2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 Review
by Randy Stern
You dare call this car “beige?”
Worse still – “milquetoast!”
Well, you did. But, every year, we do not get the last laugh. That is, unless you are among the 428,606 owners of the best-selling passenger car in America.
Who are we? Enthusiasts. But, who are they – those who out number us lot?
Toyota Camry owners, that’s who.
There are certain vehicles that divide enthusiasts and their owners. Not that a car has a sense of pride, but if a car is competent, well-built, reliable and will last a very long time, who is to argue? But, if the same car does not excite the senses or speeds up the heart rate, what’s the point?
Maybe this Camry will do the trick. The 2015 model went through an extensive mid-cycle refresh that went beyond your normal grille texture change or equipment level upgrade. Toyota calls the revised Camry “bold.” It goes further, as this review will explain.
But, how much further? Well…
The Camry seen here is the new-for-2015 top-of-the-line XSE model. One look and you can see how deep these updates were made to this popular sedan. It is distinctive – something you never said about a Camry in years. Te new nose stands out with lower bumper creases for the running lamps below. A mesh texture denotes the lower grille for the sportier Camrys, yet the chrome and black upper grille is the car’s calling card. In all, it makes the Camry an aggressive sedan looking for a competitor to race.
One detail that caused a stir was a recessed C-pillar trim that makes the side glass look longer. In early Camry models from the 1980s, that area actually had a piece of glass aft of the rear door. Though handsome and adding a nice illusion the side profile, a piece of glass would be nice to put there with its chrome trim. The rear end is the nicest in Camry history – period. Very sculptured and kept aligned with current Toyota design cues. The XSE adds a rear spoiler adding the aggressive nature of the exterior, along with 18-inch black-and-satin silver alloy wheels. In all, the best looking and proportioned Camry ever – 32 years in all.
The XSE also offers a different kind of Camry experience. We have seen this in the SE, but the new higher trim level steps up the quality and luxury inside. Inside this red velvet sedan is a black interior with red and chrome trim where appropriate. The red is the contrast stitching found throughout the cabin, with chrome accents that are tastefully done. There is nothing contrived about this cabin – you could say that it really is very business-like inside.
The instrument panel received the bulk of the updates inside. A new instrument binnacle now has clearer gauges, including better designed temperature and gas analog dials. A center TFT screen is wider with better graphics and readouts. The center stack houses the touchscreen Entune infotainment interface with minimal switches surrounding it. Even the climate control system has large tactile buttons that are both intuitive and clear to operate. The rest of the switches are familiar across the Toyota (plus Scion and Lexus) range – which means they are good to the touch.
The front seats are a good size with great bolstering in the seatbacks and cushions. Instead of full leather upholstery, there is a combination of leather, suede and cloth contrasted by red stitching. That combination works for all climates, though you do get heated seats in the XSE. Rear space is good for 2-3 people – something that is a selling point for the Camry of late.
Complimenting the cabin are a set of JBL GreenEdge speakers. These are speakers that are made of environmentally-friendly materials making each unit light in weight and construction, while emitting a beautiful tone. In the Camry XSE, there are eight of them, including a subwoofer, powered by an auxiliary amplifier. You can connect a smartphone through the Bluetooth connection with the Entune app facilitating Pandora and IHeartRadio through the audio system. SiriusXM satellite radio and HDRadio are part of the infotainment package, along with satellite navigation and phone pairing. To top it all off, this model offers QI wireless charging to keep your smart phone full of battery power all of the time.
The Camry has three engine options – the base 2.5liter four-cylinder, a hybrid version of the same engine, including the Hybrid Synergy Drive, and the beast underneath the hood of this XSE. While you can get the XSE with the standard four-cylinder, you would want the 3.5liter V6 instead. With 268 horsepower on tap, it is the perfect engine for the sportiest and luxurious Camry of them all. It’s simply smooth – real smooth. And, it’s quick. If you push it hard, it will respond appropriately.
The smooth V6 is attached to an equally smooth six-speed automatic. Together, they make for nice cruising. That is until you put it into the “S” slot. There, you can either flip the shifter or use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel to make your own gear changes. Now, your Camry becomes something a little more engaging. Power is sent to the front wheels, with a great traction control system keeping the Camry on track when grip is less than acceptable.
Though the engine screams performance, the Camry is still a smooth riding mid-sized sedan. Perhaps the word I am looking for is “balanced.” On most surfaces, the suspension keeps the Camry from getting loose. Just a nice, smooth ride for everyone to enjoy. There is a bit of roll in the turns, but well controlled by sport-tuned shock absorbers and extra bracing in the rear end. This set-up tells you that the Camry XSE is sportier, but not a true sports sedan of the traditional hard-riding, stiff suspension variety.
When steering, you have a huge wheel to rudder connected to an electric system. Some steering feel is there, but not completely. It is not as vague as it perceived to be. It is soft for feel and response, as with. on-center feel. If you are supposed to be sportier sedan, the steering should be a bit tighter and heavier for a more direct feel. The brakes also have a softness at the pedal. Stops are good in normal, panic and winter (i.e. snow/ice surfaces) situations.
New to the Camry is a suite of active safety features found on more expensive cars. This includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and a pre-collision system. They work quite well and exudes a confidence needed on the Camry towards making you a safer driver.
The Camry’s reputation for turning in great fuel consumption results makes it a best-seller. However, we have a V6 model with 3,480 pounds of mid-sized sedan to pull. We saw a fuel economy average of 24.9 MPG from this Camry XSE.
Value is another reason why the Camry is a very popular. A base LE sedan starts off at $22,970. At the top of the range with added packages, this XSE V6 example came with a sticker price of $35,668 – perhaps the most you could pay for a Camry.
Why This Ride?
– The Camry looks better, feels better and offers more tech than ever. However, it is in the middle-of-the-road where most mid-sized family sedan buyers want to be. In the case of the Camry, these visual and tactile improvements help to continue the sales lead above the competition.
– There is still more to satisfy those who truly want a Camry with an enthusiast’s bent. Yet, most of the owners of the 428,000 Camrys sold in 2014 will tell that all they need to an affordable sedan with good fuel economy, space for five adults and their stuff. Oh, and to make it more handsome than before.
– No matter how you dissect the Camry – it is still a good car. Now, throw away you beige and the milquetoast comments now!