Review: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6

by Mark Elias
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Toyota looks to keep its Camry on top with a 2015 refresh.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no special Frigidaire or Kenmore editions of the 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6. To some, cars are like appliances. The hard reality that we as automotive writers face is that not everyone is as enthusiastic about cars as we are. Build a good one and buyers will be devoted to the car, and hopefully the brand, for a lifetime.

Camry buyers are sometimes lemming-like in their blind devotion to the car. Thankfully, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda was not one of them. The 2015 Camry XSE V6 is the result of his desire for a car that was fun to drive again.

Did the company, founded by Toyoda's grandfather, hit the mark? We spent a week with the latest Camry to find out.

What is it?

The 2015 Camry XSE V6 is the seventh-generation Camry and one of more than 10.2-million models built to date. Like all contemporary Camrys, ours is a four-door, five-passenger sedan, powered by a 3.5-liter V6, which is one of the few remaining six-cylinder engines in the segment. It produces 268-horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque to power the front wheels. The V6 is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. There is also a more economical four-cylinder model available, as well as a hybrid.

For 2015, the Camry was re-engineered using up to 2,000 new parts in its execution. In fact, Toyota officials state the only thing that is carryover is the actual roof. Additional spot welds found their way all around the unibody structure, which enabled engineers to firm up the suspension tuning for more spirited driving. As a result, handling characteristics of the Camry have been modified according to the car's trim level.

Our XSE rides on an independent MacPherson strut system with a stabilizer bar in front, while a multilink independent rear suspension kit, again with stabilizer bar, brings up the rear. Sportier shocks and springs help to fine-tune this sport suspension, which is firmer than the base LE and high-line XLE versions, which favor comfort over sportiness. Steering is through an electrically power-assisted rack and pinion kit to dispense with any power sap from the use of hydraulics.

For 2015, the Camry is available in four trim levels ranging from base LE, mid-level SE, our XSE and the luxed-out XLE. Just to keep things interesting, the brand also offers a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Toyota says that most buyers (which are trending approximately 12-years younger than previous Camry customers) will opt for the SE model, while Tech-savvy buyers will go a step further, to the XSE model.

While our Camry was capable of hitting an EPA-estimated 21 city/31 highway with its V6 engine, Toyota officials say that nearly 90-percent of their buyers will opt for the 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. By the numbers, the EPA says to look for 25 city/35 highway from that mill.

Our tester was equipped with the Entune premium system, which included the JBL audio kit with navigation and app suite. Operated via a seven-inch high-resolution touch screen display, it was the place to go for apps, navigation, and operation of the Sirius XM satellite radio system. It also interfaced everything from the MP3 Player, auxiliary audio input, iPod connectivity, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth music streaming, HD radio and other apps including Gracenotes.

Safety took no backseat either, as this new Camry was loaded with advanced safety features including Toyota's Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Departure Alert, which only sounds an alarm rather than pull you back into your lane.

What's it up against?

Perhaps the most competitive of segments, it is populated by many familiar competitors including the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Mazda Mazda6, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

What does it look like?

No longer slab-sided like its immediate predecessor, the 2015 Camry features a new style the Toyota calls Premium Athletic, which is supposed to be more fun then what came before it. Not totally innovative, still it's refreshing in the way that it is the anti-Fusion/Sonata /Malibu/200 and so on. This looks more like a traditional 3-box style sedan.

A new blacked-out mesh grill leads the way in showing the Camry's new wider stance. Our XSE model uses LED headlamps with auto-leveling while other versions will be equipped with customary halogen headlamps. Sharp character lines help to break up the mass on the side of the car, giving it an appearance that is both playful and aggressive. Aerodynamics even play a role in the design of the new Camry — the rear taillamp housings, which feature "Vortex Generators," help trim the airflow coming off the back of the car.

And inside?

The interior is more grown up, as well, with higher quality materials used throughout. Soft touch panels and a dashboard with single needle stitching find their way around the cabin, and even onto the leather and Ultrasuede covered front seats. We found seating nirvana with our eight-way power adjustments, but riders in the front passenger seat, which has few adjustments, did not feel the same way.

As grown-up looking as the Camry interior is, it's a lot quieter, too. Sound engineers managed to use more window seals and under-foot insulation to help isolate wind and road noise. A high roofline provided comfort for passengers of varying heights and sizes. Rear seat legroom in the foot well was positively cavernous.

If we had to find fault with the interior, it would be in the indiscriminate use of three different fabrics to cover the seating. With an awful lot visually going on, it was the only degrading look found inside.

Although not a visual detraction, we were also let down by Entune, specifically the system's app functions. Navigation is grouped under apps. So is Pandora radio, and Sirius XM. Buried within menus, they are not easy to access on the fly. Perhaps it's time to go back to the future and just call them what they are, rather than use a trendy, half-baked buzzword. The same can be said about the phone controls. Located on the far side of the DVD slot in the radio head unit, it really is a far stretch to access.

But does it go?

Power came effortlessly from the relatively quiet 3.5-liter V6. Transmission shifts from the six-speed automatic gearbox were pain-free affairs that had us going from zero to 60 in just over six-seconds. When inspired to do our best Lewis Hamilton impressions, it was just a squeeze of the paddle shift levers to get the juices flowing.

Steering was progressively firm, owing to the more sporting nature of the XSE suspension and steering protocols. Steering from the EPAS system was well balanced and correct for the size and class of car. To our tastes it offered good road communication up through the wheel. This Camry has a very smooth running gear, where everything works in concert with everything else, just as it should.

Leftlane's bottom line

Toyota takes one of their best sellers and performs a re-do, three years into the product cycle. The result is a quieter, more refined car than ever before. Toyota claims they wanted to update it on their own, but the heat of competition can be a great motivator, as well.

2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 base Price, $31,370. As tested, $35,768.

Blind Spot Monitor, $500; Entune Premium Audio System with JPL premium audio system, $805; Technology Package, $750; Special Color, $395; Illuminated Door Sills, $299; Remote Start, $499; Four-season floor mats, $325; Destination, $825.