Sunday Drive: Camry is the No. 1 best-selling car in the US
Three years ago, for the 2018 model year, Toyota chose to completely redesign its best-selling model, the Camry. This model hasn’t just led the Toyota lineup; the Camry has been the best-selling sedan in America almost every year for the past 20-plus years.
Having the No. 1 car for so long is really quite a feat, and Toyota would love to keep that statistic in its corner as it regularly moves more than 400,000 units a year. Even during the past year with the worldwide pandemic, Toyota sold more than 250,000 in the U.S. alone. The new Camry is, in our opinion, one of the best redesigns to come out during the past few years.
This new design was a must for Toyota since there are now so many Camrys on the road that they have become almost invisible. A design that was different and compelling was needed when they went back to the drawing board, and turning heads was not the only requirement. It was also essential to offer an engaging drive equipped with all the technology and safety features Toyota could offer.
After spending another week with the ever-popular Toyota Camry, we can say this version is a home run for the manufacturer. They should continue to move out dealers’ inventories at the same torrid pace as in past years. However, Toyota has become its own worst enemy as their Rav4 has actually outsold the Camry during the last four years, as many boomers and millennials are turning to compact SUVs.
From the new front end to the rear dual tailpipe on the XSE, the new design has looks that are going to attract attention wherever the new Camry is headed. The new front has an aggressive look that includes a two-part grill and embedded Toyota emblem that carried a blue shade on the hybrid that we drove.
The XSE comes complete with LED lights all around, and the headlights were self-leveling and would bend or move into the curve with the vehicle. We would never have expected something like that on a Camry! The hood has creases that continue the aggressive theme, and the rest of the sheet metal has been assembled in a way that’s sure to attract looks as it moves down the road.
The 18-inch wheels were standard on the top trim level hybrid and designed to help the Camry eke out every extra mpg possible. The Camry can be had with a V6 if desired, but most will opt for the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that came in the hybrid version. The hybrid is also equipped with an electric motor that can power the vehicle up to 25 mph in electric-only mode and give added horsepower when needed over that speed.
The Camry hybrid gets 176 horsepower from the gas engine and an additional 118 horsepower from the electric motor. The EPA says the Camry should get 44 city and 47 highway; we averaged right near the 45 mpg mark after attempting to run the 13 gallons of fuel out during the week. This included a trip to Ogden and a Sunday Drive to Salt Lake, up Parleys Canyon, on to Heber and home to Springville along with all our normal driving for the week. After traveling almost 400 miles, there was still a quarter tank left when we exchanged for a new vehicle.
The interior of the Camry continued to impress us with the new completely redesigned dashboard that was more a work of art than a normal view from the front seat. It now curves and bends from each side of the car, winding its way to a point just right of center on the passenger side and ending at a kind of triangle point. This accented the placement of the upgraded 8-inch touch screen, which was surrounded in a high-gloss black plastic.
There were manual controls that were easy to understand and utilize while navigating through different screens as well as controlling the volume level and climate in front. Dual climate was standard with the XSE package.
Also included with our test ride was a 10-inch heads-up display in full color that projected all kinds of information onto the front windshield. We remembered back a few years ago to when we drove our first vehicle with a heads-up display — a BMW 6 series that was priced north of $70,000. It was monochrome and showed only the speed and tachometer. Now, that same technology has come to the point where it is full color and standard in a vehicle at half the price!
Wanting to make Camry an even quieter ride, Toyota engineers incorporated a variety of new noise, vibration and harshness countermeasures that were previously found exclusively on luxury models. These include sound absorbing/insulation through the fitment of a hood insulator and upper and lower fender separator. The passenger compartment is further insulated from the engine and road noise using foam/vibration-dampening materials throughout the vehicle along with a thicker dash silencer mat across the entire interior firewall section.
Furthermore, a special vibration-damping coating has been applied over a wider area of the underfloor. It is joined by noise-proofing material, encompassing more surface area of the interior’s ceiling. Wind noise has been suppressed through a newly designed rain gutter molding and a reduction in the step at the bottom of the windshield. This all added up to make the Camry one of the quietest rides we have experienced at this price point.
Even the front seats have been redesigned with ergonomics in mind to make them as comfortable and easy to use as possible. They also match the new athleticism DNA that has been injected into the Camry and can be had in three different colors on different trim levels. Ours came in a nice light Macadamia leather. At our age, we liked the color; however, with kids, it would be better to choose the black instead. The seats, of course, were heated for those cold winter days.
The Camry proved to be an easy vehicle to get around in, especially in tight quarters, and on the open road it handled very well. During our trip up Parleys, the hybrid stayed right at 70 mph without even breaking a sweat.
Standard was Toyota’s new Safety Sense that includes a backup camera, intelligent cruise control, front crash and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, and automatic high-beam headlamps. Standard also on the XLE were blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection.
Whether or not the Camry will remain at the top spot in sales again this coming year is yet to be seen, and with crossovers all the rage, it will be a hard task to accomplish. However, the designers at Toyota have done everything in their power to make it so. If sedans are still something you enjoy, this new Camry is a fantastic choice. See them today at Brent Brown Toyota at 1400 S. Sandhill Road, Orem, 801-224-1320.
Base price: $32,720
Price as driven: $36,974