2015 Toyota Camry V-6 First Drive
Getting There Faster
Excitement isn't the stock and trade of midsize sedans. These cars are meant to get you from A to B comfortably and efficiently with plenty of room for passengers and stuff. Going fast isn't really the idea, and to wit, all but one of the Camry's competitors has dropped their V-6 engine in favor of a little turbocharged four-cylinder. Despite all the changes to the 2015 Camry, though, its big V-6 soldiers on.
The reason, Toyota says, is simple: It works. The 3.5-liter V-6 has proven itself reliable and versatile over the years. More than that, it still makes class-competitive power and returns class-competitive fuel economy. Why reinvent the wheel? What the data sheets don't tell you is that it's also a sweetheart of an engine. It feels more powerful than the numbers would suggest and delivers that power in a nice, smooth, linear pull all the way up to redline, producing a nice, soft growl along the way. In the Camry, it's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that's generally quite smooth, but will give you a small bump on downshifts. It's not quite as smooth as the four-cylinder powertrain, but it's pretty good.
As the V-6 powertrain is unchanged for 2015, and because Toyota says the new car weighs about the same as the old one, it's more than likely the performance will also be unchanged. The last V-6 Camry we tested, a 2012 SE model, weighed 3320 pounds and hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds (0.2 second slower than a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost). It needed only 14.2 seconds to finish the quarter-mile and did so at 100.6 mph (one tenth of a second slower than the Mustang but nearly 3 mph faster). Stopping that Camry from 60 mph required 120 feet. Out on the skidpad, it pulled 0.81 g average and completed our figure-eight test in 27.2 seconds at 0.66 g average (significantly slower than the Mustang, in case you were wondering). Likewise unchanged from that 2012 model is the EPA-estimated fuel economy, which rings in at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.
The 2015 Camry V-6 is still quick, then, but that's not the real story. While Toyota left the drivetrain alone, a great deal of work was done elsewhere. Working from the inside out, we find a stiffer chassis that's been stuffed with more sound insulation for a rigid and whisper-quiet cabin. An updated suspension greatly increases body control, reducing roll in corners and bobbing over bumps. The car feels much more buttoned-down and confident, but still rides very well. For my money, the SE and XSE models are the way to go, as their "sportier" suspension tuning provides better body control than the LE and XLE, which feel a bit more floaty and bouncy.
Steering and brakes have been updated. The former has been retuned to be more responsive and provide more feel (debatable), while the latter are actuated by a new booster that greatly improves pedal feel. Put it all together and you have a car that is much more responsive than the one it replaces. Responsive, though, doesn't necessarily mean exciting. Rather, the Camry feels very capable, but also very dispassionate. It goes around a corner perfectly competently and confidently, but without any enthusiasm. It's good, but it's not fun.
Moving into the interior, the 2015 Camry receives a great deal of attention to both design and quality. While the new dashboard and door panels feature a fairly conservative design, it's much more modern than the very outdated look of the old car. The materials throughout are markedly improved, save a few out-of-the-way bits that still look and feel cheap but don't call attention to themselves. The standard Entune audio, information and (optional) navigation system features a simple and intuitive user interface backed by a touchscreen that responds immediately to your inputs. It's flanked by massive buttons that appear to have been stolen off your grandmother's telephone, but that's a small quibble. Also slightly disappointing on these high trim-level cars is the lack of a cooled seat option in addition to the heated seats, as much of the competition is doing. The V-6 engine is only available on higher-spec trims, meaning you won't make the mistake of ordering the base LE interior, which is horribly downgraded.
Continuing on outside of the car, we find all-new sheetmetal save the roof, which you're never going to look at anyway. As with the interior, the new look is a big improvement over the old car – it's more mature and more modern. If you're going with the V-6 engine, pick the SE or XSE trims, as they're not only sportier underneath, but feature a better-looking grille and wheels.
All in all, the 2015 Camry V-6 is a greatly improved car compared to the one it replaces. It looks better, it's more comfortable, and it drives better, even if it isn't emotional about it. Midsize sedans like this may be more about the destination than the journey, but if you want to get to there a bit quicker than the rest, the Camry V-6 might be the car for you.