I’m sure I’ve said this before, but the Toyota Camry holds a lifetime of memories for me. Throughout my childhood, my mom owned a series of various years and trim levels of the Camry (between 1990 and 2007); each responsible for getting the kid version of me to and from school, extra-curricular activities, and friends’ houses. However, the 2007 Camry Hybrid was the last of the Toyotas to grace my parents’ garage, and a six-cylinder model was never purchased at all. I was pretty ecstatic when I knew that this 2014 Toyota Camry SE V6 was on the press fleet, and just had to book a week with it.
Some people get excited about Mercedes-Benz AMG cars, while others become giddy when American muscle shows up in our garage. When we picked up the Camry, my colleague laughed and said “no other writer could have a grin this wide because of a Camry”. I’ll admit that’s probably true, but that’s not necessarily because of the car itself – getting behind the wheel of the 2014 Camry just flooded me with familiarity, and I was overcome with emotions. This car may never have been the most exciting, but it has always had a magic recipe that helps it sell in boatloads – I’ll talk about this recipe a bit later.
The Camry has always had an impeccably smooth engine, shared across the Toyota/Lexus lineup with models such as the ES350, GS350, Venza, RX350, etcetera. The 3.5L V6 on board my tester puts out a very competent 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. This is good for a 6-second run to 100 km/h, which is not slow in the slightest. No manual transmission is available on the Camry anymore – all models (both four and six-cylinder variants) are given the six-speed automatic. My SE came with paddle shifters, which work pretty well. I never found a shortage of passing power at any rate, and the Camry boots along the highway very respectably. The SE’s sportier suspension makes for a nice, tight ride; if not a little too harsh for a midsize sedan.
I personally feel that if opting for the sporty SE trim, one should forego the 4-cylinder option and go straight for the V6. Base sticker on the SE V6 is just a hair over $29,000. My test car was equipped with the Premium Package, which for $3020, adds a premium JBL stereo, Blind Spot Monitor, heated leather/ultrasuede seats, and theft deterrent systems. A sunroof, 18″ wheels, and full body skirt package including a rear lip spoiler are all standard on the SE trim. The car does look the part of an elegant, sporty sedan. In order to set off the looks more, I do wish it were a tad lower. I parked it right beside a clean 1990 Camry sedan at one point, and while both cars are stylish in their own way, I couldn’t help but notice just how tall the 2014 model sits.
Infotainment on-board the Camry is the same as it has been for a couple years. It really is worth mentioning just how good the JBL stereo sounds – the 10-speaker system has just enough bass, treble, and midrange to complement any genre of music. It’s willing to play music via USB, Bluetooth, or auxiliary cable – I chose to connect my iPod using USB. This system premiered on the Camry in 2007, and I’ve been singing it praises since. My tester was also equipped with navigation, and while it’s easy to input addresses and use, its graphics are pretty dated and could use a bit of an upgrade. Then again, main competitors that I consider class-leading (Honda Accord and Mazda6) also have fussy navigation systems.
There isn’t really much not to like about the Camry. I wish that the SE had beefier brakes and slightly tighter steering – it doesn’t really like corners as much as the “sporty” model should. Even though I adore the Mazda6, there’s no escaping the fact that it doesn’t offer a 6-cylinder option. This V6 may have gobs of power and be very satisfying, but it is not as efficient as it could be. Doing mainly highway driving, I couldn’t do much better than 9.4L/100km. Over the course of my test week, I saw an average of 9.6L/100km on regular-grade fuel.
As I was saying before, the Toyota Camry has a recipe to it. The majority of midsize sedan buyers don’t care about passionate driving involvement, performance, handling, and in most cases, features. Their most important criteria is value for the dollar, efficiency, safety, and typically interior room. This Camry has a ton of space, everything is clearly labelled and easy to use, and most of all, it’s popular. Everyone and their neighbour has had some or the other experience with a Camry over the years, and it’s the safe choice.
Back when my parents bought their first Camry, I was but a mere toddler, and didn’t really have much of a say in major household decisions. I know my dad cross-shopped the Honda Accord but eliminated it because it lacked features that the Camry had (our 1990 sedan had automatic headlights and 60/40 split-folding seats). That 1990 must have been great, because when the time came to replace it, the man didn’t even bother to test drive anything else – for many years he would just go to the Toyota dealer and buy the newest one. A loyal customer base, flawless reliability, and conservative styling has gone a long way with what has become one of the best-selling cars in North America.
2014 Toyota Camry SE V6