"Is that a Lexus?"
This question came from two families passing by the new Camry XLE as we snapped photos on a rare stormy afternoon in Florida the other week. The next thing they both said?
"A Camry? Really?"
For 2015, the Camry XLE V6 is almost unrecognizably-stylish and premium. The XLE version here with its dark-grey horizontal bars grille is fresh and very distinct from the SE and XSE cars' gloss-black nose treatment.
So does it just look like a Lexus, or is it a fairly convincing upgrade to Lexus levels of comfort, quality and refinement on the road? Let's find out....!
The latest Camry redesign's trim accents and wheels might be traditional to the core for the LE and XLE models, but there is real appeal in the new surfaces and detailing.You can really see how the panel shapes capture and bend sunlight in the new profile and rising swage line from the front wheels upward toward the trunk.
The new nose is the most striking element, with a swept-back headlamp effect and an ultra-slim upper grille. Paired with the large contrast-color lower grille, the car feels wide and new and interesting from almost any angle. It is much more subtle than the giant grille on the Avalon, and plants the car in motion.
The biggest change noted here on the XLE versus the LE are the top model's standard low and high-beam LED lights. The LE Camry for 2015 has round projector-beam lows and basic halogen highbeams. A detail thing during the day, the LED lights at night cut a clean and classy ultra-white signature on the roads at night.
All 2015 Camry's have light in their lower bumper slashes, but it varies across trims. The LE wears amber blinkers in the full width of the slashes, while the XLE V6 has LED foglamps and the blinkers live in just the top part of the slash shape.
2015 Camry SE and LE - Amber Lower Bumper lighting + Projector-beam Halogen low-beams, halogen highbeams (Camry SE Shown in both below photos)
2015 Camry LE Hybrid - LED foglamps in lower bumper (like XSE and XLE) but projector-beam halogen main lights
2015 Camry XLE V6 - LED foglamps, LED lowbeams and LED highbeams
Besides the lighting, the XLE V6 adds a cool rear spoiler that is formed to leave a Toyota-badged shape. This long-tail style spoiler actually helps lower the aerodynamic drag on the car versus many of the style-oriented tall spoilers of decades past. (It is not noticeable on the road, but the long-spoiler lowers drag versus a tall-spoiler increasing downforce.)
Where the real differences in the Camry lines start to become clear is inside. The LE and XLE like this one have all-new fabrics and materials versus last year -- and are generally lighter-colored and more relaxing than the dark-suede cabin accents of the SE and XSE. All are very comfortable, but the power seats and leather of the XLE V6 are fantastic -- with extra-soft hides on the steering wheel and headrest that feel smoother than a baby's cheek. Very plush, right where your skin touches it.
Besides materials, quietness and ride smoothness -- the other huge update in the 2015 Camry comes in the technology package. The new XLE V6 has a helpful and multi-funtion central gauge display that is cool and high-res and easy-to-operate.
All Camry's have a touch-screen but the new 7-inch Entune upgrade is definitely worth the $900 option price. Great audio quality and new voice-command tech is at least 3X better at understanding voice prompts than before. A new three-pane option is a cool way to see Nav, Media and Weather in one screen. Easy and nice to have buttons/knobs as well as touch controls. The HVAC is a separate unit and all is simple as pie to use.
Toyota touts much better refinement and cruising smoothness thanks to quieter NVH materials and a more-rigid body. It is not too noticeable, but the Camry XLE V6 is indeed ultra-smooth and plush at all times.
The Lexus-style XLE here is extremely smooth and has a very lightweight steering rack versus the SE and XSE, and also lacks the XSE's wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Most owners will not care, but it's good to know.
The XLE V6 is just as quick as the XSE V6 in most scenarios, but does have cushier tires and is more prone to body roll in sharp corners. It prefers a more relaxed pace around bends than the XSE, but both are seriously fast in the straight line.
The six-speed auto and 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower V6 are still an amazing combination and are highly, highly recommended versus the LE four-cylinder. You save about 2.5-seconds in the 60-mph sprint and get close to 6.2-seconds in this XLE V6. Amazingly fast for how relaxed and comfortable the car is when tootling around.
Finally a new brake booster is in all 2015 Camry models -- with a firm and confidence-inspiring feel to go along with ABS, EBD, and Brake Assist. It is never spongy and is very tactile and lets you control the amount of stopping power you want very intuitively.
2015 CAMRY PRICING
2.5 L 4-cyl.
Camry Hybrid LE
2.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid
Camry Hybrid SE
2.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid
Camry Hybrid XLE
2.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid
Lexus-like looks and cruising comfort in all LE trims? That is a fact in the 2015 Camry.
The base four-cylinder is a mellow companion that will spin its heart out to the redline without breaking a sweat. It is not quick but the traditional torque-converter automatic is a major strength versus the standard CVTs in the Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and many others. The Mazda6 is as smooth and a bit quicker than the LE four-cylinder Camry, but is dog-slow versus any Camry V6.
For true premium-car style and pace on throttle, the V6 XLE is in another league than the Ford Fusion EcoBoost or Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T.
The Accord V6 is still a formidable competitor for the Camry, but is not in the same league as the 2015 Camry in two key areas: infotainment integration and exterior stylishness.
For all these reasons, the Toyota Camry XLE is the best mid-size sedan of 2015. With a V6, it might be the best mid-size car of all time.