Perhaps you knew this, but Camry is the anglicized version of “kanmuri,” the Japanese word for crown. No surprise the model boasts a regal status around Toyota HQ. Over the decades, the sedan has become synonymous with rock steady sales, a bit like that solid second-baseman who’s always making the All Star team but never sets off any fireworks. Camry’s workmanlike appeal continues, with some 243,000 sold since January.
Predictably, Toyota isn’t tinkering with Camry for 2013 ($22,055 to $30,155). The model was completely reworked for 2012, in keeping with its five-year-interval upgrades. For most Camry shoppers, that’s welcome news.
“The feeling we have about Camry is simply ‘don’t mess this up,’” says Moe Durand, spokesman for Toyota North America. “People sometimes call it vanilla, but there sure are a lot of people who like vanilla.”
Durand says the model shoulders a broad range of customer expectations, from its buy-it-and-forget-it maintenance rep to its middle of the road aesthetics. “The Camry formula is extremely important to us, so we’re going to err on the side of conservative,” he says.
Last year, Camry got a new platform and sheet metal. The four-door was significantly lightened (by 200 lbs), chiseled (a svelte coefficient of drag of .28) and buffed (the interior ditched cheap looking plastic surfaces and now is almost Lexus quiet). Engine choices include a 2.5-liter (178-hp) four-cylinder, good for 25/35 mpg city/highway, and a 3.5-liter (268-hp) six-cylinder that provides 21/30 mpg. Now there’s even a Hybrid Synergy Drive powerplant in the Camry mix (Hybrid LE boasts EPA mpg of 43/39 city/highway), an engine choice that in July was snapped up by 10% of nearly 30,000 Camry buyers.
On the technology front, Camry boasts the latest iteration of Toyota’s Entune system, which looks to keep drivers connected to their smartphones while minimizing the risk of distracted-driving accidents. After downloading the Entune app to your phone, the car’s touch-screen console provides access to sites such as Pandora (custom-crafted radio stations), Open Table (restaurant reservations) and Bing (Microsoft’s search engine). Better still, you can make most requests via Entune’s voice-activated interface.
Toyota’s Durand says the company will soon reveal news about a Special Edition four-cylinder Camry. It’s doubtful that model will have anything in common with the automaker’s NASCAR edition Camry, though the aim of that oval-track beast has everything to do with jazzing up Camry’s pedestrian image. “Our 2013 Camry looks more like the production vehicle than ever before,” says Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing communications and motorsports for Toyota Motor Sales. “We think NASCAR fans will really appreciate that our new on-track Camry looks like the one in their driveways.”
For those looking to get more zip out of a Camry, the model of choice would be the SE ($26,910). Beyond the more sporting V-6 engine, the SE features an upgraded suspension that brings a bit more life to the car’s steering, though you won’t want to book lap time at Talladega Superspeedway just yet. Remember, Camry’s unwavering mandate remains to be most things to most people.
Or in yet another sports metaphor, “Camry is a post player,” Durand says, lapsing into basketball speak. “It’s not going to be taking 15-footers.” After all, those three-pointers have a way of missing, something that Camry, judging from its nearly 30 years of U.S. sales, continues to know little about.