2015 Toyota Camry: Pleasant surprises

8 Jul 2015 | 541 views | No Comment
By Don Hammonds Toyota's all-new 2015 mid-sized Camry is proof positive that you can make substantial changes to a popular model, and still keep--even grow--your customer base. Our road tests of the 2015 Camry XLE and the 2015 Camry Hybrid were some of the most surprising evaluations we've had from a Camry evaluation in years.  The new models are exactly as promised; new from stem to stern and back,   the only carryover piece, company officials said, was the  exterior roof. " And, for the 45 percent of Camry customers who have been choosing the sporty SE model (and who are, on average, 12 years younger than other Camry customers), there’s even bigger news," the release says." The SE is joined by an even sharper-handling XSE grade, with 18-inch wheels, suspension tuning and added luxury. Like the premium XLE grade, each of those sporty models is available with the choice of a 178-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or the 268-hp 3.5-liter V6. The Camry Hybrid returns, as well, available in LE, XLE and the eco-fun SE grades." When redesigning the Camry for 2015, Toyota went bumper to bumper and floor to roof, changing or re-engineering nearly 2,000 parts. Only the roof remains unchanged, and it caps off the boldest Camry body ever, company officials said. A lot of  emphasis was placed  on making the  new Camry a lot stronger. The body structure is stiffer with additional spot welds and that " provides an idea of the scope of the transformation that also endows the new Camry with a stiffer body structure, enhanced aerodynamics and its quietest ride ever. The redesigned, upscale interior, and advanced instrumentation with intuitive controls help keep the driver safely focused on the road. On all 2015 Camry models,  the suspension system has been retuned to offer a more sporty road feel, and provide a greater sense of  responsiveness.with  long list of improvements. 2015_Toyota_Camry_XLE_004 For instance, steering  and handling are much sharper, especially on the sportier SE and XSE, which we had seen at local dealers prior to testing the XLE and Hybrid models. Base prices range from $22, 970 to $29,980, before options. Though we would have liked to have seen a bit more new ground covered  by this new generational design, with a look that was not  so similar to the previous generation, we applaud Toyota for finding a very careful and successful middle road. Our favorite new styling and design  element on the new Camry  is the front end, with its dramatic  and steeply sloping hood and aggressive looking blacked out grille and slender, vertical turn signals installed on the lower corners of the front end. Perhaps the most surprising for us was the XLE model. It was quite a bit livelier on the road than prior models, and as we mentioned earlier, steering and handling were quite precise. In years past--let's say three to ten years ago--we've always found the steering to be way too light and over-assisted.  As a result, when driving Camrys of years gone by, we found ourselves making a number of corrections to make sure the car stayed on course. So what were some of the things Toyota did make  with the new generation? A company news release says, "The 2015 model is easily the best-handling and most comfortable-riding Camry ever. Beneath the bolder body lines the Camry’s body structure has been bolstered with additional spot welds to enhance rigidity. Retuned suspension systems in all models put an edge on handling agility while taking the edge off bumps." The 2015 model is easily the best-handling and most comfortable-riding Camry ever. Beneath the bolder body lines the Camry’s body structure has been bolstered with additional spot welds to enhance rigidity. Retuned suspension systems in all models put an edge on handling agility while taking the edge off bumps. "And, for the 45 percent of Camry customers who have been choosing the sporty SE model (and who are, on average, 12 years younger than other Camry customers), there’s even bigger news. The SE is joined by an even sharper-handling XSE grade, with 18-inch wheels, suspension tuning and added luxury. Like the premium XLE grade, each of those sporty models is available with the choice of a 178-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or the 268-hp 3.5-liter V6. The Camry Hybrid returns, as well, available in LE, XLE and the eco-fun SE grades," the Toyota news release says. An aggressive looking front bumper and grille, pronounced side character lines and low-profile LED headlamps give the new Camry a far more expressive style. It’s a sleeker look that’s also slightly longer (1.8 inches / 45 mm) and features a widened track (0.4 inches / 10 mm) that communicates a dynamic stance and presence, company officials say . In profile, a pronounced body line starts from the Camry’s muscular front fender and spans across the doors and rear quarter panel, conveying a sense of motion. Everywhere you look and touch, company the Camry presents premium materials, an overall roomier feel and enhanced amenities. Varying by model, seat cover textures range from premium fabric up to genuine leather trim and Ultrasuede with durable, high contrast French-stitching. Detailed stitching and satin chrome trim give the new Camry cabin a sophisticated appearance and luxurious feel. 2015_Toyota_Camry_XSE_014 The new center stack shows off a high-tech, upscale look that more smoothly integrates with the console,  company officials added. In their news release , they said," The center console plays a larger role than ever in modern cars, accommodating all manner of personal items as well as presenting multi-media functions. The Camry’s console tray offers more storage and a convenient power source in the storage box. The new enclosed bin in front of the shifter offers a 12v power port, USB port and a segment-first, available wireless charging system for select smart phones." The 2015 Camry offers in-demand advanced safety features including Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Auto High Beam Lane Departure Alert, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. That is, of course, in addition to the 10 standard airbags that include dual-stage advanced SRS front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver’s and front passenger’s knee airbag. Like all current Toyota vehicles, the 2015 Camry comes standard with the STAR Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. It also features the Smart Stop Technology brake-override system. For the maximum in customer assurance, the XLE grade offers the Safety Connect™ telematics system (with a one-year complimentary trial subscription), which covers four safety and security features: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and Roadside Assistance. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine produces 178 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of peak torque. It’s teamed with a standard six-speed automatic transmission, and the combination offers EPA-estimated 25 MPG city / 35 MPG highway fuel economy. The DOHC 3.5-liter V6, one of the few sixes available in the midsize segment, is available in the XLE and XSE grades and delivers 268 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,700 rpm, company officials say. It, too, is teamed to the six-speed automatic. EPA MPG estimates of 21 city / 31 highway are among the best for a V6, Toyota officials say. Both Camry gasoline engines employ Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i) which controls valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts for optimal performance and efficiency at all engine speeds. But just as we expected,  it was the 2015 Camry Hybrid that garnered the most attention. First, it was painted in a gorgeous dark blue shade, which made it look both elegant and expensive. All Camrys for 2015 bear  a striking resemblance to the Lexus  ES model,  but the blue shade played this up. . The hybrid felt  more responsive than ever, and  it is easily the most comfortable of the mid-sized hybrid models on the road, so it  is still the family car  hybrid to beat overall. The brakes were done well too, with no fade , no grabbing and plenty of  stopping  power. Now, about fuel economy. With its Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, the 2015 Camry Hybrid LE offers an EPA estimated 43 mpg city/39 mpg highway/41 mpg combined fuel economy. but Toyota is being quite conservative  with those figures. We have driven Camry Hybrids and  switched on the eco  drive mode, and cruise control, and gotten as much as 60 miles per gallon. Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive combines output from the 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor. The system produces a combined 200 horsepower and varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both, as needed. A 7.6-second zero-to-60 acceleration time places the Camry Hybrid’s performance between the four-cylinder and V6 models. Regenerative braking converts the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy when the brake is applied, storing it in the hybrid battery pack. Hill-start assist control helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when starting off on an incline when the brake pedal is released. Driver-selectable modes help the Camry Hybrid to get the most out of every gallon of gasoline. For example, ECO mode optimizes throttle response and air conditioning output to help prioritize fuel economy. You can select EV mode to operate the Camry Hybrid solely on the electric motor for up to 1.6 miles at lower speeds (below approximately 25 mph). A Hybrid System Indicator and fuel consumption indicator, located in the 4.2-inch TFT screen, helps the driver to operate the car as economically as possible. We only found one cause for complaint   in our Camry test cars. The gearshift was quite difficult to  move into gear; it was both stiff and balky and the unusual shift pattern on the console did not help matters either. Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against corrosion with no mileage limitation. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles. But overall, Camry is ending the model year  in the same position it held for many years past--at the top of the midsized car pile.

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