2017 Toyota Camry Review. The Good, the Bad, and the AVERAGE

April 7th, 2017 by

Besides, riding in the back of a few Toyota Camry taxicabs, this was my first experience driving one, studying it up close, and getting a real feel for what the car has to offer. Forcing fairness and objectivity, I really did want to find out if that offered anything in the way of excitement, if it could stir emotion in me, or if it was just so darned practical that I had to overlook it’s dullness.

In all my years of driving, somehow I’ve managed to stave off major automotive dullness. Though my ownership history is admittedly short for a self proclaimed car guy, the most “average” car I’ve owned was a 1997 Subaru Outback. And even that was a pretty cool car! (It being my first, perhaps I saw it with rose tinted glasses.) Still, that was the closest I came to a most humdrum commute. My auto snobbery has continuously prevented me from taking the more sensible route, always opting for something exciting, fast, beat up, old or quirky. Despite paying dearly for my mistakes, I’ve continued to overlook run-of-the-mill midsize family sedans, in all their practical glory. Until now. Here is my honest review of the 2017 model Toyota Camry. SE, to be exact.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A walk-around of the car shows it to be a solid build. No doubt, Toyota’s reputation and love for fit and finish went into this car. However, it is quite boring to look at. Not ugly, Just generic. It has no distinguishing features, no body lines that catch my eye, its just a typical cookie cutter sedan. The SE includes some sportier add-ons, such as a rear spoiler, black honeycomb front grill, but they honestly don’t do much to improve the dreary looks of this car. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig!

The trunk was spacious and well shaped. There was a great amount of width behind the wheel wells, which really impressed me, and it’s flat base meant all the real estate back there was usable. However, folding down the rear seats proved to be quite pointless, as they did not lay down flat. This also revealed some cheaper quality materials behind the seats, which were disappointing.

The back seat was also plenty spacious and could easily seat three humans comfortably. There’s not much in the way of features for your rear passengers, no climate control, 12V sockets, anything like this. Both the back and the front seats looked really great, with cloth centers, leatherette bolsters and sporty red trimming, (also included on the shift boot, steering wheel and dash). But they were very stiff, and felt cheap. The seats’ discomfort wasn’t immediately apparent, but I could easily envision an angry lower back after a longer drive, or while sitting in dreadful traffic.

Sitting in the cockpit it is once again apparent that Toyota takes pride in their build quality, and the car has more than everything you need, nothing you don’t (as noted in my list of features.) However, the design and layout of the dash is quite dreary, it’s no place I’d want to be for a long time. I like a cockpit to feel like a cockpit! Camry’s dash, gauges and center panel were very far from this. Still, all the buttons and switches are very large and very easy to see. This may be the car for someone with less than perfect vision.

If I thought sitting in those stiff seats and looking at the bland dash reminded me of riding in those Camry taxicabs, just wait until I drove it.

Driving this car, I honestly couldn’t think of much to say. Truth is, there isn’t much to say. It’s fine, and that’s just it. It’s not the worst car I’ve driven, not the best, not the slowest, not the fastest, not the smoothest, not the roughest. It has just enough power to carry its own weight, plus a full load of passengers and luggage. Just enough stopping power as well. It accelerates just fine, it steers super easy. It’s just so dreadfully average.
It does offer paddle shifters for a manual shift mode, though I honestly don’t see why. I can’t imagine anyone who would drive this Camry ever using them. They’re fun to play with for about a minute, but they offer no real connection to the car’s drivetrain, and do nothing to increase driver control over the car.

LASTING IMPRESSIONS

I think my pre-conceived notions of this car weren’t far off. I assumed it was well built, reliable, practical, but also average, and unexciting to drive. And what do you know, I was right!
It’s a perfectly sensible car. If you don’t care about the way it looks or drives, then i think you’ll be pleased with what the Camry does have to offer. It’s a spacious, smooth riding midsize sedan, made with high quality components. It’s safe, reliable, fuel efficient and will last you forever. You get a lot for your money, and Camry’s famously hold their resale values as well. So yes, I understand now why it’s a best seller, and why so many people choose it.

But it’s dull looks and performance would still make me go elsewhere. I believe there are cars out there for the same price that are just as reliable, but offer a more exciting driving dynamic, a more comfortable interior, and a sexier exterior. Off the top of my head, Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, and a (few years old) BMW 3-Series come to mind. I’d even prefer a Honda Accord over this.

Again this is my opinion.

OUR RATING

To sum up my impressions of the car, here’s how I feel it stacked up in a 1-10 rating system.

VALUE – 8
It’s everything you pay for, has great resale value and is incredibly well built, but I believe you can find a more dynamic driving experience for the same price range.

BUILD QUALITY – 9
Toyota really cares about what they build, and it shows on this Camry. However, there are some cheaper bits and pieces which I believe they overlooked…and I took notice.

DESIGN/STYLE – 3
It’s not ugly it’s just so generic. And no matter how much sporty trim you slap onto it, at the end of the day it’s still a Camry. There are also no notable design features that links one generation to the next.

COMFORT – 6
It was fine during my short test drive. It also has a really spacious back seat and comfortable suspension. The front seats are “sport-lite” with decent bolstering. But they lost me on the stiffness, and cheap feel of the foam underneath the upholstery. I have a feeling after a long drive they might start to take a toll on your lower back…..and your upper back….and your middle back.

PERFORMANCE/HANDLING – 3
It’s just so dreadfully average.

VISIBILITY – 10
Confident sight lines from the driver seat. I wasn’t missing a thing. Good perspective of where the front end began, great view out the rear window, and no added blind spots from thick modern C-Pillars

CARGO – 8
Good trunk space, with impressive width behind the wheel wells, as well as reasonable depth. But the rear seats not folding completely flat made the feature rather pointless, and I don’t feel I could haul anything larger than what the trunk alone could allow

OVERALL – 6.5 out of 10
This is what we think of the newly redesigned Toyota Camry. A perfectly average number for a perfectly average car. Really it’s a fine choice. What it lacks in excitement, it makes up for in value.

THE SPECS

-Engine – 2.5 liters, Inline 4 cylinder, DOHC with 16 valves.
-178 Horsepower
-MPG – 24 city, 33 highway, 27 combined
-Curb Weight – 3,300 lbs.
-Cargo capacity – 15.4 cu ft.
-Seats – 5

Besides the Hybrids, there are 4 available trim levels. I was given the SE trim, which is the third one up from base. It was actually quite well appointed.

Features you get on the SE:
-Halogen headlights with sport trim bezels and daytime running lights
-Black sport mesh front grille
-Heated folding mirrors
-Moonroof and lighting package (available as an option)
-17 inch alloy wheels
-Rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tips
-Entune audio system, 6 inch touchscreen, MP3/WMA compatibility, 6 speakers, Aux/USB with iPod control
-Navigation, premium audio, “app suite” with Pandora, Spotify, XM/Sirius, (available as an option)
-Smartphone charging
-Backup camera
-Push button start
-Sport fabric seats, power seats, leatherette style trim
-Leather trim steering wheel with silver accented interior trim
-Overhead console with homelink, (available as an option)
-Everybody gets cup holders… yay

Features you are missing by not springing for the XSE:
-Dual zone climate control
-Blind spot monitoring,
-Wireless smartphone charging
-Convenience package
-18 inch alloy wheels

Even this lower trim level was quite well appointed. I’d say you get enough with this that you may want to avoid spending the extra money on more premium options. This car is plenty well suited.

So if you goal in your first or next car is reliability, resale value and hassle-free ownership, the Camry offers just that. At Auto City, we happen to have Toyota Camrys for sale all the time. It is and always has been one of the most popular cars we sold and no used car lot would be complete without a Toyota Camry for sale!