There’s an assumption that people are drawn to exciting things. Few of us aspire to modest homes and mass-market clothing. That’s what most of us get, though; Fallingwater and Chanel couture is not in the cards for the masses.
So the success of the Toyota Camry is a curious thing. It has been the best-selling passenger car in the United States for 12 years, but even loyal owners admit that although the sedan provides a sense of security, it evokes little emotion. There’s a concrete reason why few of us drive Bentleys. But the same money that buys a Camry can easily put a shopper into a Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Chrysler 200 or Mazda 6. All of them are good-looking, in my view, and make mundane shopping trips a pleasure.
Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s chairman, grasped this deficit and ordered a quick Camry makeover before newly svelte athletic sedans from other automakers seduced too many of the Toyota’s loyal customers. So for 2015, there’s a new Camry. Wait, make that a “bold” new Camry.
The car appears more modern, but I’ll reserve bold for the Lamborghini Huracán. Slab sides have been replaced with gentle sculpting; the face appears to be stolen from the Lexus design studio; and the hood has fine, taut strakes. The Camry gets demerits, though, for the faux window inserts at the rear of the car’s greenhouse.
Keep in mind that this is hardly an all-new car. The available powertrains—a 4-cylinder, a V6 and a gas-electric hybrid—are carried over. So is the underlying structure. The new Camry drives pretty much the same, too, although added insulation hushes cabin noise a bit. The interior will look familiar to last year’s Camry owner: only the “centre stack” of the dashboard is new. There’s also a new sporty trim level, the XSE.
What was once vanilla is now, well, French vanilla. Driving enthusiasts will continue to favour the Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. The automotive fashionista may continue to look down their hoods at the Camry, but truth be told, it’s a car that walks the design tightrope—if not the catwalk—quite well for those willing to trade in an old Camry for the new.
Talking to many current owners finds that they’re quite happy with the their cars. One was dismayed when I told her I was driving the “bold new Camry,” imagining that Toyota had turned it into some sort of Ferrari with fins and gills. Her fears were calmed once she laid eyes on the car. “It still looks like a Camry,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief. For some, a security blanket is much more appealing than a thrill ride.