I can’t fault Toyota for not building a good car. In fact: I can’t fault Toyota for much of anything since doing so would be somewhat hypocritical. I mean, for years folks like me; journalists, and the car buying public have consistently cried for better quality cars from both foreign and domestic manufacturers and Toyota has delivered a car that is as close to perfect as you can make.
The Camry Hybrid ups the anti into perfection with the addition of their innovative hybrid technology, which also bumps the fuel consumption numbers way up. The in-town ratings on the sedan are pretty damn fine at 31 mpg and 36 highway. Hybrids do a great job in stop-and-go traffic and the Camry is no different. It runs the entire electronic draw off of the electrical system as the gas motor seamlessly shuts down.
Toyota’s gas engine in the Camry is so well balanced and designed you have a difficult time hearing it run when you are standing next to the car, but in the full-electric, the Camry is stealthy silent. So much so that I couldn’t help but give into the temptation to sneak up on a valet attendant who then jumped clear out of his red vest when the nose of the mica-blue Toyota suddenly appeared next to him.
The only problem I have with the Camry is that other than the occasional fun from the run silent, run deep electronics, is how the car is just so utterly devoid of the slightest bit of passion. As Toyota honed in closer and closer to surgically sharp quality, they managed to not just rid away the flaws, but also managed to erode any kind of endearing quirk.
Toyota first introduced the Camry back in the mid 1980’s, around the same time I was starting out as an automotive journalist. It was a bold step for a company that didn’t exactly enjoy the same reputation for quality they have now earned. The Camry’s own history and the phenomenal success enjoyed by Toyota in North America really go hand-in-hand. It’s their flag ship in sales and in conquests.
That first, real stand-alone Camry introduced to the North American market around 1986 was a very good car, actually. And at the time, it was cheep, well-built and was very much like an economy 3 series BMW. It was a fun to drive and reliable, small sedan that grew in size, popularity and quality.
The Camry eventually became the best selling car in North America. It’s built here, designed here and has really become the definition of an American Sedan. It’s the “Everyman” actor in the suburban play; the one you don’t notice but is always there, regardless. It shows up, does its job without fanfare or drama and slips silently into the night, barely disturbing the world around it.
I have had issues in the past with Hybrid technology and the tendency to package it into oddly contrived, little cars that are just plain awkward – like Toyota’s Prius. By rolling the Hybrid into the more contemporary size, styling and footprint of the best selling car in the market, I find it far more acceptable. The $33,000.00 (as tested) Camry is very comparable to other non-electric options.
If you had the need to blend into middle America, or into that suburban world where even the neighbor down the street has never noticed you even check your mail box, the Camry is the car you would want. It’s good looking, but not beautiful. It’s roomy, efficient, and simple to operate and as anonymous as kahki pants and a blue polo shirt.
During the last 30 years of the Camry’s run to the top of the sales heap there has been so little drama about the car that last year’s over-hyped pedal entrapment non-event came as such a shock. It seemed the Camry might have a flaw, but in my mind, my first reaction was that the issue was far more likely the “Loose Nut Behind the Wheel.”
The Camry is so lacking in drama, most drivers are more likely to be surprised they actually have to drive for a moment. While driving around north Texas, I found myself forgetting I was driving a couple of times. Inputs are muted and the silent operation of both gas and electric lulls you into a semi-stupor.
Honestly I’m struggling with this article. I have nothing bad to say about this car. Other than its vanilla anonymity, it’s an exceptionally well built car. The reason I’m struggling is that even with the sedan sitting right out side my front door I am having a difficult time being inspired to write about it. I step away from the car and I forget it almost instantly.
It’s funny how things go. I really like Toyota’s truck offerings because they have found the right blend of function and fashion. I loved the FJ Cruiser because it is wonderfully flawed in just the right ways for me. The Camry is the automotive equivalent of wearing a belt and suspenders simultaneously. It’s the choice you make when you only look at a car from a perspective of logic, checking any emotion or any passion at the curb.
There is a lot to like about the Camry, but you never hear “like” songs on the radio. Love is where the passion lies and love songs are the tunes that get under your skin. The Beatles didn’t write “Silly Like Songs” or “Like Like Me Do,” but for me, the right song for this is Meatloaf’s “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.” I want it, I need it, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love it…