The 2019 Toyota Camry is once again a mainstay in the mid-size sedan segment; a rock-solid reputation for reliability and overall value will do that for you. Now, that’s all fine and good but when you’re in a segment that continues to lose customers to SUV segments, survival is not guaranteed – no matter how reliable your product.
But let’s give credit where it’s due. Toyota has always managed to make its Camry an attractive proposition to its clientele, which is why odds are very high someone in your circle of friends, family, etc. owns one. And fully conscious of the market trends that show consumers veering away from sedans, Toyota understood that reliability alone is no longer enough. The new edition of the Camry is thus a much more attractive car, which manages to outdo many of its segment rivals in terms of looks, which have become bolder and more athletic than ever.
For 2019 Toyota divides the product range into nine trims, including sportier editions like the SE, XSE and V6-equipped XSE. These actually have some distinct visual elements that distinguish them from other Camry trims, for example a more-aggressive front grille. Those other Camry are more sedate looks-wise, with their stretched-out grilles. Our tester for the week was one of these: the XLE (which is also available in hybrid version).
The Camry XLE is front-wheel drive with the traction control system (TRAC), and ours had the optional Navigation package (costing an extra $2,740). There’s a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control system and 18-inch alloy wheels (that come with the Navigation package, otherwise the XLE is shod in 17-inch wheels).
The current eighth-generation Camry, first introduced in 2017, benefits from embellishments and design tweaks that make it a much more attractive car than before, without there being any one radical change you can point at. And this prettier package is built on Toyota’s new TNGA modular architecture, same as found in a number of other models such as the 2020 Corolla.
Comfortable and well-designed inside
My XLE tester is relatively high-end inside, and though you wouldn’t quite call it luxurious there’s quite a gulf between what you get here and what’s in the Camry’s base models, which come across as almost bargain-basement in comparison.
The well-appointed and premium-feeling interior of the XLE might be the element that makes this the most compelling Camry trim for 2019, at least for those who prioritize plushness over sportiness.
My XLE was decked in elegant beige leather seating and trim, which to my mind made the car more inviting to spend time in.
Although, you could nitpick about the dashboard, which lacks a certain inspiration – this area could do with the same kind of dedicated esthetic upgrade as the exterior has gotten. Not that Toyota hasn’t made some progress: clearly some effort has been made to make the interior more distinctive, for example via the wood trim, not often found outside of luxury brands.
This being a Toyota sedan, the doors are large and the openings wide, making access easy and painless. Once inside, the roominess is evident. Legroom and headroom are ample and there’s a ton of elbow room as well.
The trunk meanwhile is wide and deep, less cavernous than a few of its segment rivals but plenty big enough. It’s elements like this that keep the Camry at the top of many shopper’s lists.
The interior is overall an ergonomically sound place. You’ll find any number of well-roganized little storage spaces for things like wallets, keys, smartphones, travel mugs and such.
There are also handy charging and USB ports, and you and your passengers can be serenaded by the premium JBL audio system while you work the Entune 3.0 system on the 7.0-inch touchscreen. The XLE and XSE versions can be had with an available 8.0-inch screen.
Competent and responsive, Entune is nonetheless a bit of a slog to master. It takes time to get through all the possible commands, and finding what you’re looking for is not always quick – which is problematic for those like me who are impatient in general.
CarPlay yes, Android Auto no
For many car buyers a big new add for the Camry this year is Apple CarPlay, now a standard feature. Unfortunately Android Auto is still not part of the deal. Maybe next year…
Safety is still for many buyers of sedans like this a key priority, and the Camry remains one of the best-equipped midsize four-doors in terms of features and functions.
Every version gets as standard equipment the Toyota Safety Sense package, which includes forward collision alert, automatic braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and adaptive cruise control. Good on Toyota for making these drive-assist technologies standard across the range.
Globally, the interior of the Camry in its XLE iteration is high-end enough that it will surpass the expectations of most buyers in this price range. Like the outside, the inside is a prettier place than before, it’s well-organized and its benefits from well-conceived accents. Ironically its very quality makes the base versions of the Camry suffer in comparison.
The powertrain and fuel consumption
The Camry XLE runs on a 2.5L 4-cylinder generating 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, which is an increase of 28 horses and 16 lb-ft of torque over the previous generation. That’s good, but it’s not as good as what you get from the V6 in the sportier versions of the Camry this year (which delivers 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. Still, the 4-cylinder, working in conjunction with an 8-speed automatic transmission, delivers improved performance over what the last-gen Camry benefited from.
In terms of fuel consumption, the official numbers for the Camry XLE are 8.5L/6.1L/7.4L/100 km (city/highway/combined). That’s impressive fuel economy for a sedan whose powertrain benefits from no electric support. The problem however is that I got nowhere near those total in my week of driving the car, which was in early spring with the last traces of snow still on the ground. True, I did a lot more city than highway, but my combined total was a disappointing 9.6L/100 km.
On the road
The Camry delivers a satisfying, comfortable ride in normal situations, ie when driver is not aggressive or in a hurry. The engine is, if I trust the official numbers, economical, and the transmission is responsive and competent enough not to make its presence felt. Nor is the engine overly loud.
But take it out of its comfort zone and it will let you know. It’s simply not as reactive as other similar engines found in the category, for example in the Camry’s eternal rival the Honda Accord, or in the Nissan Altima. If you tend to push your engine a little hard, but you want one that handles the pressure quietly and serenely, this is not for you.
The steering is light and a little ponderous but not annoyingly so, while I found the brake pedal stiff and a little too sensitive to my touch. Both those elements are improved when you switch to Sport mode. The stiffer chassis of the new Camry makes it slightly nimbler in corners; what improvement is apparent in terms of the handling is probably due in large part to the car’s new TNGA platform.
Speaking of drive modes, there are three of them drivers can toggle between using the knob next to the gear shifter: Normal, Sport and Eco. The latter obviously ensures the most fuel-economical ride plus it fits well with this particularly Camry’s character.
Overall, the Camry, with its stiffer body, is more pleasant to drive than previous, and it retains the qualities of comfort and reliability that have long constituted its main attributes. It’s a sedan configured for comfort and practicality, and it’s best not to ask it to go too far beyond that. But does it have to be so? As it happens I just recently drove the 2019 Honda Accord Touring edition, and it struck me how much livelier a drive that car delivered in comparison with the Camry.
So if you’re looking for an indestructible, comfortable and economical mid-size sedan, the Camry is it. But if you want more punch, then…
My Camry XLE is priced at $36,645, before additional fees. Prices range from $26,590 for the L base model to $41,190 for the Camry XLE hybrid version.
The Camry’s driving dynamics pale somewhat in comparison with some sportier segment rivals like the Honda Accord and the Mazda6, but its super comfortable, spacious and in those important respects it meets and even surpasses expectations. Plus it looks so much better than before, so much so that it’s easy to imagine the Camry now attracting buyers for its attractive design as much as for the value and unmatched reliability it offers.
- Much-improved exterior design
- Spacious interior
- Surprisingly high-end interior in the higher trims
- Standard Apple CarPlay
- Comfortable ride
We like less
- Base models interiors a little cheap-feeling
- No Android Auto
- Lack of sporty reflexes