By on July 6, 2017

2017 Toyota Camry C Pillar DLO FAIL, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe common road-going distraction of DLO FAIL sometimes forces a discussion with my best friend from the car design world.  While the raison d’etre for the series sadly left us over a decade ago, some cars take me back to our time together, as if his spirit never left. 

If you’ve experienced a similar loss, just know your lingering sorrows are not a burden you must bear alone. Put your brand of Venom on your personal Vellum — there’s plenty of room on the Internet for you.

2017 Toyota Camry, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe current Camry XLE isn’t poorly designed, it’s merely a shameful, cost-engineered remake of the XV-50 body‘s well-sorted wedges. 

The pedestrian-safe front clip lost the outgoing model’s clean wedge for a curvy, Smoke Gray lower grille offset by an amorphic chrome bar. It’s either a clever downmarket riff of the Lexus “spindle” grille theme, or the automotive equivalent of Homer Simpson’s five o’clock shadow.2017 Toyota Camry front end, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe integral fog/signal light extend the lower grille’s form to the edge of the bumper, and its recess gives necessary depth to an otherwise tall and flat form.

Considering the value of that Lexus grille branding tie-in, this isn’t a terrible execution. Give the chrome bar a smoother transition to the painted sections, perhaps tighter bends for a more discernible shape (i.e. less influenced by light and shadow), paint the five o’clock shadow body-color and it’d be appealing enough.2017 Toyota Camry chrome grille Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe amorphic chrome bar needs some amount of body color paint (with a chrome insert) for integration purposes. Right now it makes zero sense from any angle.2017 Toyota Camry headlight, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe fog/signal light’s form also complements the squinty high-beam headlights and keeps the low-beam projector assembly from visually hanging too far outward, as if disconnected from its eyeball socket. This actually looks like a wide and — dare I say — menacing front clip from this angle.2017 Toyota Camry foglight, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsJust below the amber turn signal bulb (with corresponding textured blocks for light dispersion) is a jolting plastic wedge.  I reckon it’s another aero enhancement, cleaning airflow to the end of the bumper.2017 Toyota Camry grille, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsIt’s no Ferrari Testarossa, but the grille’s cleanly-chiseled strakes make natural light dance to a tune most pleasant to the eyeballs.2017 Toyota Camry emblem Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe same cannot be said for the dimpled background of the Toyota emblem. 

It looks… cheap.2017 Toyota Camry grille Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsDitto this block off plate. Skip the multiple fake grille textures, or perhaps eliminate it and use a solid background. Designing a bumper that has no fake holes, only the right amount of negative area for airflow to those radiators? Fantastic idea! 2017 Toyota Camry, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsSpeaking of unnecessary, again, the chrome bar for no reason adds more visual confusion from this angle.2017 Toyota Camry license plate, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsComputer-aided design likely made implementing a front license place on this grille a cakewalk.  Good integration.2017 Toyota Camry Hood, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsPedestrian safety means the hood sports a rather tall forehead. A sign of the times!2017 Toyota Camry headlight, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe headlight doesn’t naturally transition from bumper to hood, adding a flatter plane likely for (yet again) better air flow over this big face.2017 Toyota Camry front end, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsA pretty yet aggressive fascia is only a normal grille away, as all the lines look muscular and assertive from this angle.2017 Toyota Camry hood bulge, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe small central power dome is more of a “power mohawk.”  It adds excitement to an otherwise flat panel and makes a natural transition from the center emblem to the cowl.2017 Toyota Camry hood, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsBut that big forehead?  It transitions to that tall midsection, that blocky cowl, in a manner less elegant than other family sedans at this price.2017 Toyota Camry cowl, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe cowl may be tall, but the top is modest in its minimal amount of plastic trimming.2017 Toyota Camry wiper, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThese sleek wiper blades are ridiculously well integrated with the wiper arm.  If only we could buy these aftermarket for a couple bucks more than the usual aero-affairs.2017 Toyota Camry fender, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe hood’s tall forehead transitions to a funny series of fender bends and body cut lines. This transition wouldn’t be necessary if the Camry’s cowl was 2-ish inches shorter.2017 Toyota Camry front door, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe body side’s subtle contour makes for a counterintuitive ripple in the door cutline. Cutlines shouldn’t distract, it makes the body move “slower”.2017 Toyota Camry side mirror, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsSafe to assume this speedy appendage’s random-looking placement reduces wind noise around the A-pillar.2017 Toyota Camry b pillar, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe B-pillar’s clean lines are slightly marred by the wavy, indecisive door cutline. Which stems from a wavy body cross-section. Then again, is there another choice with a body this tall?2017 Toyota Camry b-pillar Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsClean.  And the aforementioned wavy transition at the top of the door panel adds necessary tension to an otherwise flabby side profile.2017 Toyota Camry c-pillar, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsWhen bean counting goes wrong: this design clearly needed a glass panel, but black plastic ruled the roost. 

It’s a C-pillar DLO FAIL so laden with design studio disappointment even pre-bankruptcy General Motors be like, “Slow your roll, Son!”2017 Toyota Camry rear quarter, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsPut another way, the XV-50’s C-pillar and fixed window transitioned poorly to this Camry. The fixed vent window’s static shape makes absolutely no sense against that organic piece of black/chrome fake window. But redesigning sheetmetal here would have cost some major cheddar: Pontiac Aztek levels of minivan-tweaking money, honey.2017 Toyota Camry XLE wheel, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsQuasi sporty, flat-faced spoked wheels are present and accounted for. The execution is neither offensive nor crude.2017 Toyota Camry XLE side, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsWhile surface tension around the door handles and the door’s strong character line near the rocker panels are appealing, you can’t hide the half-assed redesign. Toyota had corners to cut, and cut they did at the C-pillar.2017 Toyota Camry c-pillar, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThat hard-edged C-pillar belongs in 2012, but at least the body contours give the appearance of flared fenders from this angle. Too bad the roof couldn’t get an organic curve like a 2016 Nissan Altima for integration purposes.2017 Toyota Camry taillight, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThere’s a natural transition from side curves to the long and fluid form of the taillight. Note the hard transition below the taillight, dipping deep into the bumper.2017 Toyota Camry taillight, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars This shape is emulated within the aerodynamic contouring of the taillights’ plastic lens. Nice touch!Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThis flat plane is a natural transition to the flatter decklid, and perhaps it works. But, like the hood’s tall forehead, the integration is not without a clumsy transition. 2017 Toyota Camry rear bumper, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe Smoke Gray lower valence works well, with none of the controversy of the front bumper’s five o’clock shadow.2017 Toyota Camry rear, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe integration of bumper, (gray) valence, taillights and the obligatory chrome mustache over the license plate is pleasant enough. But it’s milquetoast compared to the XV50’s angular aggression.2017 Toyota Camry taillight, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe chrome mustache phenomenon must end. Aping Jaguar, Rolls Royce, etc., is a step in the wrong direction for the family sedan’s future.2017 Toyota Camry rear emblem, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThank goodness Toyota left breathing room around this decklid-mounted emblem. The XV40‘s emblem perch was precarious because of the trunk’s Chris Bangle homage.2017 Toyota Camry rear logo, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsEmblems shouldn’t live on pimples, either. (Nor should they throw their weight around a spoiler.) Push the Marketing Department’s request aside, design emblems around the confines of a body and not the other way around. 2017 Toyota Camry rear window, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsI appreciated the dealer-installed window tint, making the defroster grid’s 8-bit catacomb design more visible. Truly an Adventure for folks of a certain age!2017 Toyota Camry rear window, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThe invisible window seal never fails to impress. If only every car design element was so infinitely integrated.2017 Toyota Camry DLO FAIL, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About CarsThis could have been just a boring sedan, had Toyota spent the cash to redesign the C-pillar and the fixed vent window. Large chunks of the world got a redesigned Camry with the XV50’s spirit intact, without this cynical re-think.

At least we have memories of the XV-50, especially that assertive SE. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week!2012-toyota-camry SE, Image: toyota

[Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars, Toyota]

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51 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2017 Toyota Camry XLE...”


  • avatar
    redapple

    A VERY ugly car.
    Real bad.

    Could never own one.

    2015 Accord is ’10’ compared to this.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed, and it’s probably the reason why the Accord has largely caught up to the Camry sales-wise, even with Toyota selling tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Camrys to fleets.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Also, the Accord’s interior not looking like it belongs in the Civic.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        You guys are nuts. The refreshed Accord is as discordant and ugly as this Camry, with buku unnecessary chrome fore and aft. And having driven each within 15 minutes of each other I’m not drinking the internet kool-aid on the Accord’s interior–it’s the equivalent quality of stuff as the Camry, from scratchy woven headliner to bendable door cards to thin floor carpets. I’m not joking. The only difference is the shape into which the materials are molded. Unlike their 1990s equivalents, neither cars rise above class median for interior quality.

        This holds for midgrade Civic and Corolla interiors as well, even though the Civic shames the Corolla in other important ways.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Thanks for telling me why I hate this car. I can appreciate unattractive, oddball cars, but this vehicle is just annoying. The c-pillar looks like it belongs on a 1985 Buick – and it was unattractive there too. If Toyota ever returns to building attractive cars, they would become #1 in North American sales.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Can someone please explain to me why people blur out license plates on-line??
    Do people really use that info for nefarious purposes?
    I just don’t get it.

  • avatar
    turf3

    1. Bring down the height of the tail so I can see out to the back and rear quarters.

    2. Give me round headlights.

    3. The front-end and rear-end plastic trim pieces are not bumpers. If you use them as bumpers, i.e., for bumping, they will shatter and you will have a $1000+ repair bill. Give me front and rear bumpers made of heavy gauge aluminum or steel, with a rubber strip on them, ,mounted on big spring pistons or equivalent.

    That is all.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      A 1975 Pacer seems to meet your criteria. A short tail with lots of glass area out back, round sealed beams, nice metal bumpers with rubber strip.

      On a more serious note, speaking of round headlights…I saw a new Chevy Sonic the other day, and couldn’t help but think how much better the car looked with the old style round headlights. Much more distinctive. No character now.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      5 stars

      It’s amazing we are arguing for Windows we can see out of and bumpers that allow bumping. Let’s make $1000 worth of electronic nannies standard equipment, but not spend the $10 to make bumpers that don’t crumble from a 1 mph impact.

  • avatar
    sugaki

    Judging by the last sentence of the article, the author misunderstands that this is not a remake, but an extensive refresh (and an ugly one at that). The last picture of the XV50 is the same generation, not the previous.

    There needs to be a deeper understanding of what goes on with MMC (mid-model changes) and production when talking about refresh. Yes, that C-pillar is ugly. But that’s not simply a matter of changing the vent window or sheet metal. If that black plastic was glass, that cuts into the structural integrity of the C-pillar, so those beams need to be redesigned–not even sure you can get the same rigidity since it’s so thin, even with lots of high-tensile strength steel. Then you have to redo the headliner. Different window vent means different guts inside the door panel–all costs not amortized across the global models. Changes to the chassis also means retesting… it’s a substantial cost not worthwhile in a mid-cycle refresh.

    They probably had some focus group testing where people liked the softer-contoured Camry, but couldn’t get around that hard kink before the vent window. Should’ve just used the global styling (saves even more money), but ah well.

    • 0 avatar

      So the part where I said “The current Camry XLE isn’t poorly designed, it’s merely a shameful, cost-engineered remake of the XV-50 body‘s well-sorted wedges” didn’t convey the same message?

      EDIT: I see what you mean, I will edit that last sentence.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I guess I can appreciate that they want to demonstrate a corporate relationship between Toyota and Lexus, but I really wish Lexus would dump that gaping-maw-hourglass-thing. It’s distinctive, yes, but it makes every single car look “angry”. I guess they are trying to demonstrate how “sporty” and “aggressive” the cars are, but very few of their models really fit that description.

    I’ll take the old Acura beak over the Lexus hourglass any day of the week.

    (If I had a Lexus, I might dress up that grille with some paint to turn it into the old Tandy Corporation logo, because that’s what it reminds me of.)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d say the predator grille works on some models…to wit:
      https://carsfeatured.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2017-Lexus-SC-03.jpg

      (F’ing awesome)

      And it fails hard on others:
      https://cars.usnews.com/static/images/Auto/izmo/i2446337/2017_lexus_rx_angularfront.jpg

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    What’s wrong with a thick, assertive C pillar? The Golf has been pulling it proudly for decades now and it screams solidity. The previous Camry looked better.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Am I the only one who misses the XV40 Camry? Looked a lot like a Lexus GS, which was a good thing.

    And you know what really bothers me about the current Camry? The interior. Particularly, the fabric on the base model’s seats is a riff on some cheap early’80s sci-fi outfit. Just awful. And the dash is pure Playskool.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    It’d be nice if Mehta includes a pic of his suggested improvements. For example – I can’t visualize how the cowl can be lowered 2 inches. (“The hood’s tall forehead transitions to a funny series of fender bends and body cut lines. This transition wouldn’t be necessary if the Camry’s cowl was 2-ish inches shorter.”)

    • 0 avatar

      Hmm…maybe I’ll start talking a red pen in Microsoft paint to these photos.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Mr. Mehta, if I may: who started the trend of stacked hoods/cowlings? Modern cars all have this ugly feature, the hood is always considerably higher than the bottom edge of the side window, why is that?

        • 0 avatar

          Hard to know for sure, it was likely a function of European Pedestrian Safety Standards. Every redesign intended for sale in Europe changed once people started caring about pedestrians hitting hoods, bashing their skulls on intake manifolds.

    • 0 avatar
      wtaf

      I’ll second this or even a mention of a competitor that is doing it right. It is my understanding the forehead/hood bulge is a result of regulations for pedestrian safety.

      It seems like the lifted hood is like the flat fenders every body has the same problem.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That little aerodynamic nub on the wing-mirror mount is something Toyota has been doing for a while.

    Meanwhile, on my MKS, FoMoCo just chose to have the mirror mount stick out entirely from the surface of the DLO, like a wedge. I’m sure it helps with wind noise, but it bugs me every time I see it, because it looks like the mirror mount is falling off of the car.

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/cn-static/si/sw1280/10282/10282_st1280_132.jpg

    https://media.ed.edmunds-media.com/lincoln/mks/2013/oem/2013_lincoln_mks_sedan_base_fq_oem_6_1280.jpg

  • avatar
    shaggyblogstory

    The 2018 Camry ships any day now, so sharpen your poison pens…

  • avatar
    dwford

    The C pillar DLO fail is actually a direct copy of pre-bankruptcy GM’s redesign of the Buick Century for 1989. On the Buick, GM actually got rid of a window and replaced it with the black plastic “window.”

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Thank you as always Sajeev. I always appreciate the time you take to do these – especially the full length ones.
    You do a great job explaining and photographing the elements you’re seeing in such a way that a non-designer can see them though the same context.

    I have to admit, the first time I saw this version of the Camry, you’re the first person I thought of when I saw the C-pillar. The DLO Fail struggle is real!

  • avatar
    KOKing

    But I REALLY hate the pre-facelift XV50’s taillights, where the outer piece and the trunklid piece look completely disjointed, like the two came off of different cars, so when this came out with the Jag-esque chrome mustache, I thought it was a major improvement.

    What’s with the disjointed taillights anyhow? The LCI BMW E65 (as if though that could save the Bangle Butt) and some subsequent BMWs have it, and the current Outback and Impreza look so much like the XV50’s that I think Subaru just kept Toyota’s XV50 rear quarter stamping dies at the SIA factory and kept ’em going.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      I hate those disjointed tail lights too. Seems like there are lots of lazy designers out there who just copy whatever new stylistic flourish the Germans decide to impose on us. I miss the old days when you could actually see a difference in cars made in various countries.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I kinda like the C-pillar treatment, as it apes the design of the original Camry from the 80’s, Very Japanese, and very appropriate. Of course, those cars had a window instead of back plastic, although I’d rather roll over in the current car.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    What, exactly, is a “fixed vent window”?

    This term drives me nuts. A “vent” window should do just that – vent – not be fixed, meaning openable. I really don’t know what to call that piece of glass other than just a window.

    I don’t really have much of an issue with the shiny plastic piece – it’s a stop-gap, cheap styling enhancement until the redesigned Camry comes along, and it was a way to freshen up the car without changing the hard points.

    At least it’s nice & shiny!

    What I do not like is the maw-grilles being used on many models today. Aggressive-looking without really accomplishing anything worthy of good design, at least to me. I will admit that it isn’t boring, though.

    Toyota was trying to prove their cars weren’t boring, and I think they succeeded.

    I still won’t buy one.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece Sajeev. Your expertise on this subject is always impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Agreed. As someone mechanically inclined but who knows nothing of the background or details of design, Sajeev’s pieces are real eye openers.

      I actually quite like these Camrys, blatant DLO fail aside. The front grill and general appearance of the XLE is quite palatable to me. An XLE-V6 in some sort of shade of blue sounds like a real nice commuter to drive for 10+ years.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    I’d venture that few people buy a Camry because they love the looks of it. They buy it because they want a sizable sedan that, in their opinion, will never see a dealer outside of oil changes.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    “Designing a bumper that has no fake holes, only the right amount of negative area for airflow to those radiators? Fantastic idea!”

    Someone please forward this to Honda …

  • avatar
    bd2

    This should be the poster-child of what NOT to do for an MCE.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Not really, the interior quality improved significantly IMO, and I personally much prefer the rounded styling to the earlier “grounded to the ground” look.

  • avatar
    billyjack2

    Good review, Sanjeev. I’ve always thought the newer Camrys were decent, for what they are, when viewed from the front. However, it’s like they got to the front doors and realized they had a week left until they were out of time and budget and threw the rest of it together without much thought.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    The wheels on the SE painted grey look absolutely awesome. One of the best wheel designs I’ve seem from Toyota in a very long time. I enjoy seeing wheels like this. The SAAB SPG’s wheels are one of my all time favorite. The 1996 Ford Probe GT’s turbine wheels in chrome look sweet too.

  • avatar

    Toyota sells about 400,000 of these cars a year so they are doing something right. Hapless GM cannot even sell 150,000 Cruze’s a year.

    There is no point in being critical of Toyota anymore. They had turned GM into a also ran.

    GM – What a disgrace!!!

  • avatar
    mchan1

    Toyota needs to fire its current designers.
    Also, it should reduce its vehicles designs from wind tunnel testing.
    The more fluidly crafted design makes the vehicles more aerodynamic and helps with fuel efficiency but it’s Not pretty, for some/many!

  • avatar

    Unlike GM and FCA, people actually want to buy Toyota cars. As Toyota and Lexus continue to innovate GM will continue to cut back on carlines and leave markets around the globe. Toyota can always say to themselves at least we are not GM.

    GM – what a disgrace!!!


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