Already well into its second model year after an extensive mid-cycle update, the bestselling Toyota Camry still looks fresh.
Its deep front grille, sharply angled projector headlamps, and forward-canted driving lights give it newfound assertiveness, followed by a side profile that looks longer and leaner than its predecessor’s, and finished off with elegantly minimalist taillights plus a nice and tidy rear design. Of course, plenty of chrome adds dazzle all around, while my top-line XLE tester’s dark satin-silver alloy wheels complement the car’s sporty elegance nicely.
Inside, the Toyota Camry XLE gets attractive white stitching on black or grey leather. The seats are particularly stylish and mimicked by similar white-stitched leatherette on the dash and armrests, along with premium soft-touch surfaces throughout the upper half of the cabin. The entire look is much more contemporary than Toyota’s past attempts at midsize luxury.
Then again, this XLE model still employed faux woodgrain that’s made worse by being bonded to cheap-feeling plastic, but at least it’s a dark matte design that doesn’t scream “I’m a fraud!!” as guiltily as some others in this class do. The various satin-finish, aluminum-look accents are much better, while all of the Camry’s switchgear is nicely fitted and well damped ― exactly what we expect from Toyota.
The centre stack gets large, attractive dials for audio on/volume and tune/scroll functions, plus the dual-zone automatic HVAC system’s left and right side temperature knobs, both big enough to use with winter gloves. Down on the rearmost portion of the lower console, variable front seat heaters offer more temperature settings than most rivals for yet another premium experience.
Toyota doesn’t add front cushion ventilation or seat heaters in the back, however, while this high-end trim level also lacks a heated steering wheel as well as a panoramic sunroof ― all unusual omissions considering how trendy these features are across the industry.
That said, the rear seats in the 2017 Toyota Camry are extremely comfortable with very good support, and plenty spacious with at least 3” of air above my medium-build 5’8” frame, another 3” next to my outer shoulder, 5-6” ahead of my knees, and loads of foot space down below, while an armrest with cupholders flips down at centre.
The large 436L trunk benefits from 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, although the pass-through is a bit smaller than that of some competitors, while Toyota has added a ribbed plastic backing designed to protect the seatbacks. I like carpeting better, however, being that anything placed on top doesn’t slide around as much, while it’s also more resistant to scratching.
What about the drive?
As you might expect, the drive is comfort-oriented. The Toyota Camry glides down the road with effortless ease, my loaner’s 4-cylinder engine following this tranquil theme by hardly making a noise until extracting all of its 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. That might not sound like a lot of power by today’s standards, but trust me, this base powertrain makes the car plenty quick off the line while delivering ample highway passing power. Such thoughts of engine output send me back to the fall of 1986 when I took a second-generation Camry on a road trip and was wowed by its impressive 135 horsepower. We’ve sure come a long way in family sedan performance!
That sedan was a wonderful vehicle to drive for its time, none of us imagining how incredibly successful the Camry would become. It’s odd to think back to these simpler times and then contemplate all the features that are available now. We couldn’t have foreseen the 2017 Toyota Camry’s standard colour 6.1” touchscreen, or for that matter the concept of a backup camera or connecting our smartphones via USB or Bluetooth. Heck, cellphones weren’t even popular yet.
Before I turn this review into a trip down memory lane for those of us with such memories (or lack thereof), the $24,970 base Camry’s standard list continues with power heated side mirrors, remote entry, power windows, auto on/off headlamps, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, air conditioning, 6-speaker audio, all the usual safety features plus 10 airbags including dual front knee blockers and rear side-impact airbags, and more.
Generously equipped Camry XLE
The XLE trim, which begins four levels above the base LE, passing SE and XSE with a starting price of $31,805 when equipped with my tester’s 4-cylinder or $36,520 with the available 268-horsepower 3.5L V6, gets standard LED daytime running lights, unique 17” alloys, proximity access, push-button ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, dual-zone automatic HVAC, a larger 7.0” infotainment display with navigation, satellite radio, a wireless device charger, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and 4-way power-adjustable passenger’s seat (both heated and leather-covered as noted earlier), plus a power glass sunroof, active safety technologies like blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, etc.
A good reason not to move up to the optional V6 is fuel economy. The 4-cylinder achieves a 5-cycle rating of 9.7L/100km in the city, 6.9L/100km on the highway, and 8.4L/100km combined; the V6 increases those numbers to 11.0, 7.7, and 9.5, respectively.
Then again, upgrading to the 3.5L mill adds a colour multi-information system with lane departure alert and a pre-collision system that can’t be had with the 2.5 XLE model, nor can safer, clearer LED headlamps, dynamic radar cruise control, and 10-speaker JBL audio. I’d like to see Toyota offer these top-tier features in a package or standalone with the 4-cylinder XLE, as buyers who want to do the right thing for the environment by choosing the more fuel-efficient, cleaner powertrain shouldn’t be penalized with poorer sound quality and especially fewer safety features. As it is, only the V6 XLE earns an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status, while all 2017 Toyota Camrys get a 5-star rating from the NHTSA.
Haters love to dis anything successful, but Toyota’s midsize sedan didn’t become as popular as it is today by lulling its owners to sleep. Certainly, its suspension is biased towards comfort and its ride borders on sublime, but even putting this XLE into a fast-paced set of curves proves it’ll hold its own unless pushed beyond reason. I’m not pretending it’s the sportiest car in its segment, but it takes to quick corners respectably, and more importantly it’s a fabulous high-speed freeway cruiser.
Truly, the Toyota Camry does most everything well. It might just be the ideal all-rounder, scoring high in nearly every category. As for reliability, Toyota is legendary for getting its owners where they’re going more often than not, the brand scoring first amongst mainstream volume manufacturers in J.D. Power’s latest Vehicle Dependability Study, with the Camry ranking third in its midsize class.
You should know that the Toyota Camry outsold its next bestselling Canadian competitor by more than 6% last year, while in the U.S. it topped its closest rival by 20%. Needless to say you can’t go wrong with a Camry, this well-equipped XLE model merely making the experience all the more rewarding.