Capsule Review: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

The Camry connoisseur, if there is such a thing, would spot the difference.

Unlike some well-known TTAC authors who don’t hide their Camry admiration, I wasn’t on board the Camry love boat. The last SE I drove disappointed me with unimpressive efficiency figures, an interior in need of polish, and an overall sensation of obsolescence. And it was in fact obsolete, as Toyota Canada delivered a Camry Hybrid SE to my driveway in October 2014 when the refreshed 2015 car was already a thing.

• USD Base Price: $27,725

• Horsepower: 268 @ 6200 rpm

• Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg

Nevertheless, I’ll readily admit I appreciate that Toyota finally located the Camry’s sense of style. When this particular car pulled up in front of our house, I noticed right off the bat that it was an XSE, a trim level Toyota introduced for 2015 to combine XLE luxury with the SE’s sporting intentions. The Blue Crush Metallic also represents top-notch taste.

While it’s my job and I do my best and I take a measure of pride in these things, I didn’t notice key signifiers: twin tailpipes. Granted, Blue Crush arrived on Monday, January 5, the busiest work day of the year for a sales-oriented auto writer like myself. I backed the car into our driveway, refusing to take time out of my busy schedule for an unnecessary late night Volkswagen GTI-like drive to the grocery store. “It’s not like it has a V6,” I muttered.

Yet there may be no V6 more captivating than a surprise V6 in an increasingly competent midsize sedan. You see, 24 hours after my muttering, I was heading into town to collect dog food. After a few miles of routine driving behind slow-moving traffic, I hit the highway under heavy throttle to see if Toyota further isolated the 178-horsepower, 2.5L four-cylinder’s inherent vibration. Except I couldn’t answer that question, because I was approaching my exit with more than enough pace to mutter, “This feels like an engine Lotus would squeeze into an Evora.”

Yes, Camry fanbois (if there are such a thing) would have understood the meaning behind Blue Crush’s dual exhaust outlets. But even in XSE trim, Toyota completely bypasses the V6 badging process. It’s debadged. Or at least unbadged.

Toyota is therefore cool, like the guy who ordered his Porsche 911 without all the extra taxonomical addenda. Or at least sort of like that guy.

Toyota says the 3.5L generates 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. It’s such a rev-hungry, buttery engine, however, that it feels like there are 300-plus of each. 0-60 mph times below six seconds bring believability to such feelings. The 6-speed automatic lacks all manner of aggression and rewards paddle shift inputs not at all, but it’s a sufficiently cooperative partner for the V6, never flubbing a shift or causing the driver to worry over fragility.

Blue Crush was much more than just an engine. Indeed, the XSE can be had for thousands less without the V6 powerplant. As a whole, the Camry is a stronger package now than it was last year. With “unique shock absorbers, firmer bushings, higher-rate coil springs, specially-tuned steering,” the XSE bears that out more clearly. The structure is stiffer, enabling Toyota to more finely tune the suspension for a very pleasing real-world balance. The ride is only just on the firm side of average, yet the Camry XSE handles ham-fisted, mid-corner adjustments easily and without fuss. The steering is still too slow and light for the XSE to be a genuine sports sedan; brake feel (said to be improved) and brake performance are not confidence-inspiring. But if this suspension configuration represented the conventional Camry’s layout, I believe enthusiasts would grow very fond of the midsize Toyota, and they would wonder just how good TRD’s engineering team could make it if given free rein.

The Mazda 6 is a sharper corner carver, but it rides more stiffly and is noisier inside. Dynamically, the Ford Fusion is very nicely balanced, but not every buyer will put up with Ford’s current infotainment unit when the Camry’s system is so straightforward and intuitive. Hyundai and Kia, with the Sonata and Optima, aren’t yet able to mate serene ride quality to their more aggressive suspension tunes. For a moment, it seemed as though Nissan built the better Camry with their fifth-gen Altima, but the 2015 Camry refresh is a significant one.

Not surprisingly then, the Blue Crush’s prime competition comes in the form of America’s second-best-selling car, the Honda Accord. It’s a game of personal preference at that point.

Personally, I’m pleased to discover a Camry that appeals on a large number of different levels. It’s still not the most handsome sedan, its interior is completely devoid of expression, it will quickly become terribly commonplace, it drank at a sub-20-mpg rate during its stay with me. But the Camry XSE is the place where solidity, reliability, and space marry moderate degrees of fun, modestly increased levels of vehicular passion, and mature amounts of back road frolicking.

And it’s relatively affordable. In the United States, Camry XSEs start at $27,725. That’s $2310 more than the SE and the same price as the XLE.

Adding the V6 to a 2015 Toyota Camry XSE costs another $5220, but the V6 XSE includes a raft of equipment that’s optional on the four-cylinder model. It’s worth it. If you’re going to buy America’s best-selling car in large part because the sampling size which helped establish its image of dependability is so large, you owe it to yourself to get the best version of America’s best-selling car.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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  • Chiefmonkey Chiefmonkey on Jan 20, 2015

    The crossing guard for the elementary school down my street just bought a ruby red 2015 Camry to replace her 1995 Chevy Lumina,also red, which she bought new in 1995 and had been driving every day with, in her words, "zero problems." I'd say it's great for someone like her. It's got all the right styling cues, like the rubber triangle reminiscent of the Ford LTD behind the rear windows, but clearly much sportier! Clearly...

  • Frylock350 Frylock350 on Jan 21, 2015

    For the price tag I'd rather have a Charger V6 SXT. I realize its a full-size, not a mid-size, BUT it is RWD. That leads to superior driving dynamics without sacrificing as much ride quality. The Pentastar V6 with the 8sp trans is a fantastic powertrain that balances economy and power quite well. Take that and combine it with the Dodge's U-connect infotainment and a higher quality interior and there's no contest IMO. As far as reliability goes I expect any car from any manufacturer* to serve as vehicle that will give me 100,000 reliable miles of service. Besides, these Chargers are beat to hell in police duty and they seem to take it in stride. *Exception: Land Rover and Jaguar products

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.
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