By on September 14, 2017

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It has been one of automotive history’s great rivalries and, like many such contests throughout history, it’s always been a bit more one-sided than we would like to remember.

In 1982, the Toyota Camry arrived on these shores to do battle against the newly revised second-generation Honda Accord. Their rivals have come and gone, changing names and market positions, but the Camry and Accord have marched in neat lockstep through seven generations. During most of the past 35 model years the Toyota has managed to outsell the Honda, often through the black magic of fleet sales but sometimes just due to consumer preference. Yet this sales supremacy hasn’t been matched by critical acclaim. With just one exception — the stunning “XV10” Camry of 1992 — the autowriters, autocrossers, and auto-didact auto-enthusiasts have always preferred the Accord.

Did I say there was one exception? For me, there have been two. When I rented an XV50 (2012-2017) Camry SE for the first time, I expected to find yet another ho-hum family hauler with delusions of monochrome sporting grandeur. To my immense surprise and delight, I discovered that this light and lithe minimalist wedge was actually absolutely brilliant both on and off the racetrack. 2012 was the final year for the bloated and joyless eighth-gen Accord and I felt that the new Toyota easily surpassed it in virtually all respects. This was a short-lived victory, to say the least. The 2013 Accord might not have quite matched its crosstown competition in terms of chassis dynamics, but it offered a more boutique-feeling experience with the further enthusiast incentive of a clutch pedal.

Five years of playing second fiddle later, Toyota has a new Camry SE once more. This car boasts class-leading power, massively aggressive looks, and a price that re-emphasizes the company’s desire for sales leadership away from the fleets. On paper at least, it’s a significant improvement over the old car. The only problem is that Honda has a new Accord on the way. It’s the ninth round of this battle. Can Toyota win, either on points or through a clean 1992-style knockout?

After five hundred miles with a fresh-to-the-fleet Camry SE, I’m saddened to report that things don’t look good for the challenger from Kentucky. Far from being a pre-emptive strike against next year’s Accord, this new Toyota finds itself unable to even land a decisive punch on the half-decade-old Honda that’s slowly draining from showroom inventories as we speak.

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The no-fuss, slab-sided look of the 2012 Camry underwent a significant corruption in the mid-cycle refresh, presumably to prepare us for this flame-surfaced, furious-faced lump of a sedan. The saggy nose and tail are surprisingly reminiscent of the 2007 model, which is not good news. In SE trim, the car fairly bristles with scattershot surface excitement. There are spoilers and quasi-splitters and pseudo-air-extractors aplenty.

The week prior to picking up my rental tester from the Oakland airport, I happened to see an all-black SE in a parking lot down the street from my house. Trust me, that’s the color to get, mostly because it disguises all the black-plastic accessorizing. As was the case with the Oakleys-and-ballcap-wearing middle-aged owner (whose scowl was perhaps designed to distract attention from the fact that he was just five-foot-eight and pear-shaped once he was out of the car), this Camry’s visual aggression writes checks that the powertrain can’t dream of cashing.

The SE’s “Dynamic Force” 2.5-liter inline-four puts up some respectable numbers: 203 hp at 6600 rpm and 184 lb-ft at 5000 rpm. There’s a lot of room under that curve, and when you floor the throttle in the direction of freeway traffic the eight-speed automatic snaps off brisk shifts in short order, accompanied by a commendable lack of torque steer. It’s frankly impressive and I wonder if this Camry is not perhaps the fastest non-turbo four-cylinder Japanese-brand family sedan of all time. Unfortunately, if you’re not pressing the pedal into the carpet the transmission’s eagerness to grab the highest possible gear robs the engine of any possible urgency. Adding throttle short of the kickdown gets you absolutely nothing. Engaging the kickdown results in a cacophonous dropping of gears followed by a thrash forward but little actual acceleration unless you are 100 percent flat on it.

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Moving the Lexus-feeling shift lever over to “Sport” should fix the situation, but what you get instead is a frankly bizarre transmission program in which the driver is expected to make the shifts (via the small wheel-mounted paddles) sometimes and let the car do it other times. The gear display will flat out lie to you, as is shown in this image of the center screen that claims “S8” when the car is actually in sixth. It’s never completely obvious when the paddles will summon an immediate shift and when they will merely stir some sort of diffident desire in the belly of the beast.

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I did not have time during my California trip for a track test, so I had to do the next best thing. Old Creek Road runs between the 101 and the shore near Cayucos. It features more than five miles of off-camber, sharply-angled schizophrenia that should be covered by sane motorists at an average of about 15 to 20 miles per hour. I tripled that pace for a trio of runs up and down the road, keeping the transmission in Sport and issuing frequent paddle commands just to keep the Camry in either second or third gear. Under these conditions, the SE displayed commendable grip and adequate brakes.

That’s the good news.

Less good: The sense of tossable fun that characterized the 2013 Camry is long gone, drowned to death by the heavy-handed application of local Lidocaine to the steering. The rather generic-looking three-spoke wheel offers plenty of resistance but none of it seems to have any relation whatsoever to road conditions or available remaining traction. I know that Toyota can do better than this — the Lexus RC F burdens the driver with just as much faux-high-effort but you can at least feel some of the situation through your fingertips. This Camry, by contrast, is utterly inert. The old car had half the amount of required control effort and returned twice the fun.

Driving this Camry always feels like work. You argue with the powertrain, you crank the steering to no avail. The radar cruise control is absurdly conservative and in actual use will cause you to be the subject of constant dive-bombing out of the right lane. Every time this happens the car will brake hard to open up a “safe gap” that even in the shortest of the three available settings feels like half a football field, at which point the driver behind you will swerve around on the right. The lane-keep assist appears designed to create leisurely tankslappers via overcorrection. Turn it off or face the wrath of the local police who will no doubt blame E&J, rather than electronics and jerky control, for your blatant lane-weaving.

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The “Eco” indicator in the center stack should come in for particular vitriol, as it makes zero sense. I’ll just show you a few images of the screen, and see if you can figure out how it works. If anybody gets it, I’ll respond in the comments.

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The Camry’s lack of Android Auto or Apple Car Play has been discussed recently in these pages, but it also has to be said that the design of the center stack borders on the unforgivable. Take a look to the right side of the screen. Two of the four massive chrome buttons are for “seek left” and “seek right.” And although they are theoretically opposites, they are both shaped with a raised right edge. What’s the point to spending so much console real estate on a function that could just as easily be handled by the tuning knob on the far side? The volume knob is hidden behind the edge of the steering wheel. At least Toyota bothers to include a knob — recent Accords didn’t have one. On the other hand, the backup camera has no ability to predict your turning — a feature that was present in Accords four years ago.

Most of the interior materials choices, by contrast, are current and competitive. The center stack might be department-store Pioneer to the sleek Nakamichi of the Lexus IS350, but at least it’s made from sparkly plastic and trimmed on both sides by a high-quality chrome-ish dash applique. The seats are reasonably comfortable and look like they will wear well. I’m confused by the presence of a grey headliner in a black interior but it, too, looks to be a step above the old mouse fur.

All of these criticisms should be viewed in light of the fact that this car, as tested, would retail for just over $26,000 including destination. That’s a spectacular value, particularly when you consider the suite of electronic gimmicks. Even with a moonroof and blind-spot monitoring this is not quite a $30K automobile. So it seems uncharitable to gripe too much about a 200-plus-horsepower sedan that returns over 40 miles per gallon on the freeway and will likely last 200,000 miles with no trouble.

The only problem is that I liked the old car better. I also like the 2017 Accord better. In fact, I like my 2014 Accord better, even once I forget about the V6 and manual transmission.

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Buyers hoping for the return of the 1992 Camry will be disappointed. This is the return of the 2007 Camry — big, round, and bland. What’s going to happen when the Accord debuts with a far more stylish interior, a sleek, fastback-like body style, and a manual transmission to go with an urgent turbo engine and a hundred-plus pounds in weight savings? At that point, Toyota will be back to courting the fleets.

Don’t get me wrong. This is far from the worst choice you could make in the segment. I’d say it’s a third-place car, behind the Accord and the Mazda6. Traditionally, the Camry has done very well by combining middle-of-the-road desirability with best-in-class durability. That formula returns here with a vengeance. I just wish they’d done more to capture the spirit of 1992. Heck, I’d have been satisfied with the spirit of 2012. Those were good cars, and made cheaper now with the arrival of a successor.

This rivalry between Camry and Accord is probably two rounds and some mandatory electrification away from being over. Right now, however, Honda appears to have a commanding lead.

[Images: © Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars]

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101 Comments on “2018 Toyota Camry SE Rental Review – Three Dressed Up As a Nine?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Engaging the kickdown results in a cacophonous dropping of gears followed by a thrash forward but little actual acceleration unless you are 100 percent flat on it.”

    So exactly like the 5 speed auto in my 2010 Highlander? I guess at Toyota somethings never change.

    Jack, do you think the V6 and 300 hp would have been able to sway your sentiment? Perhaps the XSE package would liven things up.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I posted yesterday (after I first drove the SE loaner) that I thought it was a CVT, because of the weird behavior sometimes. Driving it sedately, the tach moves like it’s a CVT, but accelerate harder, and it revs and shifts like a conventional automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I have tremendous affection for the Toyota V-6 so yeah it might help. I just wish the rest of the car was executed better.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I haven’t driven one yet, but looking at acceleration videos the new V6 Camry doesn’t appear any faster than the old one. It also seems to lack the zing of the 3.5L from Lexus applications.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    This is soundly at odds with every other review of the 2018 Camry I have read to date. More of the infamous Baruth Bias at work perhaps?

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I don’t know – we own two Toyotas, but this car didn’t impress me, driving-wise. My wife, and 17yo daughter? They love it.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Yea- his description of the transmission is great for the kind of people who slow to a crawl to merge on the highway (not insinuationg that your wife/daughter are). It’s a car, that like its intended market, doesn’t like to be rushed.

        A real shame that they bungled the sport programming on the transmission… that seems like such an easy thing to fix.

        IF
        dim SportMode = TRUE AND RPM = 3000
        THEN
        RUN Downshift(1)

        There you go Toyota.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Nothing affects real world fuel economy more than making doubly, triply, quadruply sure that the driver really, for sure, without doubt, needs more than the absolute minimum of dynamism from the driveline, before giving it to him.

          Infinitely worse for Toyota’s positioning as a trusted and trustworthy purchase, than a reputation for being a bit sluggish when driven by a professional hoonatic, is even the slightest hint of a rumor, that their cars don’t live up to EPA rating expectations. Which pretty much resolves to “make it very hard to inadvertently use more HP than the EPA test uses.”

          Still no excuse when in sport mode in an SE trim car in my mind, but the SE may be stuck with the other versions’ engine and transmission programming. Or SE buyers/intenders may have indicated that while they want a bit more “sportiness,” they are not willing to accept any fuel mileage penalty in exchange for it.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I hope the new Camry has improved from 4th place here:

      http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2016-chevrolet-malibu-vs-2016-honda-accord-2016-mazda-6-2016-toyota-camry-comparison-test

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Every other review of the 2018 Camry you have read to date was in a car provided by Toyota, often in the middle of a five-star vacation also provided by Toyota. Hope that helps.

      • 0 avatar
        RRocket

        Every other review of the 2018 Camry you have read to date was also likely done by someone who didn’t own an Accord or had worked for Honda in the past. Hope that helps.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          Even better, it was probably done by somebody who hasn’t spent their own money on a new car in a very long time, perhaps ever.

          WRT working for Honda, the party I threw when my team left the company was promoted as the “Huck Fonda” party. Hope that helps you get a sense of how I feel about the company as a whole, without reference to their products.

          • 0 avatar
            RRocket

            Perhaps. But I’m sure at the time you didn’t mind cashing their cheques. :)

            And agreed about journos not buying their own cars and crying terribly when they have no press car to drive for a whole week or two….the horror!

            BTW..you still need to drop by our manufacturing facility the next time you pass through Windsor…

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Jack, you are a homer for both Ford I Honda, just like your little brother (especially now that they trusted him with the keys to and he’s peddling their Acura NSX POS and Honda Civic Rice-Type frankenhatch).

            Just admit the blatantly obvious fact that you and Mark are presstitutes when it comes to both Ford and Honda.

            I’m talking low-down, $5 for a blowie type shores.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Which varies from every positive review of a UAW or German car precisely how?

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “Every other review of the 2018 Camry you have read to date was in a car provided by Toyota, often in the middle of a five-star vacation also provided by Toyota. Hope that helps.”

        Every Tim McCain review of a Honda you have read to date was in a car provided by Honda, often in the middle of a five-star vacation also provided by Honda.

        Hope that helps.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          The strength of TTAC is that we have a diversity of opinions. The last Camry review we had on this site said it was pretty much a combination of a Rolls-Royce Wraith, a Prius Prime, and an F-35 fighter jet. By contrast, I was unimpressed on pretty much all counts. It speaks a lot for the current Managing Editor’s integrity that he permits the same kind of opinion ecosystem that was part of the site in the days when I ran it.

          And for the record I thought Cain mostly reviews cars on his home peninsula or whatever…

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      and yet the last gen Camry he extolls despite most every other reviewer ranking it well below the 2013-2017 Accord.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        You’ve got a point. So I went back and edited the story to make it clear that I believe the 2017 Accord to be superior to the 2017 Camry. In fact, I invented a time machine and went back in time and put that in the article so it could be there before you read the article for the first time. That’s why if you go back and read the article without refreshing it will look like I always said that but really it only happened after I read your comment.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          WABAC machine
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WABAC_machine

          • 0 avatar
            mshenzi

            I’ve had some problems with Jack’s voice over the years, but not with his assessment of the car he just drove, which always seems well grounded in the specifics of the driving experience. As for his Honda ties, his outlook reminds me of George Orwell, the socialist who wrote Animal Farm. (And I mean that as a compliment to both men)

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Probably depends on the model driven. Most reviewers contain their thoughts on the top trim XSE V6 and speak briefly about the lower trim levels but did they actually spend much time in those less costly versions? Probably not.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Funny you should post this – my wife is driving a 2018 SE (four-banger) today. Our ’08 Sienna went in for an instrument panel replacement yesterday (enhanced warranty thing), and the tech started the tearing the dash apart, *then* pulled the replacement part out of the box, only to discover the part was damaged in transit (Oops!). They found another one at another dealer, but the repair won’t be done until later today.

    So, they paid for a free rental – a grey 2018 SE.

    My complaints:

    The mirrors are too small (i’m used to my Tacoma, and the Sienna).

    The bright trim around the dash reflects on the side windows, right where the outside mirrors are.

    The thing is pretty loaded, but where is the auto-dimming inside mirror?

    The UI for the Entune radio (no navigation) is confusing, and needs work. Like when I paired my iPhone, it said I needed to put in 000000 to pair, but, I didn’t need to.

    It’s easy to turn off or tweak LDA, but tweaking PCS takes a few clicks.

    The engine (A25A-FKS) is peppy, but refined? No.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      What are LDA and PCS?

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “The mirrors are too small (i’m used to my Tacoma, and the Sienna).”

      Whatever you do, never rent or otherwise drive a Transit Van. I had withdrawals for months over those mirrors…..

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      We had these same basic complaints after a quick test drive of a 2018 SE 2.5 in addition to a glove box that had the opening about the size of my mom’s mail slot in her front house door with very little useable space, odd material and color choices on the cloth seats, a front grille that is obnoxiously hideous and a trunk that is obviously smaller than before. Also couldn’t the cheapskates at Toyota include some USB or power ports in the rear portion of the center console along with some HVAC vents. Rear seat passengers count too!

  • avatar
    threeer

    With new looks and more Novacaine driving experiences, it should sell well. Most folks aren’t looking to the Camry for driving thrills (Re: sales success the last few decades). Too bad if this review is a picture of what the car is like to drive. I had hoped Toyota was turning a corner on driving dynamics, but I guess they have a better handle on what the buying customer really wants.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Two Camry generations back the SE had noticeably better control of body motions and better feeling hydraulic steering without being harsh while the LE was very soft. Neither was sporty. The SE felt a lot like an Accord, but with much less road noise.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Sounds like a reprogram of the transmission shift algorithm would pay major dividends in driver satisfaction.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Also, the temperature adjust knob for the climate control? It needs more of a definite “click” feel – when I turn the knob from 72, to 74 or 75, the detents are mushy, so I find myself looking down at the knob for confirmation (thank goodness for PCS, since I’m not looking at the road!). Also, the temperature display is right above the knob, so when you’re turning it, you can’t see the number – stupid.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I’ve always viewed the Camry as being a car that’s more directed at women, and the Accord as being more appealing to men… not by as huge of a difference as a VW Cabrio vs an F-250, but I think there’s a difference.

    This would help explain why automotive journalists prefer the Accord, but the Camry sells better.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Sailer

      Sounds plausible.

      Just about every time I go to buy a car, I read up on what’s available and decide that THIS time I’m finally going to buy a Toyota.

      But, eventually, I usually wind up buying a Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      In my neck of the wood here in Upstate, NY the primary drivers of Camry’s are elderly woman in there 70’s thru 90’s complete with bashed in rear end bumper caps. It’s alway been an ongoing joke with any of my car friends. “Why are we going so damned slow”? Answer- the slow driving Camry or Corolla 3 cars in front of us.

  • avatar
    AndyYS

    Not everyone wants a sporty car – some of us just require comfortable, reliable transportation. I intend to try out all the major midsize 2018’s, including the Camry, and sportiness will not be the decisive factor for me.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      It’s okay (my wife and daughter are impressed it), and it appears to get pretty decent mileage (the average MPG display on our loaner was showing in the high 20s to low 30s, driving it moderately).

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, but the Accord is all of those things while also just being…better. In a bunch of respects.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Is it against the law for a car to be sporty when you want it to be, and a marshmallow when the family is inside? It’s not impossible for a car to accomodate two driving styles – and that’s the point. If you want a li’l old lady ride, drive like one; if you want a touch of Stirling Moss, the car should respond.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Jack, what tires was that one wearing? Our loaner has Bridgestone Turanza EL440s, with a chine on the outer sidewall. A nice touch.

  • avatar

    Is it possible that some of these aero bits actually serve a functional purpose, such as optimizing fuel efficiency?

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I don’t imagine they hurt efficiency. One thing I noticed is that they don’t like curbs (the front bumper, anyway). I parked in front of my wife’s business, and it scraped a little bit (oops). And it’s not a high curb.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I thought the next-gen Accord was going automatic-only?

    Also, if you’re renting a 2018 Camry, it would seem pretty obvious that Toyota is still courting fleets.

    The banner ad at the bottom of this page shows a 2018 Camry with 0.0% financing. Already? Maybe that and fleets account for the uptick in Camry sales Tim reported on.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same, evidently.

  • avatar
    deanst

    “The “Eco” indicator in the center stack should come in for particular vitriol, as it makes zero sense. I’ll just show you a few images of the screen, and see if you can figure out how it works. If anybody gets it, I’ll respond in the comments.”

    Looks to me like the Eco indicator is right in front of the driver.

  • avatar
    gmichaelj

    Ok so I’m going to say that the first screen shows you are going downhill and have not yet turned on the cruise control and are getting B+ A- fuel mileage.

    The second screen shows you engaged cruise control going up an incline and are getting only average mpgs. You’ve also selected “ECO” for the transmission.

    The bird, snowflake and leaf are just taking up space.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      You are almost precisely backwards!

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I have no idea what the bar is supposed to mean? Is the bar supposed to be longer or shorter if you drive more “eco?” if longer, what does the right side goalpost mean? You’re driving “too eco?” If shorter, then why would something to indicate “eco” indicate less the more “eco” you drive?

      • 0 avatar
        gmichaelj

        When I was in school there was a professor (I never had this guy) who would give ridiculously hard finance tests. Along with regular class grading he would give an A to whoever had the lowest score on his test. Under the theory that you really had to know what you were doing to get a low score: answering opposite. Only the lowest score got an A, the next lowest got an F. Some sort of Game theory??? Anyway, I guess I get an F for “almost precisely backwards”

  • avatar
    zip89123

    My worry is the nannies. Older folks are going to have a hard time figuring out why the vehicle keeps braking, beeping, and doing things they’ve never experienced. Then someone, probably a dealer, is going to show them how to turn those things off, and sadly the traction control might be one of those things turned off that really needs to be left on. Time will tell and I hope I’m wrong. I don’t believe Toyota is marketing the Camry to their core buyer any longer.

    Interesting review. I was really interested in the ride as previous gen SE owners say the 2018 SE drives much better with less harshness, and this review confirms that. Once again the tranny surfaces as an issue in a review, and mimics how my former Dodge Ram shifted (all or nothing). Overall, neither positive or negative is my take on the review, and like the author I also can’t wait to see the 2018 Accord in action.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The slow decline of Toyota continues.

    Indicators in the electronics that don’t reflect the actual state of settings.

    Bad ergonomics.

    Plastic bling bling that tries to hide the fact that it is a 4-cylinder sedan underneath.

    Priced below the competition because we can make profits up in volume.

    Brand new 2018, which as I understand is in short supply as it is, already sitting on rental lots.

    It’s as if the 2018 Toyota Camry is a 2018 Pontiac Grand Prix, with better materials.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “Plastic bling bling that tries to hide the fact that it is a 4-cylinder sedan underneath.”

      Sort of like what you’ll find making up the majority of the inventory at your local BMW and Mercedes-Benz dealers.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So…about the eco-graph.

    The bird, leaf and snowflake are your Camry Eco-Council. They put your Eco-Score in the graph below.

    If you max out, two things happen:
    1) Whatever music is playing on the sound system is immediately replaced by Enya.
    2) The bird, leaf and snowflake all dance together until Mother Gaia herself appears on the screen and offers you tantric sex.

    Let me know if I’m on track.

    (Seriously, this kind of review is the reason why I stick with TTAC. The car magazines have all apparently had a simultaneous wet dream over this rig. I haven’t driven it, but what I’ve sampled on the lot hasn’t encouraged me. The 2017 model feels FAR more solid, and better put together.)

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    Jack, Alex Dykes (reviewing the SE hybrid) complimented the composure over rough pavement but thought the car had taken a step back in road noise. Does his observation match your experience?

    Also: Ranking the 6 up with the Accord and Camry is the nicest thing I recall you saying about it. Did you ever get a review of the 6 published?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I can’t speak to that because my drive time in the previous-gen car was around the East Coast and this was in notoriously smooth California. I will say that it is better than the Accord for road noise, but then so is a Harley Street Glide.

      My sole nontrivial exposure to a Mazda6 comes from driving a stick-shift example provided to R&T by Mazda. At the time I thought that I’d rather have THAT car than an Accord Sport 6MT, although I still preferred my V6.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    In the top image, the horizontal bar graph indicates that you are exceeding the desired consumption rate that would put you in the ECO range. You have yet to turn on cruise control, and apparently you’re being heavy with the throttle.

    The bottom picture shows you right in the middle of the range of operation praiseworthy for its social responsibility and the cruise control set at a tepid 67 mph. The vertical bar graph shows that you have selected the screen option that falls in the middle of the order of available displays.

  • avatar
    matt3319

    We are all going to forget about this Camry once we all get to drive the turbo and manual Accord Sport. That’s gonna inject a bunch of happy compliments. It will make Mazda give us a turbo/manual combo in the next 6(assuming there is a next).

    Who says the sedan is on its death watch??

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      If I were a betting man I would guess the next gen Mazda6 will not be all new – if there is a next gen Mazda6.

      I suspect Mazda is losing money on the 6 and such a small company can do that only so long – the 6 has been doing poorly sales wise for decades. Why build a car few want when they make suvs and cuvs that people do want.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    “The gear display will flat out lie to you”

    My B7 Audi used to do that but only in one very particular scenario! Ok I know I’m not crazy now – the phenomenon exists.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    And what’s with all the commercials with the BMW-sounding exhaust notes? When the Ghibli commercials aired with exhaust cacophony, then it turned out the actual car had the same sound, that was great, and also appropriate for the car and market. Trying to do it with this car just screams ‘fake’ in every possible way.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agreed. The ads feel awkward. We’ve positioned the Camry as an appliance on wheels for decades, now you’re driving an Audi man. It just doesn’t fit. I get the message, we’re not an appliance on wheels, but I think the ad is going about communicating that the wrong way.

      No one is going to buy into a Ford Mustang ad highlighting it as a grocery getter and a great place for the kids to sit between soccer matches.

      I just don’t see people buying a Camry in any trim for the purpose of finding the twisties and having solo fun — well except for Jack when he has the keys to a rental and he is doing a review. ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I can assure you this car sounds exactly the way it does in the commercial.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dNjIpip6e3A

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      It seems they spent more money on these silly childish commercials than they did the actual car itself.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I really “want” to like the Accord better over the years, but most generations I think the Camry is the better overall vehicle that delivers exactly what people want. They’ve also had a much better reputation for quality and reliability.

    But just about every generation of Camry has been a misfire in the styling department whereas the Accord seems to almost always hit the target.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I know you say “just about” so it wasn’t all – but I disagree here. I think the Camry was styled well until 2003, then it has gotten fussier as the time has gone by.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      the resale value on the Accord has been historically better than the Camry – just as retail sales to people – generation over generation – have been better for the Accord than the Camry.

      therefore your conclusion is wrong, it is the Accord that delivers what people want and the higher resale value speaks to the issue of reputation for quality and reliability. I believe people talk about the Camry’s quality and reliability as a way of justifying a meh car.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    All I have to say is I absolutely love my 12 Camry Hybrid LE. I wish the suspension was just a little stiffer, but that is my only complaint. White with a tan interior. When I first bought it, the steering sucked. But after a while, the steering is great. It needed to be broken in for a year. Just a perfect vehicle. I am keeping it for a long time. Lots of miles and the only damage is some rock chips in the front bumper. I am thinking about getting the front bumper repainted. I might stick V rated tires on it. Just waxed it and it shines like new. No scratches or door dings.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The paint on newer Toyotas is crap in my experience, I have a hard time keeping up with rock chips on my wife’s ’12 SE, more than a few have chipped right past the e-coat and started rusting. The plastic bumper is hardly even worth mentioning, covered in small stone chips. Thankfully the car is gunmetal metallic and hides all of this quite well.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    “Unfortunately, if you’re not pressing the pedal into the carpet the transmission’s eagerness to grab the highest possible gear robs the engine of any possible urgency. Adding throttle short of the kickdown gets you absolutely nothing”

    Remind me to link to this review in reply to the inevitable “No one should want a manual because modern slushboxes are so awesome!” comment in the next “Manuals Are Almost Extinct” article.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I find your comments on the radar cruise interesting, and relatable, and thankfully it restores faith in my sanity…

    I frequently drive a new Lexus NX with radar cruise, which based on the gauges in the center stack, and the fact it is a Toyota, probably is the same as this Camry. And your description about the hard braking to open a safe gap is EXACTLY what I completely detest on the NX. Unless traffic is extremely light, I just turn that stupid feature off. I can’t deal with the constant hitting of the brakes. And I’m sure I anger other drivers with the brake lights flashing all the time. But I am glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks the system stinks. I am about ready to swear it off any car if they all operate like Toyota/Lexus…

    So my question related to this Camry is…. Would an LE or XLE (non-sport trim) change your opinion much? I know Toyota has talked up about how fun to drive this car is supposed to be (and I keep hearing about elsewhere, probably by reviewers referencing Toyota press releases?) and you go into this thinking the SE is going to deliver…and it just doesn’t.

    Does removing any expectation of sportiness move this Camry up in the rankings?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m sure the XLE V6 is a very nice car and probably the best expression of the Platonic Camry ideal but the problem with the XLE has always been the artificial air space they have to make between it and the Lexus ES. Wouldn’t be surprised to see that practice continue.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I can honestly say that the new Camry looks nice until I study the design.

    To me, it seems to be a mish-mash of sorts with many pieces that don’t quite jibe.

    As to style, I’m all for it, but aren’t they trying too hard with this new generation, and jumping the shark?

  • avatar
    kam327

    “It’s frankly impressive and I wonder if this Camry is not perhaps the fastest non-turbo four-cylinder Japanese-brand family sedan of all time.”

    Not even close. The 0-60 of this lump is 7.9 seconds. Compared to 7.6 seconds for the current Accord and a flat 7.0 seconds for the Mazda6.

    Mr. Baruth you are embarrassingly uninformed once again.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerome10

      Wait, that’s not possible. All I hear here and everywhere else is how the Mazda6 is underpowered….usually within the first 3 comments!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      It must be nice living in a world where 0-60 measurements are important. I hear they just got the Rubik’s Cube there.

      Back in the world of grownups who drive at actual freeway speeds… C/D trap speed of their example was 90mph. The Accord trapped 91 and the Mazda trapped 92. Now if you had any dragstrip experience, which you don’t, you would be suspicious of the fact that the Mazda has a 0.7-second gap from a trap speed difference of 2mph. But you would know that, all other things being equal, a stronger engine makes more of a difference at higher speeds, and raw horsepower numbers begin to eclipse power-to-weight ratio around the 110-mph mark.

      You don’t know any of this, which is why you wouldn’t have any issue relying on 0-60 times. But if a performance driver looks at these numbers, he might conclude that the Camry would be faster to 130mph than any other four-cylinder sedan. Which is not the only measure of speed out there, and not the most authoritative, but it’s one that would matter quite a bit to somebody using this car for fast road work or track use.

      With all that said, I value your readership and participation even if you are just getting started in car enthusiasm, so please by all means continue to share your opinions here.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        Jack,

        What I can conclude from a good trap speed (90 mph vs 92), a poor ET, and a poor 0-60 time is that the Camry cannot get off the line anywhere near as well as the Accord or 6.

        It may be able to run them down at 100+ MPH but does not get out of the gate hard enough to even be going faster at the 440-yard mark, let alone gain back its disadvantage.

        Gear John’s kart to outrun the others on the second half of the longest straight, and he’ll come in asking where his acceleration went.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          What I’ll suggest is that the Camry is fundamentally hampered by transmission programming. There shouldn’t be much difference in the way two different family sedans of essentially identical construction launch from a dig. The in-gear pull of the 2.5 is remarkable to say the least.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Preach it Brother Jack. I’d add that 0-60 is such a common metric that some WOT shift programs are modified specifically to hold a gear just past the 60 mark to get a better # while slowing a run to a faster speed.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      6.6 for the Accord Sport manual.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Wow that doesn’t say much for the new 203 Hp 2.5 and 8 speed. Chevy’s Malibu with 43 less horses and 2 less tranny gears does the dash in 8 seconds according to C&D and numerous test drives confirm that number with one example doing 7.8 with more break in miles. I really thought with all the hype and comical TV commercials with the piped in exhaust drama that these would be sub 7 second cars.

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    Thanks for noticing that the supposed manual mode of the transmission is hogwash. My moms 2012 XLE is just like that. The indicator in the instrument panel tells you what gear you told it to use. It has about 0 correlation to what gear the transmission is in. How hard can this be, seriously? If I asked it to change gears up or down to soon then just flash the indicator at me and go back to indicating the gear it is actually in. That’s what my TSX does. The only actual purpose the manual shifter seems to serve is to allow you to shift into lower gears on a downhill grade. Which come to think of it is probably what is going on. It’s more of a semi auto where you are telling it the highest or lowest gear to use on the grade vs the actual gear to be in at the moment. Sort of a pre-engagement scenario. As to how this translates into a sport model with paddle shifters beats me.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I have used the paddle shifters on my wife’s ’12 SE exactly once, in the Smoky Mountains. The other time is when my wife accidentally flips one of the panels when taking a turn. I find the Aisin 6A in the 7th gen Camry does a pretty competent job. Like all newish automatics is jumps to a higher gear quickly, and will drive along at 1100rpm with the torque converter locked which causes some minor vibrations to be felt from the 4cyl (I’m sure the V6 does better here) but I like that it will keep the torque converter locked even when you give some throttle, feels more connected. And it is quite responsive about dropping a gear or two if you prod it.

  • avatar
    gsnfan

    Regarding the wrong gear indicator: I think in Toyota-ese, the S on the gearshift stands for “sequential,” not sport. Therefore, when the indicator said that the car was in S8, it was saying that it was in sequential shift and could use all 8 gears, similar to how older Hondas and Acuras would have have D4 on their gearshift as the default gear for drive.

  • avatar
    incautious

    Ahh one word comes to mind……Fuglly

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    I am amazed that Jack thinks Accord with CVT transmission is better. Perhaps he likes the manual Accord, but 90% of Accords are sold as CVTs. My brother’s 2014 4 cylinder Accord transmission (CVT) is ok till you ask for real power now. Then it acts like any other CVT which is high revving and noisy. I take a sequential automatic over CVT any day.

    As for looks, current Accord is more of a realized design, was even better pre chrome refresh 2 years ago. Still, looks are subjective. I think this new Camry is much better looking than the generation it just replaced.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    Not shopping for one of these and haven’t driven it so I’ll take the reviews word for it. But in terms of styling, I have to disagree. I think this Camry looks great. Saw a few at the Auto Show with contrasting color roofs and they were real head turners.

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    I actually really like the looks of the new Camry, but then again my first car was a Citroen. I’m disappointed it isn’t a better driver, as I too was impressed by the 2013-17 car, which I’ve driven as rentals on a few occasions. The bane of dead electronic steering doesn’t seem to get much better, even thought the manufacturers can do it when they try (eg, Lexus RF). Within the last year I’ve driven (extensively as rentals) a BMW 5-series and a new Volvo S90. Both enjoyable cars but neither performed/handled as well as my 2009 Infiniti M45, mostly because the steering feel on both these fine European sport sedans reminded me of my Dad’s 1969 Buick from back in the day…..


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