2015 Toyota Camry XLE first drive review: Resuited

2015 Toyota Camry XLE

2015 Toyota Camry XLE

This year should have had a mild facelift of the Toyota Camry. The current generation debuted in 2012, so for 2015—three years later—the Camry should be up for a for a new front and rear cap, perhaps a new dash and a few other running changes. But not this.

The 2015 has a new body, new front, new back, new sides, trunk and hood. The only thing you can see that wasn’t changed is the roof. That’s part of the basic structure and a basic stamping that’s requires a more extensive reengineering than the exterior panels.

2015 Toyota Camry XLE interior

The 2015 Toyota Camry XLE interior is handsome and quieter than before (click to enlarge)

Nothing has changed underneath, however, other than more spot welds, which does make the basic structure stiffer, and Toyota reset the suspension tuning from one end of the model range to the other.

What really sets the 2015 apart, however, is that redesigned exterior. As we said about the 2012 model, “But if you are looking for sporty, sexy and at least a hint of excitement, well, you probably want to be looking elsewhere.”

Toyota took the hint, even if not just from us.

2015 Toyota Camry XLE back seat

The 2015 Toyota Camry XLE back seat has generous leg room. (click to enlarge)

To sex things up, he 2015 Toyota Camry has tightened up the front end and given it the big trapezoidal grille that’s become a staple of the Toyota brand. The different trim levels get different grille, front bumper and headlight treatment—and why not, with most trims made in bigger numbers than the entire run of some of some competitors. However fog lights, set into the lower outside edge of the front bumper cover, are standard, even in the base model. The sporty SE, Hybrid SE, and the XSE get a honeycomb grille insert while the other models—LE, and XLE, along with the Hybrid and Hybrid SE, get five bars.

The sides of the 2015 Camry are just as striking. Instead of the bland as tapioca sheetmetal of the 2015’s predecessor, the new Camry flanks have actual shaping, and what’s more, it gives the proverbial impression of motion where somnambulism had reigned.  It’s subtle, with a rising crease flowing through the front wheel opening and up over a swelling that comprises a rear wheel flare. It’s good stuff.

The SLE and XSE V-6 have standard LED headlights—the latter with black trim surround—brighter than the projector beam halogen headlights that otherwise come on the 2015 Camry, and a narrow slit instead of the convex lens of the projector lights that not long ago was the latest greatest thing.

2015 Toyota Camry XLE engine

The four-cylinder engine satisfies 85 percent of Camry owners. (click to enlarge)

The 2015 Toyota Camry also gets new wraparound taillights. You know, they take just as much effort as the front end, but the designer who works on them just gets no respect.

A new center stack/center console is the big design news inside, with a big screen (6.1 or 7.0 inches, depending) with larger hard buttons on either side, all the easier to touch while driving. The bin at the front of the console has a 12v charging plug plus a pad for wireless charging if you have the right kind of phone.

A big full-color 4.2-inch TFT driver information screen nestles between the tachometer, in Lexus-like Optitron except for the base LE model.

The multi-information display’s touchscreen is set up to accommodate future expansion, the apps button leading to a screen that can be configured for a number of different, well, apps. Unfortunately, however, there’s no direct way to go from audio to navigation. To flip back and forth means going through the apps button, the extra step adding distraction.  However, the forward angle of the screen can make it difficult to read.

Soft-touch surfaces were increased in the 2015 Toyota Camry, including all the way across the top of the dash and hood over the instruments. On the 2015 Toyota Camry XLE we drove there was real stitching on the dash, but it was purely ornamental, not holding anything together.

Toyota added noise insulation with the 2015 Camry, including 30 percent more padding under the carpet and redesigned door weather-stripping.

Two new trim levels were added for the Camry’s 2015 model year. With a solid 45 percent opting for the sporty SE model, Toyota figured there was room for an even sportier version. It didn’t hurt either than SE buyers were on average 12 years younger than Camry owners in general. Hence the 2015 Toyota Camry XSE, with 18-inch wheels and sportier suspension tuning even than the Camry SE.

Even the XSE, however, is available with the standard four-cylinder engine. The 178-horse 2.5-liter represents about 85 percent of Camry sales, including a majority of SE sales. A 268-horse 3.5-iiter V-6 is available, but if they can resist test-driving the six, we think there will be little temptation to move up. The four is an overachiever, feeling stronger than its numbers—including only 170 lb-ft of torque up at 4100 rpm.

2015 Toyota Camry XLE

2015 Toyota Camry XLE (click to enlarge)

Toyota also decided that the Camry Hybrid could afford a dash of sport, considering that almost half of gas-powered Camrys were SE. So welcome for 2015 the Toyota Camry Hybrid SE.

We drove the 2015 Toyota Camry XLE and found it a pleasant enough ride, even if the dynamics weren’t enough for us to take pen to paper for a letter home to Mom. The ride is smooth over rough pavement and the car goes where it’s told and when it’s told to.

Which is what at least half of Camry buyers want. That plus a modicum of luxury and a major helping of reliability, and prices that range from $22,970 for the LE and $23,840, both with the four-cylinder, up to $31,370 for either the Camry XLE or XSE with the V-6. The Camry Hybrid is priced at $26,790 with the Hybrid SE at the other with a model topping $29,980, less actually than a V-6-powered Camry. Raise all prices by $825 for delivery.

Suitably armed for the battle of the midsize sedans, the 2015 Toyota Camry is likely to continue as best-selling model in its range.

Specifications and prices next page.