2015 Toyota Camry XLE V6 first drive

Toyota's perennial best-seller gets refinements inside and out

What is it?
The 2015 Toyota Camry is not all-new for this model year, but it might as well be -- the car's most recent facelift has touched almost every part, inside and out. The North American-market version of the Camry was last redesigned in 2012, and the 2015 model still represents the seventh generation of the perennial best seller. In the old days this could be considered an entirely new car -- that's the extent to which Toyota has been able to refresh the outgoing model, and the company claims approximately 2,000 new parts in the 2015 model.
The most noticeable new exterior element is the front fascia, which unashamedly cribs the lines and the overall design of Lexus' corporate spindle grille. There is now a large catfish-like mouth that occupies the lower half of the fascia, bookended at the corners by LED running lights occupying the side intakes. The rear fascia has also gained a Lexus ES-like look, and it is better resolved than on the outgoing model, which attempted the "mismatched" trunk lid element look pioneered by Bangle-era BMWs.
The body has grown by 1.8 inches in length while the wheelbase itself has remained the same, with the Camry also growing by 0.4 inch in width. The only major piece of sheetmetal that carries over from the 2012-2014 model is the roof.
The interior has also been updated with a mild redesign of the center stack and the dash, including a wireless charging bin for compatible smartphones as an optional feature. Toyota has added a new 4.2-inch TFT screen between the three-dimensional gauges, standard on all models except the base LE trim. Contrast stitching has been added to the steering wheel and the dash for a more expensive look on the XLE model, with the very plastic center hub of the steering wheel about the only reminder of Camry's economy car past.
2015 Toyota Camry XLE front fascia
The new front fascia evokes the new Lexus "spindle" grille. Photo by Jay Ramey
In the powertrain department, Camry still uses the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine producing 178 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, with an optional 3.5-liter V6 producing 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. The latter can be found in the XSE and the XLE trim level and is rated at 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, for a combined 25 mpg. The 2.5-liter unit returns 25 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, for a combined 28 mpg. Both engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions and make use of Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i) technology, which manages valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts for greater engine efficiency. The Camry XLE starts at $26,975.
2015 Toyota Camry XLE rear fascia
The rear fascia has been restyled as well for the 2015 model year. Photo by Jay Ramey
How does it drive?
We had the Camry XLE V6 for a week and, like its predecessors, it managed to perform every task uniformly fine. Like the debut model back in 1992, the 2015 Camry offers competence in every area, even if no one single quality manages to stand out. The cosmetic redesign certainly spices up the looks, in much the same way that Lexus' sudden embrace of the spindle grille -- seen here in diluted form -- has sought to direct attention to their cars. The redesign of the 2015 Camry amounts to a more noticeable exterior, as if to make up for past timidity, in addition to luxury features in the XLE model that crawl all the way up into Avalon, if not outright Lexus, territory.
The handling characteristics of the Camry XLE remain well-measured if not particularly sporty. The steering still has a dull feel that hints at dialed-in weighting, but it does not transfer harsh impacts into the cabin or into the driver's hands -- something its competitors struggle with. The steering of the Camry has slowly evolved into a far more precise system than it once was, though there is likely a limit to just how sporty Toyota wants it to be.
In city driving, the Camry XLE offers plenty of grunt courtesy of the 3.5-liter V6 engine, even if the six-speed automatic gearbox by now feels like it could use a few more cogs. The suspension shows evidence that Toyota has spent some time here trying to eliminate as much body roll as possible without letting the ride become harsh. Over broken pavement, the chassis keeps its poise without becoming overly distracted by pothole and manhole covers, and it brushes them off quickly. Only over long stretches of broken pavement does the suspension get a bit floaty, but noise from the tires is suppressed well. Toyota has improved sound suppression in the 2015 model, and it shows -- there's very limited intrusion of wind and road noise.
The 2015 Toyota Camry goes on sale this month starting at $23,795; that’s only a few hundred bucks more than the previous model, and buyers will find a new Corolla-esque look, an upgraded ...
2015 Toyota Camry XLE interior
The cabin has also received improvements for 2015, though most are cosmetic. Photo by Jay Ramey
In highway driving, the 3.5-liter V6 offers good acceleration that allows for easy merging into fast traffic, and plenty of ability to move around once you're flying along. The handling responses aren't lightning-quick during emergency lane changes, but the Camry stays well composed when the traffic calls for sudden maneuvers. Like Ping Zing irons, the Camry has a high tolerance for mistakes which it cleans up with electronic nannies and a surprisingly forgiving suspension.
In a week's worth of driving, we managed to average 27 mpg, which is 2 mpg north of the combined 25 mpg rating. The Camry XLE has an eco mode which will likely grant a couple of more points when combined with with very basic hypermiling techniques, but squeezing a combined 27 mpg from a 3.5-liter V6 was easy. If hypermiling is your thing, there is a Hybrid Camry which starts at an additional $3,830 in XLE trim.
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2015 Toyota Camry XLE rear
The exterior represents the lion's share of improvements for the 2015 model, though there are also plenty of changes under the skin. Photo by Jay Ramey
Do I want it?
The seventh-generation Camry is a significant improvement over the previous model, adding a more luxurious feel to the cabin while staying true to the original formula and its customer base. The plusher XSE and XLE trims offer a Lexus-like experience without the Lexus price.
The 2015 facelift has made the cabin even quieter while doubling down on luxury trimmings for the top of the range models, and, despite some overly adventurous stylistic elements (at least for Toyota) the finished product manages to be edgy and inoffensive at the same time. Most buyers will be fine with the smaller 2.5-liter engine, so the 3.5-liter V6 in the XLE is for those who want a little more grunt and a little more flexbility in their midsize sedans.
With a starting price of $26,975 for the XLE model, the 2015 Camry remains a lot of car for the money and perhaps all the car that Point-A-to-Point-B drivers will need…much as it's always been.

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