Toyota Camry review

The longtime family favorite has a mid-life crisis

Toyota Camry XSE

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A former Toyota representative once told me, "the Camry is a safe purchase. No one will ever say you made a bad decision, but no one will ever commend you for it either."

Toyota Camry

This statement holds true after my week with the Toyota Camry. It's not a bad car, but it's not exciting either. The technology that Toyota employs, both for infotainment and driver assists, while still new-ish for the midsize sedan segment, already feels outdated compared to its hungrier competitors.

We liked

I really liked the seats in the Camry XSE. They provide support in the right places for me, and the adjustable lumbar helps reduce lower back pains. The seats have excellent side bolster support for aggressive driving. The ultrasuede inserts don't get as cold or hot as pure leather seats do either, which my bum appreciates during the winter.

Toyota's blind spot monitor is simple and effective. It helps a lot when driving at night in the pouring rain, because you never know when someone forgot to put on their headlights and is in your blind spot.

After driving the latest Camry, I can see the appeal of it. The powertrain is sleep-inducingly smooth. The 6-speed automatic is one of the smoothest shifting transmissions I've ever driven. Toyota's 2.5-liter, four-cylinder motor never feels underpowered either.

We disliked

Adaptive cruise control in the Camry was disappointing. While Hyundai, Kia, Mazda and even Nissan offer full-speed-range adaptive cruise control that can stop the car in its mid-size vehicles, Toyota gives the Camry a system that turns off at speeds below 25 mph. This makes it worthless for frustrating stop-and-go traffic commutes.

The infotainment system was designed to check off as many boxes as possible regarding features, without any usability studies. I'm not sure how Toyota managed to leave out something so simple as being able to browse a flash drive by folder. There's also a ton of phone-connected apps, but most of them are worthless, unless you want to use software that's clunkier and slower than your phone.

My last disappointment is the suspension. While I like how the SE and XSE visual treatments look compared to the other models, the sport suspension that comes with it is too stiff. I never thought I'd complain about a Toyota being uncomfortable, but there's a first time for everything. I wouldn't be too opposed to a stiffer suspension if it made the car handle incredibly, but it doesn't, so the Camry SE and XSE just makes you suffer with minimal gains.

Final verdict

As a car enthusiast, the Camry is everything that's wrong with the car buying public, but not everyone is an enthusiast. It's a boring car that does nothing to bring excitement or advancement to the mid-size sedan segment, despite how bold Toyota wants you to think the car is with its advertising campaigns.

However, the Camry is a car for those that want a reliable means of transportation with some amenities, without being cutting edge. The best metaphor I can make for the Camry is that it's like when I buy new shoes. I've purchased the same pair of DC Court Graffik shoes multiple times since 2005, occasionally going with a different color combination or shoelace color.

Toyota Camry

That's how I imagine the Camry demographic is. It's the same reliable car your grandparents and parents bought, and passed down to you, but when it was getting long in the tooth, you traded up to a newer one that's familiar, but slightly different. While it's not how I choose to buy cars, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being that type of buyer.

Infotainment and driver assist technologies aside, the Camry is a fine car. It's not necessarily the sexiest or most dynamic, but you can't really go wrong with it, if you want the generic definition of a car. If you're willing to give other brands a try, there are better-driving cars out there, like the Mazda 6, and more technologically-advanced cars, like the Kia Optima and Honda Accord.

If you must stick with the Toyota Camry, I suggest forgoing the better looks of the SE or XSE trim levels for the comfort of the XLE.