By on January 26, 2015

MemphisCamry 006 (Medium)

Any veteran of the Detroit Auto Show knows that you can find some pretty impressive metal in the hotels and parking lots surrounding the auto show. While a significant percentage of the media is flown to the show courtesy of GM, Ford, and a few other manufacturers, another nontrivial number of journos arrive in loaners ranging from AWD 911 Targas to BMW X-somethings. Truth be told, however, I couldn’t even stir myself to be jealous of those freeloaders. After all, I’d won the rental car lottery and gotten something I prefer to even the most chrome-laden of winter press whips.

My fondness for Toyota’s semi-sporty take on the family car is well documented. After reading Tim Cain’s experience with a new-gen V6 XSE I’m very eager to get one of those on the racetrack and see if it can match up to my Accord V6. Of course, I’ve been a committed Accord-ian for a year now, enough that I was also eager to take one final spin in the old car to see if it matched up to my memory.

MemphisCamry 007 (Medium)

This 2014 model benefited from a revised infotainment system, with more #PixelsAndStuff than the last SE I drove. Other than that, it was the same car it’s been for a few years now. As with my previous car, the powertrain is the 2.5L I-4 putting 178 horsepower through a six-speed automatic. I was curious to see how the Camry would start and run in the well-below-freezing weather surrounding the show; the first night I had the car it was four degrees about zero and when I spilled a bit of soda on the Camry’s doorsill it froze solid before I could wipe it off. I needn’t have worried. Only a few rough shifts in the first few minutes betrayed the temperature, and the heater was actually working within four minutes of starting. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a bored-out block with extremely tight water jackets.

The 2013 revisions to the Accord put the Camry a bit behind in the surprise-and-delight segment. Honda’s LaneWatch in particular is simply brilliant and I prefer it to the warning light you get with anything else (including Acura’s TLX). With that said, the Toyota isn’t without its charms. I prefer the Camry’s steering wheel to anything Honda offers nowadays. The seats, too, are demonstrably more supportive and less fragile than what you get in an Accord Sport. On the other hand, Honda offers proper climate control at the same price that gets you two vague knobs in the Camry, and the price you pay for two center-stack displays in the Toyota gets you three in the Accord.

Not that you’re reading this review for an Asperger’s-approved price-corrected feature comparison. You can get that other places, or so I’m continually told by the Internet. What you want to know is how the Camry compares to the four-cylinder Accord dynamically, so you know which one to rent for your next flyaway trackday. Well, my friend, go ahead and ring that bell, because it’s Camry by a knockout in the middle of the first round.

Or the first corner of your third lap, anyway, which is about all it takes for you to realize that Honda has no idea how much thermal capacity a modern sedan needs to slow down repeatedly from speed. The Accord is horribly underbraked and that’s true no matter what variant you get because if you don’t plump for the V-6 you get even smaller brakes than the Flintstones-spec garbage on my coupe. On top of that, the Camry is more tossable, gives you more feedback through the wheel, and has an automatic transmission of proven non-breakable-ness for people who won’t shift their own sedans, which is pretty much everybody.

Had Toyota been kind enough to offer a six-speed in a V-6-powered Camry sedan, I’d have taken that in a heartbeat over the Accord even though 2014 was obviously this Camry’s swan song. Because they didn’t, the Accord pulled two effective units ahead in the retail sales race and now you are going to be subjected to my one-year Accord review in the next few weeks. It’s a damn shame because I’m not sure Toyota doesn’t have the better V-6. I’m almost certain they have a slightly better four.

MemphisCamry 010 (Medium)

During a 470-mile trip through Michigan’s frozen wasteland that included a fair amount of time spent at a pawnshop in addition to the usual dinners and parties, my Camry returned 31.3mpg. I did not spare any of the 178 horses. I fed it winter-blend 87 octane. More than once I let it idle outside my hotel for ten minutes or longer because I was lazy and I thought I’d combine the loading-up process with the warming-up process. Once, in a fit of age-and-injury-induced weakness, I started it up and immediately revved it to five grand for a whole minute so the heat would work.

You get the idea. I was pretty hard on this Camry, harder than perhaps I was entitled to be for thirty-seven dollars a day or whatever the rate was. Yet the fact remains that I’ve never rented a Camry that seemed terribly fazed by the abuse that I and others heaped upon it. No, it’s not the Lexus-in-all-but-name that the ’92 Camry was, but it’s also cheaper in real dollars and it doesn’t appear to be significantly less reliable. All the Camry has to be is be as good as the competition in empirical terms and close to them on the intangibles and it can win because it’s a proven quantity.

Yet the Camry hasn’t been winning lately, at least not with retail customers. Maybe it’s the new-car smell of the revised and upscale-looking Accord, maybe it’s the knowledge that there’s a new Camry on the way, maybe it’s the fact that Honda offers a stick-shift and a coupe and sometimes both together. Regardless, this is a worthwhile choice, both new and used.

Against the rest of the segment, the old Camry’s superiority is more clear-cut. Having recently rented a CVT Altima for some time on a Texas racetrack, I can attest that the Camry whips it six ways to Sunday: in power, handling, and brake effectiveness. The Malibu? Be serious. The Fusion? That’s a more expensive car for a different kind of buyer. The Mazda6? You can get it with a stick but it’s actually not as good on a racetrack as a Camry. (Unfortunately, I drove the Mazda for another outlet so I can’t give you all the details here, but suffice it to say that I’d take the Camry.) The Sonata and Optima? Not everybody’s ready to make the 100,000-mile bet on them even if the warranty runs that long.

With any luck, I’ll be able to check out the 2015 in the near future. I promise to get one on the track as soon as possible and take some scalps with it. In the meantime, the current car is more than good enough at the price, as a rental proposition, and an ownership one.

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86 Comments on “A Last Look: 2014 Camry SE...”


  • avatar
    mkirk

    I thought I was the only one on here that liked these things. In spite of what gets bantered around on here there is a reason other than some sort of Apple like marketing hype here that Toyota sells so many of these. Don’t tell anyone, but I like the new Corolla too.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Man, I LOVE Camrys. I just prefer those made before 1993. Preferably wagons.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “I LOVE Camrys. I just prefer those made before 1993”

        I noticed that among many previous pre-1993 Camry buyers I know. They don’t buy the latest and greatest Camry models but often step up to Lexus or another vehicle/brand like Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Pilot, etc.

        But with Camry still being the best selling sedan in America it would appear that Camry is getting converts from other brands.

        Then again, I know a guy who owns four Camry sedans of different vintages and model years and who keeps all four of them running for his wife, kids and grandkids. Now there is LOVE for ya’.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          While the Camry is still the no.1 seller in the segment, it has been losing marketshare, and esp. retail marketshare.

          In 2013, the Camry was the no.1 midsize sedan in rental lots.

          That, along with aggressive discounting is what has kept the competition at bay, but they have all made inroads and all sell at a higher ATP.

          The Camry of today is a far cry from the circa 1992 Camry which was the best mainstream, midsize sedan at that time.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Just curious Jack, but later one could you give us a write up on why the Camry is better than the Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      +1

      Or if the other outlet won’t allow, tell us how the Corolla is better than the Mazda 3, and witness the ensuing hatorade.

      Please skip the specs too, imo they’re meaningless compared to real world experience.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Jack, not that this is a criticism of your review (which explicitly talked about track-ish-ness), but why do so many car reviews (even ones targeted towards mere mortals) make such a big deal about brake fade? Even the tiniest front disc/rear drum brakes are well more than adequate to instantly kick in the ABS of even the most horrible tin-can econobox or hulking poverty-spec minivan; no pizza-sized brake rotors or calipers with more pistons than the engine are needed.

    Can they do it repeatedly? No. But for folks that drive cars like normal people, I don’t think there exists any current car with inadequate brakes. (Now, certainly panic stopping distance CAN be excessive because of hard tires, a poor suspension, or a badly done ABS, but none of that has to do with the discs/drums.)

    (I drive my DD, (an ’04 M/T 1.8T Passat Wagon) like a total granny… I’m still on the original front pads at 140k.)

    • 0 avatar
      masouds

      Some of Normal People do drive down from mountains from time to time; Say, US-50 West from Lake Tahoe to Sacramento, where the road is mostly downhill and twisty, and having a brake that warms up and fades fast really has bad results.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Designing and equipping passenger cars with brakes suitable for track duty is ridiculous because most passengers cars will never be taken anywhere near a track, let alone driven on one. OK, we seem to all understand this point.

        Designing and equipping passenger cars with brakes suitable for running down mountains “from time to time” is ridiculous for the same reason.

        If you track your car, or spend enough time driving down mountains that you run into brake fade – there are solutions to your application of the mass-marketed product. Upgrade your pads, rotors, fluid and your problem is solved. Even a conservative guess would be that maybe 10% of drivers face either of these problems in a given year. Meaning, that *if* all cars were designed with robust braking systems that did not fade under extreme use (i.e. track conditions or mountain roads) conservatively 90% of the driving public are paying for brake capacity that they will never need. i.e. A massive waste of resources.

        Otherwise, *everyone* pays for a robust solution to a problem that a vanishingly small minority has to deal with.

        This is also my line of argument against the heavier vehicle equals safer vehicle argument. This morning, I bothered to look up some numbers. According to the US Bureau of Transportation, in 2009 there were 254,200,000 passenger vehicles registered in the US. There is a massive discrepancy between the next two numbers – reported vehicle accidents in the same year, 2009. The US DOT reports 5,505,000 while the US Census Bureau reports twice that, 10,800,000. Using the much larger Census Bureau number, 4% of all registered passenger vehicles could have been involved in an accident in 2009.

        If you don’t want to pay for bigger brakes, which are obviously a safety feature, why do you want to pay for structure?

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-Iron

          You need them for when your floormats get stuck under the brake pedal.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          “Meaning, that *if* all cars were designed with robust braking systems that did not fade under extreme use (i.e. track conditions or mountain roads) conservatively 90% of the driving public are paying for brake capacity that they will never need. i.e. A massive waste of resources”

          True, but we’re not talking about drilled rotors and Brembos here, we’re talking about giving a family sedan brakes that don’t routinely warp rotors between pad changes during normal use. Honda’s notorious brake fade on published tests is just one symptom of a larger problem that has afflicted a number of models within the brand over the years.

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            Brake pads are always a balance though – you generally have to trade off between heat capacity, friction, dust, and noise.

            Look at the famous GTR fiasco where first year buyers recieved cars with great on-track performance, but loud dusty pads, and then went on the internet rich-guy forums to complain. On the other end of the spectrum, the Z (forget if it was 350 or 370) famously roasted its Brembos in a C&D or R&T braking test because the pads were too street-focused.

            I’m not saying there aren’t good compromise pads out there – Honda had a great compound in the stock Civic Si/S2000 pad. I personally love the Stoptech Street Performance. However, that said fade resistance comes at a price, and I have dustier wheels than most as a result.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          There are some cars that simply do not have enough swept area in the brakes to solve the problem with better rotors and pads & some fluid.

          As much as I loved my 2001 300M, the braking system on that car was woefully inadequate for the size/weight of vehicle. The only thing that helped (but still didn’t solve) the problem was to put the police car rotors on the car (vented out the front of the rotor vs. the rear at the hub) and the police spec carbon metallic pads. That might make it adequate for many users, but even the police still had problems with that setup. Unfortunately at the time there was no aftermarket option to go with larger rotors/multi-piston calipers to solve the root cause of the issue.

      • 0 avatar
        madman2k

        Just about all cars let you downshift to the exact gear you want these days, and with a 6-speed you should be able to find a gear that will hold your car at the speed limit without needing brakes on most hills.

        Even my Prius with a CVT has an engine braking transmission mode.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        “Some of Normal People do drive down from mountains from time to time; Say, US-50 West from Lake Tahoe to Sacramento, where the road is mostly downhill and twisty, and having a brake that warms up and fades fast really has bad results.”

        People just need to learn to operate their vehicle correctly. This is why you get manual gear selections on an automatic equipped vehicle. Put it into a lower gear, and you barely use the brakes. I always find it amusing being behind a car going down a mountain pass and the guy in front of me is constantly on the brakes, and after about 10 minutes you can smell those brakes burning. A Focus rental I had a year ago, didn’t allow you to select any gears manually, but had a downhill button that did the same thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Downshift, and brake properly*, rather than riding it.

        (*”Snub braking” ala proper truck technique:

        Downshift to a sane gear. Brake down to 5 or 10 mph under your target speed, then let it ride back up. Repeat.

        This works in a car just like it works in a truck. You don’t need Magic Giant Brakes to safely descend from a pass.)

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Most folks on TTAC don’t drive like total grannys. I just bought a 2009 Civic EX on New Years day. The front brakes are already cooking. Once they are fully cooked I’m going to throw in TSX brakes.

      Good brakes are a huge confidence inspirer for enthusiastic driving. I’ve had cars on both sides of the spectrum… once I had to roll through a red light as I had no brakes… in my Z now I can pretty much stop on a dime and encounter zero fade thanks to my upgrades. Brakes are an underrated but key component in driving enjoyment and confidence.

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        sportyaccordy,

        As an avid backroad driver and HPDE attendee, your Civic’s brakes can be made completely adequate with as little as a pad change.

        I’d recommend stepping up to something like Stoptech Street Performance or Hawk HP+, both have gone through multiple HPDE weekends with me and been fine with multiple 120-50mph stops over 30 minute sessions without overheating. Both also have enough cold bite to commute with even in the winter. Throw in a fluid flush with some ATE TYP200 for good measure if you’re concerned with boiling fluid, but I doubt that’s your issue.

        $100 in pads and fluid (the Stoptech stuff is super inexpensive!) is likely a much better cure for your problem than $500-1000 in brake hardware, not to mention much less work to install. There’s no way you’re generating enough heat in street driving that rotor size and number of caliper pistons should come into the equation.

        • 0 avatar
          hgrunt

          Ventilation and ducting can further increase performance. I’ve noticed Japanese car companies rarely run brake ducts, even in their sporty models. I figure it’s to increase low-temperature performance, reduce drag, and they know most cars will see only 20 minutes of hard driving at a time at a track session.

      • 0 avatar
        calgarytek

        TSX brakes, really? So you’re going to take a brake set (assuming caliper, pad/discs) meant for a car with front double wishbones and throw em on your competent-but-not-as-good-as-front-double-wishbone macpherson strut setup? Aren’t you missing an upper control arm as well as a knuckle? I mean what about the mounting points?

        They stopped making Civics I’ve wanted to buy in 2000…

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      With cars becoming faster and heavier you would think that brakes would be getting better.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I too like the Camry although I did find the sonata more sporty and powerful. The car I was disappointed in was the mazda6 which I found to be rough riding, noisy, and weak on power. You had a great review on the cx5 Jack, when can we get your take on the 6?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The 2.4 in the Sonata is indeed pretty punchy from what I remember. The Sonata was really comfy over NYC’s hellish roadscape. If not for that ugly center stack it could be a winner IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The Optima I tried with the 2.4 felt really punchy primarily because throttle calibration from a stop was very aggressive. Push past that point and it had similar power to the Camry and just about every other 2.4/5 liter four on the market. Acceleration from the H/K 2.4 is very similar to the Camry 2.5 in most pubs I can remember and a bit slower than the Altima, Accord CVT, and 6.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          I had a 2.4L Sonata rental recently and you’re right. The throttle is an instant-on switch and I found that “feature” alone would disqualify the car from contention. Terrible.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            It reminded me of some B-class cars that use a similar trick to make a 1.5L buzzbox feel quick off the line. It wears thin. It’s not needed, either, as the H/K 2.4 is perky enough to have a linear throttle response.

          • 0 avatar
            Occam

            @30-mile fetch: Honda Fits are bad about that.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “rough riding, noisy, and weak on power”

      Thats just the Mazda 6’s sporty character showing itself!

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I have similar positive impressions of my girlfriend’s 2012 SE 4cyl in the cold. We had some brutal -18F nights in Indy, the Camry always gets parked outs1de. Starts right up, warm air is flowing in a few minutes, transmission shifts better than any other automatic I’ve tried in that sort of cold.

    It is the perfect car for her, however the one area of durability that it sorely lacks is paint thickness and metal thickness. It dings if you sneeze on it, and some rock chips have gone straight through past the galvanization on the hood. But perhaps this applied to a lot of modern mainstream cars anyways, water based paints and all that.

    I love the way it drives, perfect highway companion with tall gearing, the torquey 2.5, and good high speed stability.

    Lifetime mpg per the computer has been around 28mpg, astounding given the mixed driving the car sees. Highway trips are mid 30s, 33-34 with me driving 75-80mph. A friend with a new Eco-assist malibu actually gets significantly less (anecdotal, I know)

    I disagree on the seats. I find the cushion a bit hard and narrow, and it lacks a bit of lumbar support. I prefer the current Honda seats, my Civic’s is surprisingly wider both at the shoulders and at the seat bottom. The Civic’s pronounced lumbar support also fits me like a glove. I understand that seats are a very variable sort of thing person to person.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      You really have to live through winter with the 2.5L Toyota I4 and the 6A to appreciate how stout it is. I drove a friend’s ’11 Fusion through a wicked slice of the Polar Vortex and came away with a new respect for my tC’s powertrain. Fully loaded car, sub zero temperatures, cold starts, whatever … it just warms up and plows through.

      I think the two big selling points for the Accord are the styling, which is genuinely sharp right now, especially on the coupe and in high trim levels, and the visibility, which remains marvellous.

      You’re quite right about the paint, but sadly this is not a Toyota-specific foible. If you want a proper coat of paint in a Japanese car these days, you’ll have to shop the luxury badges.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        The 2.5, 6AT combo was a large reason for the purchase of my wife’s Rav4. It has been around since 2009 or so in the Camry and various other Toyotas with a good rep for functionality, fuel economy, and reliability. CVTs are becoming more and more common in the compact CUV market (Nissan, Subaru, and Honda), and that is an unknown quantity for long term durability. We are a year and 14k miles in. Very pleased with it so far.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          A family member bought a Rav4 and wanted my opinion of it compared to the runner up, the 1.6 Escape. Driving them back to back demonstrated to me that Ford’s interesting tiny-turbo experiment wasn’t going to be entirely successful. The “old” Toyota 2.5 felt just as strong and refined, and being a known quantity for a buyer who wanted to keep the vehicle a long time, it was an easy recommendation. It’s a good powertrain.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I will echo those sentiments on the 1.6EB, in a rental Fusion in my case. Engine had to work harder to get up to speed and didn’t sound anywhere as pleasant doing it as the good old Toyota 2.5. Fuel economy was wholly unimpressive as well, a smidge less than 30 in highway driving at 70-72 in cool fall weather over flat roads.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Camry purists have often expressed their admiration for the Camry 2.5L V6 as THE smoothest engine in the Camry line.

        I have a friend who owns a 1989 Camry V6 LE and refuses to retire the car, specifically because of that smooth and ultra-reliable 2.5L V6. Three timing belts and nearly 200K miles later, it is still a daily driver for his grand daughter.

        While the 2.5 4-banger is roughly the same displacement and cheaper to make, I do not believe it is a suitable replacement for the 2.5L V6.

        That honor is bestowed on the more-powerful Toyota 3.5L V6 even though it is not as buttery smooth as the 2.5L V6 was.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          It’s very smooth, but it’s significantly less powerful than the 2.5l four (down about 15 hp), and also significantly thirstier. You pay a price for that smoothness.

          Also, as a practical matter a 1989 Camry is going to be far noisier than a 2014 Camry regardless of engine.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I suspect better insulation and noise abatement technology would be used in a 2014 Camry model as opposed to a 1989 Camry model.

            A friend at church was probably the first to buy a new, improved, better than ever, 2015 Camry XLE V6 and it is soooooo quiet you can’t even hear it run while standing next to it.

            Even less when you’re sitting in the passenger seat. You can’t even feel it run. You have to look at the instrument panel to see if it is idling.

            Yeah, quite an improvement, for sure.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Well Toyota still sells a 2.5L V6 for the Lexus line, although everyone on the internet seems to hate it.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yeah, I can’t understand that either. Some people have taken that Camry 2.5L V6 and used it to power home-made airplanes, personal hydrofoils and flying watercraft, and they don’t hate it.

          • 0 avatar
            PJmacgee

            The Lexus baby sixer is such a sweet little mill. Only explanation for internet hate of the 2.5 is the MOAR PWR3.5 option, I guess.

            Just imagine if they added 2 more cylinders, then it’d be a 3.4 liter V8, ooooo exotic racecar engine all the internets would say…

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      These comments show why the real world chooses Camrys in droves. The only completely objective reason to choose a 9th Gen Accord over a 2012+ Camry was the middling small offset crash performance, rectified by the 2014.5my.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    I recently purchased an Accord 4 cylinder 6MT sedan. After a multi day rental, my impressions of the Camry SE were nearly identical to yours. Ultimately it came down to the 6MT offered in the Accord and the 200k + trouble free miles on our other Honda product (’05 RSX-S) The Accord also has a very slight edge in interior quality IMO. The Camry has just a bit too much hard shiny black plastic. But it was *THIS CLOSE* between the two. Really, you can’t go wrong with either. My sea level, flat land day to day driving environment doesn’t tax the brakes enough that I’ve felt the urge to upgrade them yet, although I did just that on the RSX. As a previous commenter pointed out, there is a reason Toyota sells a gazillion of these. If they offered a 6MT, they’d have sold a gazillion and one.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I think it’s simple outdated paranoia that’d make someone think getting a Hyundai or Kia to 100k a risky proposition. Admittedly, somewhere around 120-150k is where their cheapness starts rearing its underwhelming head, but even then, that’s largely nickel and dime stuff.

    Of course, other than styling and easily quantifiable features (as opposed to the surprise and delight stuff), H/K don’t have a ton to offer, but still, it’s not 1995 anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can’t put H on the same level with K. I really still doubt the longevity of their cars, and my sister’s new Kia felt sooo cheap (Rio sedan, so it was a cheap car). I feel like those Optimas you see around will have trim falling off in 5 years time.

      Hyundai is more proven, and their upper-level offerings seem to do alright.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Eh, they feel about the same to me, and I’ve seen enough high-mileage Kias that I’d wager if there’s any discrepancy at this point, it’s based on who actually buys them.

        Plus, their mechanicals are interchangeable anyhow, right?

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        We just bought a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe for the wife after cross-shopping pretty much every 3-row crossover. I’ll let you know how the longevity part goes, but as far as driving feel goes it was better than everything except for the CX-9, and as far as interior refinement (we got the limited with tech) I’d go so far as to say it’s near the best in class.

        The leather is better than most luxury cars I’ve been in, granted I haven’t really been in anything newer than an 08 or so, and feature content is pretty darn good as well though the nav is dated and I use my phone instead.

        The only safety features it lacks are radar cruise, lane keep, and forward collision prevention, which would all be nice to have but I don’t really miss them either.

        I’m sure H/K’s low end is still as low rent as anybody else’s, but their high end certainly is nice to be in and is doing well so far. It’s to the point that I’m considering a Genesis for my next vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          izzy

          As an owner of 07 Santa Fe Limited with 110K miles I would say that it has been pretty reliable. It only failed to get me where I am going once due to bad alternator.
          To be honest, I think most any car today (may be not German) will run 100K reliably.
          The true test would be 150K-200K.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        New KIA’s? The same ones that run down the same assembly lines with Hyundais?

        Put 120K (miles) on a `11 Forte5 in 3 years. Only issues I had with it was a bad door switch, which I ended up cleaning the contacts with cleaner and it worked fine, and a trans cooling line that needed replacement which seemed to be a common problem for that particular part.

        Their trouble was using cheap leather on the steering wheel that felt like sand paper and wore horribly(which KIA used a better leather a model year later), and the cheap factory tires.

        The brakes were excellent and used the larger front setup from the Sportage/ Tuscon and used ceramic pads. By 70K I figured they needed replacing but still had about 40% life left from my measurements. I had the parts and did the work anyways.

        No parts fell off. Nothing major broke down and I drove the car 90% harder than the “average buyer”. The 2.4L was rough sounding at high RPM though.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I am surprised TRD didn’t follow on that original track test review with an autocross kit for the Camry called the “Baruth package”.

    It would be a wonderful bit of trolling if they did that, and then did a compare commercial with a lease special 3 series.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Alas, it looks like TRD offers only an oil filter and oil filter cap for this generation of Camry: http://www.toyotaracing.com/trd/parts-search-results.html?years=2012&models=Camry&categories=all&subcategories=all.

      Disclaimer: I haven’t driven the current-gen Camry and now am mildly annoyed at myself for not picking one up as my most recent rental (didn’t need something that large). That said, kudos to Toyota for actually giving the SE its own suspension tuning as opposed to making it merely an appearance package. I’m a fan of reliable mainstream vehicles that are available in a “warm” spec.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I once read a bartender’s approach to serving people at an event. He would make the first drink pretty strong, then cut down on the booze for subsequent drinks. It made the tips flow yet kept down the total alcohol use. Sometimes it seems like Toyota used that same approach with the Camry. Fat models back in the 90s and getting by on good will ever since.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Fat models back in the 90s and getting by on good will ever since”

      The current Camry is bigger, quicker, more fuel-efficient, safer, more reliable and (adjusted for inflation) cheaper while having more features. About the only thing it doesn’t have is as many soft dash plastics in placed you don’t touch, but since that’s basically aping horse carriages for no good reason I can live without it.

      If you want a ne-plus-ultra Camry at the same inflation-adjusted cost as the nineties, Toyota will happily sell you an ES350.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        “The current Camry is bigger, quicker, more fuel-efficient, safer, more reliable and (adjusted for inflation) cheaper while having more features.”

        Which is generally true for all major mfr’s offerings in this category. My point isn’t that the current Camry doesn’t offer fair value, just that its continued sales dominance over other models in this class is more based on that old reputation for ‘best value for the money’ than it is based on clearly out-performing the competition.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          IIRC the 1992-1996 Camrys were sold at a premium in that market, with nary a discount in sight. Today’s Camry is a much better value than back then, and a decent value in today’s market with discounts readily available.

  • avatar
    Fred

    The issue I have had with 4 cylinder SE is going up to Sonora CA I can’t get the car to do 80 mph up hill. Still I averaged over 30 mpg so I could learn to slow down.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I may respectfully disagree with the 2.5L Toyota 4 pot being better than the 2.4L Honda Earth Dreams DI. My only long term comparison relates to a 6MT Accord an a 2013 Toyota Camry LE rental held for a week, but the Accord’s engine – when tied to a stick – has more torque and a better VTEC (yo) rush than the Toyota.

    In the automatic versions, I would call it a wash save for the Toyota’s proven durability. A Lemons team I know ran a 2.5L Toyota 4-cyl for about 8,000 racing miles with nothing but oil changes. No comparable Earth Dreams torture yet exists.

    Granted, my thoughts are relevant to only .05% of the market.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      You are correct. C&D noted in its LT review of the Accord Sport that Honda appeared to be modest in their power ratings. The 4 cylinder is better balanced than the 6 cylinder coupe and offers much better MPG than the manual V6 coupe, which doesn’t come w/ the cylinder deactivation. Automobile Mag noted that as a reason for the coupe’s poor hwy mpg.
      http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/12_month_car_reviews/1503-2014-honda-accord-ex-l-v-6-coupe-four-seasons-wrap-up/

      I doubt any 4 cylinder Camry can come close to the 6.6 0-60 of the Accord Sport manual.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        The 4-cyl 6MT Accord sedan is, in my biased opinion, a really great car for the money. I only wish I got an “EX” manual with lane watch over the Sport and just bolted on a leather steering wheel.

        For everyone else seeking my view on midsize cars, I tell them they must drive the Accord and Camry before deciding unless extreme durability is required. My 62 year old aunt with a 20-year car cycle got “get a Camry” when seeking to replace her 1995 Volvo 850 (which replaced a 1977 rusted-to-hell Caprice). I feel fairly confident the port injected lump and 6-speed auto will hang around through 2035.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yeah, this. The Toyota four is nothing special. It’s refined, but in terms of power delivery I’d say it’s the same as most of the other big NA fours (Ford/pre-Skyactiv Mazda, GM, Nissan, Hyundai). The DI K24 (Earth Dreams) has a fatter torque curve and is just as refined. I think it’s the best NA four on the market right now. Even the non-DI K24 has a better top end than the Toyota motor.

      Both of the V6es are excellent.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    God we live in wonderful times. If you had told me as a child (in the 80s) that mainstream family sedans would make 200-300 hp by the turn of the century I would have laughed in your face and stuck my nose back in my Hot Rod magazine to continue reading about budget small block builds.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’m not sure what to do with this article, there are a number of claims that run completely counter to all the automotive media: The Camry is better around a track than an Accord due to both brakes and steering feel. The four cylinder may be better than the new much-loved Earth Dreams. Even the 8 year old Toyota V6 is still the equal of the new Honda’s. The Camry is better on track than a Mazda6.

    I don’t have enough experience with the current crop of midsizers to even hazard an opinion, but I do know I’d love to see this article posted to an even larger audience than TTAC just to see what the comment section would turn into. Car and Driver commenters would throw a fit seeing a driver with track experience tell them the most hated appliance on the planet is preferred on track over the 10Best shoe-ins.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I swapped cars with my dad last month. He took my Civic, and I took his Accord V6…which has one hundred more horsepower.

    To quote Genie Jafar: THE POWER. THE AB-SOL-UTE POWAAAAAH!

    Driving it regularly after driving Civics for years, it felt like a Rolls Royce wafting down the highway.

    However, I was typically very careful when putting down power, knowing from my days driving a bubble wagon that the breaks need a BIT more tarmac to bring the beast to a stop than my Civic.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    1) Some of the interior bits/materials in the subject Camry awesomely atrocious, such as the silver painted plastic-whatever materials on the steering wheel, center stack, and black trim around vents, etc.

    2) Toyota has a real issue with how cheap/wobbly/imprecise/fragile the knobs and buttons for the stereo, HVAC system, etc, feel and are. I rented a similar car with 17,000 miles on it and could NOT believe how cheap, loose & worn those buttons knobs already felt.

    3) The paint quality and metal quality on this car is unacceptable, as several people have already mentioned. The paint can’t resist highway stone chips at all, the sheet metal is wafer thin, and there are sections of the skin (like aft of the rear wheel wells) that actually flex/move at highway speeds.

    4) The automatic transmission unit may be reliable in this car, but in the rental Camry I experienced, it was detestable due to its unrefined shift quality and indecisive nature around the city stop and go traffic.

    5) The fabric quality and seat comfort of at least the front seats in the cloth trimmed rental Camry I had was laughable.

    6) THE OVERALL REFINEMENT & QUALITY OF THE NEW CAMRY IS FAR LOWER THAN NOT ONLY THE 1993 ERA CAMRY, BUT THE 1998 CAMRY LE A FRIEND OF MINE OWNED FELT LIKE A LEXUS THAT MADE THIS NEW CAMRY FEEL LIKE A SCION BY CONTRAST. This is not wistful sentimentality, but a solid statement based on familiarity with all three circa Camrys (or Camries?). Even the ancient 4 cylinder that powers this bloated but this veneered carcass feels 300% less refined than either the 1998 Camry LE I spoke of, or EVEN A 2003 COROLLA I ONCE HAD AS A LOANER (I believe a 1.8 liter).

    7) I hate the manner by which Toyota has sucked what used to be the premium feel of the Camry out of the car, bit by bit, like a pond being slowly drained over time. Death by many thousands of paper cuts

    8) The new Sonata (2015) feels far better and closer to the premium-ness of the 1998 Camry LE I earlier referenced in terms of ride quality, interior fit & finish and material quality, quietness, switchgear quality’ and overall goodness. When contrasting the Sonata and Camry on an X & Y Axis in terms of premium feel, their attributes form an X on the chart over the last decade.

    9) Long term reliability & DURABILITY is the big unknown on the Sonata, and Hyundai hasn’t exactly won accolades in terms of its reputation in honoring its much touted 10 year/100k mile warranty. Additionally, HYUNDAI NOT ONLY LOST ITS PRICE ADVANTAGE VS TOYOTA’S CAMRY LEVEL VEHICLES, BUT THE SONATA NOW COSTS MORE BY SEVERAL THOUSAND DOLLARS IN TERMS OF REAL WORLD TRANSACTION PRICES due to Toyota’s very aggressive pricing and promotional tactics of late, clearly designed to keep Camry as #1 or #2 on the best selling sedan list in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I forgot:

      10) Even with everything said above- and I promise this is true – after I rented the 2014 Cadillac ATS with 6,500 miles on it that I so detested a while back, that was already falling apart at the seams and laughably small inside with poor ride quality, an unrefined motor and crappy transmission – I received a plain Jane Camry 4 banger about 5 weeks later, and it was more refined in terms of ride and motor, quieter, far more spacious fore and aft, and a welcome relief from then crappiness of the Cadillac ATS/G6.

      Given that I could buy the Camry LE for 17k to 18k new, while even a very base ATS would cost north of 30k, the Camry is still a no brainer. This is even more profoundly true given that the Camry will be a trouble free vehicle mechanically for 100s of thousands of miles, while the ATS will basically have most of its parts replaced before 100,000 miles, and that the Camry can be sold used in five years for more than the 2x as expensive when new ATS.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Iv’e got news for you. Used 2013-2014 Camry’s are going for the same price as same year used Malibu’s and Fusions in LT or SE trim levels in 3 of 4 used car dealerships we visited this past weekend. Look it up on auto trader. Our rental 2014.5 Camry already failed me with a partially dead battery causing me to be hours late for work for no explainable reason. Even the attendant at Enterprize said they brought this very same car in for this problem and they could find thing wrong naturally. There are teachers at work with late model ATS and CYS sedans mainly AWD cars with the 3.6 engine and nobody has had any of the issues you describe with your rental car and none have been unreliable so it goes without saying that experiences can vary drastically from one place to the next.

      • 0 avatar
        izzy

        Reliability, a minor inconvenience. What you get at Cadillac is a global luxury brand that anybody that is anybody will aspire to.
        Let’s face it DW, you are not the type of young professional that would appreciate being seen in a Cadillac. Or, going to Michelin-star restaurant.
        Yours Truly,
        M. Lee

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      So, you’re saying the Sonata is…the Cadillac of automobiles?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “The paint can’t resist highway stone chips at all, the sheet metal is wafer thin”

      Camrys have been like this for years, couldn’t tell you how many 90’s-era Camrys I see with rust in the rear wheel wells, chipsflakey paint galore, dents, reliable cars yes, they just have a cheap wrapper around them.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      But other than that, you agree with Jack, right Deadweight? :)

      The range of opinions that can form over supposedly boring automobiles is interesting. Some thoughts about your Camry observations:

      1. This car has some cheapo interior points and had fallen behind the curve. Supposedly the 2015 refresh brings the switchgear and fake aluminum back into realistic levels. But you have to trade it for horrible exterior styling.
      2. I don’t agree on the automatic, I thought it was smooth on upshifts and responsive on downshifts. The H/K and especially Ford 6-speed units haven’t been.
      3. To me, this Camry’s 4-cylinder is a bit more refined than the 6, notably more than the H/K, and exponentially more than the Nissan. Been too long since I’ve tried the Ford 1.6 or a Honda to compare those.
      4. Unclear if your rental was an LE or SE, but the two shouldn’t be confused, not least of all regarding the seats. The SE seats are nearly as firm and supportive as those in my Jetta sportwagen and I love those VW seats. The LE seats are softer and have cheaper-feeling fabric.
      5. I owned a 1996 Lexus-Camry for a number of years and while that had superior interior materials there isn’t much more to recommend it over this. I’d rather own this SE for the driving experience alone and wouldn’t feel much nostalgia over not having soft-touch plastics down to the doorsills. Well, the 96 did have better paint but even so, nowhere near as chip-resistant as my VW.

      To summarize my counterpoint that has probably put anyone else reading it to sleep:

      Camry SE = worth buying. 2014 Camry LE = no bueno, buy an Optima. 2015 Camry = I hope they fixed the interior ’cause the 2015 Sonata 2.4 looks to be a great alternative.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Let me guess, that Mazda 6 drive will be making its way into Car and Driver? That should make a good read, something better than that performance CUV comparison thing they did last issue, blech, that one had way too many “Verbs like a noun” phrases.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Got a 2014 Camry SE from Enterprise for two weeks last summer. It was absolutely dire. The anemic four was both slow and thirsty. The car felt disconnected from the road yet the ride was poor. And the pleather seats seemed to be mostly plastic offering little seat adhesion.

    A rental car and not a good one.

    Automobile Mag just ended their 12 month test of the Accord V6 coupe and stated what others, including C&D said, that the 4 cylinder Accord sedan is the superior car –

    “we had chosen the wrong version of the right car.”
    http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/12_month_car_reviews/1503-2014-honda-accord-ex-l-v-6-coupe-four-seasons-wrap-up/

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Wow you guys are easily impressed. The 2.5 Toyota engine is good in the Winter and warms up fast. Well news flash so did every single Chevy Impala I have owned. Even ones with 180K miles with the 3800 engine which also started every time without a hitch. We have 4-5 months of the year with extremely harsh Winters and January – March can see temps in the -20 range at night and in the morning.

    The rental Camry 2014.5 SE we spent a weekend with was one of the most mediocre cars I have ever rented. Hell I was more impressed with a 2LT Chevy Cruze. The 2.5/6 speed automatic are average at best in most areas. In fact we just blew away an identical 2012-2013 SE 2.5/auto just like in this test with my friend’s 2015 Sonata and he had it in Eco mode. The Sonota 2.4 is so much more robust feeling than the Camry’s 2.5 it isn’t even funny. As for mileage we saw 30.1 combined in 20 degree weather with 50/50 type driving with his Sonata this past weekend stopping in car lots and thrift stores like we do every so often. The rental 2014.5 Camry SE saw a best of 27 combined in the same exact ape of driving and never got over 33 on the open road despite being rated for 35 and warmer temps than we encountered this past weekend.

    Wrap your knuckles on the exterior door of said Camry and then do it on his Sonata or my 2013 Impala. The difference is shocking. Toyota must use the most wafer thin sheet metal in existence. The headliner fares no better. Ours feels thick and substantial. The Camry’s feels like it is about as thick as a dime and feels and sounds super flimsy. Then there are the dash vents in our rental Camry which actually popped out while we were going over railroad tracks. The thin plastic clips were barely keeping them in place and a 2 year old could have pulled them out!

    The seats are reasonably comfortable in the Camry but the horrific cloth material used feels like sand paper and is a nightmare to clean. the all black interior of our SE rental was depressing and the fake silver looked as though it would not hold up long. In fact the shift indicator on the floor console was already showing wear with less than 10K on the clock!

    Driving the rental 2014.5 Camry was very unremarkable. The steering was lousy and very limp and felt like it was injected with Novocain. Handling was good but his Sonata or a good late model basic Accord Sport can easily out handle this car. We know because we tried it for real!

    The worst part was to present itself the following morning in my driveway and made me late for work. The ubber reliable Camry lost some of it’s reliability in the form of a no start click click condition. I left nothing on and this was a late model under 10K car and the battery was already partially dead. I had to charge it for an hour just to get it to start up. For some unknown reason the battery drained itself sitting over night with no explanation. I took the car back and explained what happened and the attendant apologized and said that this car was already taken in for this exact problem a month before with no problems found. Yikes! The gave me a free upgrade to a full size the next time I came in for my trouble which I was okay with.

    The other issue we had with this car was it’s total lack of features considering it was a mid level SE model that stickered for over 25K. Power seat. Nope. Lighted visor mirrors. Not on this car. Climate control or dual zone controls. Nada. XM radioremote assistance. No way. Rear air vents or remote start. No offered on this model! It didn’t even have retained accessory power which makes me wonder if a malfunctioning component was responsible for draining the battery.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      It’s another Classic Hit from Ponchoman: the dreaded 2014.5 rental experience. Played over and over and over again. Guuuugggghhhh…..

      Cars are a matter of taste, so if’ns you don’t like the Camry then more power to you. But, you’ve wandered into some areas that aren’t subjective so let’s address those:

      “In fact we just blew away an identical 2012-2013 SE 2.5/auto just like in this test with my friend’s 2015 Sonata and he had it in Eco mode.”

      Nope. Not if the Camry driver was exerting similar effort, you didn’t. All instrumented tests I’ve seen of these two cars show very similar results. I’ve driven both. The Hyundai feels fast because the throttle calibration in first gear is really touchy. Plant them both and you get similar results.

      “Handling was good but his Sonata or a good late model basic Accord Sport can easily out handle this car. We know because we tried it for real!”

      So did Jack. Came to the opposite conclusion. Provide me one reason to believe you over him.

      “The ubber reliable Camry lost some of it’s reliability in the form of a no start click click condition.”

      Wow, a sample size of one. I mean, I’m impressed when someone shows me a great regression line from two data points, but you’ve outdone even that and created an entire reality out of one.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Jack, did somebody with Asperger’s syndrome piss you off recently? New girlfriend have a kid getting under you skin?

    References to Asperger’s (in lieu of anal retentive?) have popped up in your last few reviews; the first couple of times it was funny but now it is starting to sound kind of cruel. Surely there is a new disability you can make fun of.

  • avatar

    It’s strange, but looking at the 2015 Camry has made me realize how clean and stately the pre-facelift Camry was. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, it seems…

    And yes, I like the three-spoke wheel in the Camry SE. It seems they’ve gone three-spoke only for the 2015 Camry, and all of the unibody Toyotas seem to have three-spoke wheels now.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    These really are good cars. I’ve had them as rentals several times, and I always looked forward to them, especially if I had a bad/long day before. they are a great place to eat up miles. They remind me of your favorite recliner that helps you relax. Nothing exciting or hugely fun, but a pleasant place to be. I know its cliche to say “I want a wagon” on a car site, but I really mean it. Hell, I’d have thought about living with a slushbox. Unfortunately for the Camry, a week with a Focus hatch and then a Fiat 500 convinced me that i’d rather have a smaller car with that extra door on the back then a bigger sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I too would love a Camry wagon, and given how quick, smooth and direct the 6A is, I don’t even need the stick. Or even a 5 door hatchback in the style of the 1st gen Camry would be really neat. Not a chopped-butt hatchback but in the style of the Saab 9000, it’s an incredibly practical shape.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @gtemnykh- after renting a Fiat 500 for a week, I realize that in my case, because I don’t carry rear passengers often and can just fold the back seat, the access provided by the hatch and how much easier it makes loading, unloading, and sorting of cargo is what I need. I’d like a box on wheels like a wagon – the more space the merrier – but even something like the old Mazda 6 liftback or the Scion TC mentioned below would help. Like I said at, this point, I think the Fiat would be more practical for me than a Camry.

  • avatar
    Occam

    i have that same 2.5L in my tC. It’s not a premium-drinking performance engine like the Civic Si, nor a fuel sipping dud like the 1.8s in the Corolla and Civic.

    The best description of the tC is “a slightly smaller 4-cylinder Camry with two-doors, a lower center of gravity, wider tires, two doors, and the option to row your own gears.” It shares the Camry’s tendency, as noted in past TTAC article, of oversteering and then snapping into line with a touch of the brake, or even a lift of the throttle.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @Occam – I wish that description was the case, as a stick shift hatchback Camry would be about what I am looking for, but the Scion has much poorer fuel economy than the Camry despite the similar drivetrain. Can’t figure that one out.

      • 0 avatar
        Occam

        My guess: shorter gearing (it can easily start in 2nd, even with a slight uphill), and a higher drag coefficient. That’s said, my fuel economy has averaged in the high 20s (usually around 28-29, 50/50 city/highway). City is better than expected, but highway is worse (seems to be around 26/32 city/hwy for me).

        Gear Ratios
        1st 3.300
        2nd 1.900
        3rd 1.420
        4th 1.000
        5th 0.713
        6th 0.608

        Differential: 3.364

        TC

        First Gear Ratio (:1):3.54
        Second Gear Ratio (:1):2.05
        Third Gear Ratio (:1):1.38
        Fourth Gear Ratio (:1):1.03
        Fifth Gear Ratio (:1):0.88
        Sixth Gear Ratio (:1):0.73

        Final Drive Axle Ratio (:1):4.06

  • avatar
    mechaman

    It’s certainly handsomer than what followed – a cross between a baleen whale and Spongebob with a Coach Ditka mustache..

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