It isn’t as fun as the marketers would suggest, but the 2016 Toyota Camry is still a benchmark for solitude and quiet transportation. While it absolutely meets all of the requirements of a midsize sedan, it doesn’t break new ground, either.
After a comprehensive makeover for 2015, the Camry gets a few small tweaks for 2016. Toyota’s midsize car is offered in five trims: LE, SE, XSE, XLE and a new Special Edition that builds on the SE trim by adding blue interior accents and different light and wheel treatments.
Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard on all models, while engine choices include a standard four-cylinder and an optional V6.
The Toyota Camry Hybrid is covered in a separate review.
As radical as Toyota insists the Camry is following its 2015 update, the Camry remains conservative even for this class. It has a rather airy, upright glass area that doesn’t stir the soul, but yields benefits in other areas. On the SE and XSE models, the grille becomes a black mesh-look type, whereas traditional LE and XLE versions have chromed slats.
In general, it’s going to look familiar to those who’ve had a succession of Camrys over the years. But rival automakers, even ones with conservative clienteles, are setting the tone for more refined and expensive-looking designs.
The conservative attitude on the exterior carries over to the Camry’s interior, but that’s a good thing. Upright glass means a great view out for all passengers, especially the driver. The Camry is easy to see out of.
Also helping the feeling of space is that there is actually a lot of it. Three people can fit on the rear bench and there is generous headroom. Trunk space is plentiful, as well at 15.4 cubic feet.
You’re also greeted to some of the most overstuffed chairs in the business.
The leather-cloth setup in the Camry XSE is reasonably classy, though it’s distinctly old-fashioned luxury. There are few concessions to trendy designs, though, and the controls are incredibly simple to use. Large fonts and big buttons dominate the dash. Sit inside the Camry for the first time and you should have little trouble figuring out how everything works.
While it’s not overwhelmingly powerful, the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder does a solid job of carting around the Camry, which isn’t exactly light. That engine offers 178 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque.
Notably, the four-cylinder’s operation is almost silent. You have to send the tach’s needle up to at least 5,000 rpm to hear much of the engine. It’s not uncommon to hear a lot more engine noise in much more expensive cars.
Notably, the Camry’s six-speed automatic is able to access that power in a more refined way than a continuously variable transmission (CVT) can. Unfortunately, you miss the midrange punch that rivals such as the Optima or Volkswagen Passat offer with their small turbocharged engines.
For those who think they need more thrust, a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque is available. But the only alternative powertrain worth serious consideration would be the gas-electric setup in the Camry Hybrid, with its superior fuel economy and silent EV mode.
The base Camry earns an EPA-estimated 25/35 mpg city/highway, but it could do with better fuel economy. Our four-cylinder test car averaged around 25 mpg in mixed driving, which is less than the Accord and Mazda6 can manage and pretty behind the times for the class now.
At times, even the sportiest Camry XSE lacks the poise and precision of the Accord, Passat or Mazda6. But its ride is disturbed only by the worst pavement and few external noises are heard. It’s a good place for hundreds of highway miles to go by effortlessly.
While Toyota’s Entune infotainment system isn’t the flashiest on the market, it’s relatively easy to use. Anyone who’s familiar with Toyota and Lexus controls from the last decade or so will instantly feel at home with the touch screen.
A 6.1-inch screen is standard on most versions, but it’s easy to get the 7-inch display with navigation and the Entune suite of apps that incorporate services such as Yelp to assist in finding destinations. An interesting feature is the Qi wireless charging pad, which works to free the console up of USB cables if you have a compatible phone.
A rearview camera comes standard with all 2016 Toyota Camry models. An available Technology package includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a pre-collision system. But it’s only available on the top XLE trim as part of a package with an upgraded audio system and navigation, which can add nearly $5,000 to the bottom line. Blind-spot monitoring is also available on the XSE trim, but only if you add a pricey set of options.
The Camry’s rivals make at least blind-spot monitoring available on less expensive versions, and many now offer automatic emergency braking.
At least the Camry gets a top five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its overall performance in crash tests. The Camry also earned a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The Camry is one of the most value-oriented cars in this class, with prices for a base LE starting at a tick below $24,000. Even at that price, a backup camera, aluminum wheels and a power driver’s seat are included.
But it becomes easy to spend more than $30,000 on an XSE without even getting a V6, and you’ll need to consider higher trims in order to access desirable features such as heated seats and dual-zone automatic climate control. There’s that issue about safety technology available only as part of expensive option packages, too.
Still, the Camry holds its value well compared to other popular midsize sedans. And even its reliability has held up in quality surveys of late.
The Camry won’t win any beauty pageants, nor will the sportiest version do much to excite. It’s starting to fall behind the curve in fuel economy and upcoming safety technologies, too.
Yet few competitors can match its level of comfort and refinement, as well as practicality. Stick to one of the more basic models and the Toyota Camry offers a generous amount of equipment and quality for $25,000. For those who prioritize value, the Camry is a good place to start.