2016 Toyota Camry XSE Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman
For decades now, The Toyota Camry has been one of the best-selling family sedans in America. It isn’t because it does everything better than the competition, but rather it does everything well, and has built up a reputation for reliability, quality, and value. For folks who have a hard time making a decision because they’re fearful of making a bad one, the Camry is always going to be a safe choice and one that won’t foster buyer’s remorse.
It’s always easy for journalists to forget that the vast majority of the car buying public in America are not car enthusiasts. They don’t regularly read car magazine, or visit online web sites such as this one, or care to keep up with the newest models and gadgets. Their views on cars is more pragmatic. To many it’s just an appliance to get them from place to place, and have some features that make that trip a bit nicer and more enjoyable. They would be more interested in creature comforts, amenities, and releiability than power, performance, or crisp handling. They read reviews only when they are ready to go shopping for a new car. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Since buyers will be hard pressed to find any negative reviews of the Camry, it stands to reason why so many buyers gravitate to that car.
Camry’s have never been noted for daring exterior styling, because that’s not what the vast majority of buyers are looking for. Having said that, the 2016 model is handsome and will make the Camry stand out a bit in the parking lot. The front end With LED headlights and daytime running lights, flank a sporty, but not garish, sport mesh front grill. 18” wheels fill up the wheel wells nicely, and the profile of the Camry shows off subtle character lines for the rocker panels and belt line. The back of the car sports nicely sculpted taillights that wrap into the rear quarter panels, and the dual chromed tipped exhaust adds a sporty flair. Sure you can buy flashier styled cars, like the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, and or Chrysler 200, but Camry buyers don’t want their cars to scream, they just want them to look good.
Once under way you’ll notice that it is very quiet, like a Lexus. Last year’s revised suspension tuning package, with firmer shocks, means that this XSE model is fun to drive, without making the ride too harsh. The 18” alloy wheels gives the Camry a bold footprint, and it corners crisply without much body lean. Steering response is good, and the brakes feel strong and have good progressive feel. The base 4-cyclider motor makes 178 hp and delivers 170 ft. lbs. of torque, and makes up the majority of Camry sales. However, our tester came equipped with the optional V-6 powerplant, which is an excellent engine. The V-6 feels potent as it delivers 268 hp, and 248 ft. lbs. of torque, smoothly and effortlessly, through a 6-speed manumatic with both paddle shifters and the gear shift lever. The manual shifts are not particularly quick, so you definitely know this isn’t meant to be a true sport sedan, but it will hold a gear to keep you in the power band when you want to. The powerful engine still gets 21 City and 31 Highway gas mileage.
CAMRY TRIMS COMPARISON
The interior is much the same story as the exterior. It is handsome, with upscale looking materials and trim, and very nicely laid out, but not too garish. There are places where plastic is evident, but it doesn’t look cheap. All the controls are easily reachable and operable, so as not to be distracting. The stylish dash is accented with some bruised aluminum. The XSE’s sportier interior is evident by the red stitching accents across dash, door panels and seat trim. Those heated seats are very comfortable, and the center seat inserts are clothed in a suede cloth that is both comfortable and good looking.
The rear passengers will enjoy the more than ample head and leg room. Even the middle seat passenger will feel comfortable for an hour or so. And the truck is very large for family trips.
The driver gets two large round dials to look at through the thick leather tilt and telescope steering wheel, with a nice info screen between them. The heated leather seats are both handsome and comfortable. Big round dials for radio and HVAC controls making is easy and non-distracting, along with push buttons for defrost, and to direct airflow. A large closeable storage bin at the bottom of the center stack has the 12-volt, AUX jack, and USB outlets, and it’s large enough to hold two phones.
Redundant controls abound on the wheel, including the button to start voice commands. This car came equipped with the surprisingly affordable Entune Premium Package at $805. That adds JBL Audio system, with integrated Navigation and App suite. The large touch screen Nav system with split screen feature is excellent, and so much easier to operate than the mouse controllers or haptic pad controls on more expensive models and the Lexus cars, which resort to these horrible gimmicks to justify their higher price tags. And I spent a lot of time using the Advanced Voice Recognition commands, and for the first time, I was impressed with the results.
It has always been my experience that anything beyond basic commands for the radio settings or phone commands has been a nightmare, only leading to frustration and distractions. But this system worked remarkably well to input address destinations. I stumped it a few times, but the system got Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and Ottumwa, Iowa, and several California towns and cities with Spanish names, that I had never been able to get on other systems. And asking for points of interest, restaurants, ATM locations, etc. were also easily accessed.
Other great amenities are the Blind Spot Monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, which is only a $500 option, and for $750 you get the Advanced Tech Package. That includes pre-collision system, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control, and automatic high beam dimming system. So for just over $2,000 in option packages, you are buying a lot of safety and security features, as well as convenience amenities that is an absolute bargain.
The base price of this model is $31,370, and the all-in bottom line came to $34,260. In today’s marketplace of family sedans, that is a fair price for an excellent car. We just wish there was an all-wheel-drive version available.
2016 Toyota Camry XSE Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman