Last year, Toyota delivered 428,606 Camrys.
The year before that, 408,484.
The year before that, 404,886.
And on it goes.
According to Toyota, it has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 13 consecutive years.
This is somewhat of a blessing and a curse for Toyota.
The blessing part is obvious: Toyota has sold a lot of cars.
The curse: There are a lot of people who opine about cars who mistake the car’s success for some sort of mediocrity. They decry the Camry as being an “appliance.” Part of this is based on the fact that it exhibits the sort of quality, durability and reliability once characteristic of appliances. (Anyone who has purchased an appliance of late knows that the QDR is pretty much MIA.)
For most people who buy a car (which is pretty much a separate set from the aforementioned opiners), QDR is more than slightly important. After all, they have to do things like get the kids to school and themselves to work. Consequently, they’d like their car to work, day in, day out. Amazing warranties that some vehicle manufacturers offer seem like a good thing until you realize that in order to have your car fixed it (1) has to break and (2) you have to take it into a dealer to get it fixed, which means that you’re having to juggle the kids as well as your daily commute.
Remember back at the end of 2009 and 2010 when Toyota was beset with recall problems?
It’s interesting to note what Don Esmond, then-Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., had to say on a sales call to reporters and analysts regarding how sales fared in what was certainly a dark period for the car maker: “Let’s not forget that 2010 was essentially an 11-month year for us, as we stopped sales and production last January on some of our core models”—including the Camry—“to focus all of our company’s efforts on servicing customer vehicles.
“Now I know the common perception is that Toyota has been reeling this year as a result of those recalls.
“But in fact, the final results include some remarkable accomplishments any company would love to report.”
If you do the math, the 13-year run of the sales success of the Camry is included in 2010. That year it delivered 327,804 vehicles.
Yes, the reputation of the car is that good.
The other part of the “appliance” knock goes to the point of exterior design. Chances are, you don’t get too excited about the styling of the white goods in your laundry room.
And that’s pretty much a far criticism of the Camry. Its styling hasn’t been all that impressive through the years.
But then one must take into account the fact that the vehicles that it competes with in the market, with few exceptions (e.g., Mazda pretty consistently with the 6; Ford with the Fusion starting in model year 2013), haven’t exactly been the sorts of things to get anyone’s pulse racing.
Last year, the people at Toyota decided that it would make major changes to the Camry, at least visually. That means that there was a near total transformation of the exterior panels (they kept the roof, in case you’re wondering). And the car looks anything but appliance-innocuous.
This is especially the case in the XSE trim. This is the “racy” variant of the Camry, with things like black sport trim and black-painted 18-inch alloys on the outside and sport seats trimmed with ultrasuede and red-thread stitching on the inside.
The vehicle has a 268-hp V6 that isn’t going to win many drag races, but provides more than enough response such that you may smile to yourself after you drop the kids off. (Remember: this is a five-passenger, front-drive, midsize car, not a European sport sedan.)
The vehicle as-driven had the optional technology package consisting of a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. It is probably the best $750 you’ll ever spend on a vehicular option package.
Chances are, the Camry will rack up another sales record this year. And there will be a lot of people pleased that they made a good buying decision. Maybe not out-of-the-box, but chances are one that will keep them out-of-the-line-in-the-service-department.
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 268 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 240 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic w/paddle shifters
Steering: Electric-assisted rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 190.9 in.
Width: 71.7 in.
Coefficient of drag: 0.28
EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 21/31/25 mpg