2014 Toyota Camry: Old Guys Rule
For Southern California car and motorcycle enthusiasts, the small town of Ojai, two hours north of Los Angeles, is the gateway to the juiciest part of State Route 33, not a destination for spiritual retreats and galleries. The 40 miles of winding mountain road through the Los Padres National Forest is a beautiful blast, and pity the fool who finds himself behind the wheel of a Toyota Camry. You know, that famously appliance-like, soulless midsize sedan with cloak-of-invisibility styling and the driving dynamics of an overstuffed couch, right?
While indeed softer and more comfort-oriented, this midsize sedan isn't the unathletic wallflower dismissed in some circles, as was reaffirmed on SR 33 during our 8-car midsize sedan comparison test. Sure, the test's only V6 engine hustled the Toyota from one turn to the next, but the Camry also inspired enough confidence to maintain that hustle around some perilous cliff-side curves. It's indeed possible to have fun in a Camry, you just need the right road.
With that said, how the Camry performs on a great road is almost irrelevant. That's not why people buy a Camry, nor is it how people drive a Camry. Toyota's midsize sedan is a perennial best-seller because of its well-deserved reputation as roomy, comfortable, and reliable transportation. If you need practical excitement, the Ford Fusion and Mazda6 were the clear standouts in our test.
Driving impressions collected during our two-day, 500-mile drive highlighted the Camry's supple ride and responsive drivetrain. The Camry was the only car in our test fitted with a V6 engine, and while 268 horsepower is more than most midsize sedan buyers need, that feeling of smooth, abundant power definitely has its appeal. Still, most Camry buyers go with the 170-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, and that's generally what we recommend.
The Camry's generous interior dimensions were evident to all the editors moving in and out of our eight sedans. "Best rear headroom, very good legroom," declared one editor. Another noted its "great interior space, huge center console storage." Overall the Camry offers a living room-like environment that feels roomy and comfortable, although one of our taller editors wished for more thigh support from the front seats.
On the increasingly important technology front, one editor praised the Camry's Entune infotainment system as having "perhaps the most user-friendly interface among mainstream vehicles," while another objected to not being able to go straight from radio to navigation.
Like most midsize sedans the Camry offers a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, but the aperture between the trunk and the cabin might be the smallest in the group. Long things will fit, but the Camry will run out of width and height before the others.
None of the editors had anything nice to say about the Camry's design sense, but "don't care for the dash/center stack design or the steering wheel controls" was as harsh as it got. "Generic styling" was another direct quote and captured the overall sentiment.
Yes, there are sexier, cooler, more fun-to-drive midsize sedans on the market, but the Camry hasn't duped its way into the best-seller's spot. An affordable, reliable, comfortable way to move about the world, the Camry is exactly the car so many shoppers seek.
It's even a willing dance partner when the opportunity presents itself.
If you're still looking around, check out the other seven cars included in our 2014 Midsize Sedan Comparison Test.