-shopped against the stylish, 47-mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid and the feature-packed Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.