This story has been updated to include new information.
Few vehicles have consistently dominated the competition as the Toyota Camry has, so one might traditionally expect it to deliver only the most modest of mid-cycle updates. But the 2015 Camry “refresh” is anything if conservative. The Japanese giant has rolled out an unexpectedly significant update that seems bound and determined to help Camry maintain its position as America’s best-selling passenger car.
Until recently, that dominance would seem hard to question, but Camry has been facing threats from a variety of fronts, including the Ford Fusion, the Nissan Altima – which actually claimed brief sales leadership in January and February – and from the Hyundai Sonata which is undergoing a major redesign that’s also debuting at this year’s New York Auto Show.
Toyota got a sign that the market was shifting when it launched the current version of the Camry in late 2011. It received an unexpectedly cold response from dealers who saw an early prototype barely 18 months before launch, a big chill severe enough to force the maker to rush through a number of exterior changes late in the game.
So, this time, the maker isn’t taking any chances, and claims to have “re-imagined nearly every exterior surface of the car,” to the point where the only carryover piece of sheet metal is the roof.
“This is the biggest segment in the industry and everybody is upping their game,” said Toyota division general manager Bill Fay, noting that almost 2,000 different parts have been changed for 2015.
“Customers today love the durability, quality and value that the Camry represents, but they are looking for a little more style, comfort and performance, and this 2015 Camry has all of the above,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.
The newly update Camry is in line with the commands of Akio Toyoda, the company’s CEO and grandson of its founder, who has been demanding more “passion” from the carmaker’s designers and engineers –something he describes using the Japanese term, wakudoki.
The changes in the 2015 Camry are more than skin deep. The updated sedan’s chassis has been updated, among other things, with more welds to make it more rigid. And when a retuned suspension is added, Toyota claims it will deliver a more sporty and compelling ride. The electronic power steering has also been revised, Toyota says, to deliver better on-center feel.
Despite riding on the same basic platform, the new model has been stretched 1.8 inches, incidentally, and grows 0.4 inches wider, giving it a more planted and athletic appearance. A new body line that stretches rearward from the front fender is intended to convey a sense of motion, and a newly revised trapezoidal grille is aimed at lowering the car’s visual center of gravity.
Curiously, while the recently updated Corolla got the decidedly upscale addition of LED headlamps, the 2015 Toyota Camry will offer them only as options. But it will use those more energy-efficient lights for front DRLs and turn signals.
Inside, the 2015 sedan attempts to answer critics who have lamented its extensive use of generic-looking plastic by adopting more refined and upscale materials and graining. There’s a larger console tray, more power connectors – including a USB jack – and a segment-first wireless cellphone charging system is available.
The instrument cluster gets a new TFT display and 3D gauges, with animated displays for a variety of vehicle and infotainment system functions.
Seating now can be ordered with anything from “premium” cloth up to leather and ultrasuede.
And, in keeping with Toyota tradition, the maker claims to have worked hard to make the latest update the quietest Camry ever.
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On the safety front, the 2015 Toyota Camry will boast such features as Lane Departure Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System with Auto High Beams, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
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Under the hood, the 2015 model will stick with the current powertrain range, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V6 gas engines paired with 6-speed automatic transmissions, or a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle engine with Hybrid Synergy drive matched to an E-CVT.
Notably, the Camry Hybrid will now be offered with an optional SE-grade handling package for those who want to be green, said Toyota’s Bill Fay, but also desire a sportier ride.
With its reputation for quality and reliability, Toyota has long been able to hold onto a legion of loyal Camry buyers with what has traditionally been one of the midsize segment’s most conservative offerings.
The maker’s reputation has taken a few hits lately, notably with the $1.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department of a dispute over its handling of several safety recalls. But it nonetheless maintains an intensely entrenched owner base – few more loyal than those driving the Camry.
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That said, the competition is firing away with some heavy weaponry, and Hyundai clearly seems intent on upping its game in the coming year with its next-gen Sonata, so there will be a lot riding on the unusually aggressive update of the 2015 Toyota Camry.