Tuesday, August 6, 2019

How Much Has the Toyota Camry Changed in 15 Years?


Bold and modern — these are two words that best describe the 2019 Toyota Camry. As the brand’s iconic executive sedan, the Camry has withstood the test of time in terms of delivering both luxury and performance throughout the generations. But just how much has it evolved? For this review, we had the privilege of bonding with the current 2019 model and also taking a trip down memory lane to revisit its predecessor—15 years prior, to be exact, to the year when the big-body design was the talk of the town.



Exterior

The older it got, the younger it looked. As expected, the 2019 Toyota Camry is still the fanciest of the lot. It boasts of the same wide frontal appearance as its predecessors, clearly made to dominate the streets. However, it has also upped its game in terms of modernity, putting it out there that the Camry is not just for successful middle-agers, but it can suit the taste of a younger bracket who are accomplished and are looking for a car with refinement.

Today, it is not just about the big body and standing out from the other Toyota sedan variants. The new Camry has the modern identifiable sloping hood that is present in both the new Corolla and Vios, with a smooth downward V-curve toward the Toyota emblem, giving it a more elongated feel. Following suit, the LED headlights for the new Camry are also sleeker and narrower; a design that exudes a sportier, younger vibe than its grandpa with wider eyes. What ices the cake is the powerful grille that is located right above the bumper that has become the common trend among new vehicle designs.

Personally, I am not completely sold on these wider grilles that look like yawning maws. However, the proportion made for the Camry seems to work better than it did for the new Vios. Given that, it made an effort to be tasteful and I can take that.



Interior

Here’s where Toyota gets it right every time for its well-loved executive sedan. The premium experience of the all-new Camry begins by opening the door. That, in itself, requires heft, which tells the owner that this car is not playing games when it comes to solidity and reliability. It literally puts weight on the build of its structure, an element that is normally found in European vehicles.

But the beauty of the Camry’s interior is how simple and elegant it is. Settling into the cabin, there is that waft from the premium leather seats and trimming. Run your fingers across every surface and you’ll know what I’m talking about; all plush, classy, and subtly pretentious. Similar to the previous generation, the all-new model maintained the same touch of prestige with dark wood paneling that weaves through the grey leather, giving the cabin an overall warmer tone. The sloping design that is seen on the exterior hood is also present as part of the housing for the infotainment system. To the discerning eye, that is consistency at its finest.



Practicality

What is great about the all-new Camry is that despite the modern technology it could employ, it chose to keep practicality the heart of the owner experience. This includes the seats, which are ergonomically sound enough to offer ample space for your bottom and support for your lower back. Both driver and passenger enjoy power controls that offer convenience for seating adjustments.

Likewise, every function and switch is positioned exactly where you would expect them to be, right down to the cup holders that are next to the gear shift and the electronic handbrake that is within easy reach. The instrument panel is clear and basic, updated enough for the upcoming young professional to appreciate, but easy enough for Mom and Dad to understand. It also offers both a car lighter port and USB ports, showing that this is a car that is designed to withstand the ages, across any age. The backseat also enjoys its own allocated air conditioning vent, USB charging ports, and cup holders inside the center armrests.

As with any vehicle, space is always a consideration. With the all-new Camry, it did not skimp on interior legroom for either the front or second rows. The front passenger can give himself a generous stretch and hardly eat into the leg space of the back seat.

At the same time, the cargo hold, clocking in at just about 427 liters, is cavernous enough to hold just about any type of shopping trip—from a week’s worth of groceries or a shopping spree at the outlet store.

What would make the Camry perfect in terms of standard safety is if it had a built-in rear camera that helps the driver see where he is going while backing up, which is already a standard for most cars. You read it right. Despite being equipped with Clearance and Back Sonar Sensors, that’s as far as it goes—still. It’s the same case as it was in 2004, but I was expecting that camera installation would have become the norm for Toyota in 2019, especially for its top line sedan.



Performance

15 years later, the performance of the Toyota Camry is still as impressive as ever. Employing an engine with roughly the same displacement (2.5 versus 2.4), the all-new Camry delivers power without hesitation. Of course, horsepower has gone up to 184 horsepower from its 2004 predecessor’s 157 horsepower. With a touch of the accelerator pedal, the car smoothly responds and accelerates without any jerky throwbacks. Likewise, the brakes are not as sensitive as most modern vehicles. Going back to the standard element of heft, the Camry integrated the same type of weight when it comes to its braking system—responsive and solidly on the ground. What I also loved was the steering. Similar to previous years, the steering of the Camry is light but with enough resistance that keeps the driver from oversteering. With this, it keeps the drive safe and secure, and in the driver’s hands at all times. Once again, Toyota kept the promise of reliability at the center of its development.

An improvement for the all-new Camry would be its suspension, which is a contradiction to the structure that it has created. Despite being all sorts of class, the suspension can be bouncy when going over higher speed bumps and traversing uneven roads. This takes rider comfort a notch down, considering that this is what Manila is all about.



Bottom Line

From 2004 to 2019, the Toyota Camry has remained what it was created for: an elegant executive car for ones with discerning tastes. It has, however, evolved to a vehicle that is not just for the high-flying chairman. It has learned to become more approachable and now identifies with the young, aspiring professional who is on his way to taking that next step in his professional career. That said, the Camry remains a car that defines success. Today, success has been redefined, not in terms of simply monetary, but also achievement.

Text and Photos by Gen Tiu.

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