I’ve never been this ecstatic to write a review. In fact, this in-depth assessment of the 2019 Toyota Camry isn’t due for another seven days, but I decided to get it out earlier. I’m in a phase where writing has become a task and inspiration just occasionally comes as a luxury. And this is exactly what the latter is – an inspired piece. I was in an artistic drought, but a week with the media unit was rain across the field, and I didn’t mind getting drenched in it.
Driving the all-new Camry transcended into an urge to use poetry to describe how I feel. It’s not because we’re near the vicinity of Valentine’s Day. Not at all. And by all means, the Camry isn’t a perfect car, but as romantics put it, its imperfections make it perfect – and Toyota made the right move to tailor-fit the popular midsize sedan to its target market.
Let me explain. Here’s my full review of the 2019 Camry 2.5 V before I get carried away.
The changes in the Camry’s exterior is akin to a middle-aged guy sporting a pompadour. It dons a new look, a fresh cut, edgy even, and it works quite well for the car, undressing the simplicity it wore for the longest time. Whoever gave this car that haircut should start his own boutique barber shop.
But, that extreme makeover is limited to the front. The sides and rear, while still getting the proper nips and tucks, remain a little safe. Normies would be hard-pressed to tell that this is a new-generation Camry without seeing the front clip.
While beauty is subjective, I’m sure we’ll all agree that the Camry’s LED lights look good, day and night, as is the set of 18-inch alloy rims.
The Camry’s interior somehow inherits the sultry flow of curves from Toyota’s luxury line, Lexus. The seduction is well matched with high-quality materials – from the black and brown soft leather seats, to the door panels, even on the console box lid. Faux-wood veneers are definitely a nice touch, way better than what's found inside the Fortuner. But, the entirety isn’t without blemishes. Fingerprint- and scratch-prone piano black accents are still present at the center console and the door controls. The multi-information display between the analog gauge clusters, albeit easy on the eyes, is somehow cluttered if you’re minding your fuel consumption. Not that you need to, of course.
Driving height isn’t as low as what’s claimed with the new TNGA platform, but a comfortable position is easily achievable with the power-adjustable seats and steering wheel. It has a memory function, too, and having to share the vehicle with some officemates during the lend out period made its importance shine brighter.
Space is abundant as expected, while ride comfort is biased in coddling the driver and front passenger. The rear suspension is a bit stiff, to my frustration, but not to the point of being sporty. Outside noise isolation is superb even at high speeds, while engine noise would creep in when you get a bit aggressive with the accelerator. One more qualm – the sun visor is pointless for short people like myself as it didn’t protect my eyes from, err, the sun. On the upside, the butterfly headrests at the back and the heads up display up front are as nifty as an alarm clock that brews coffee.
The 2019 Camry is tech-laden but with reservations. A lot of controls are thrown into the multi-information display, which includes the parking sensors and the rear privacy shade. This move minimizes the number of buttons in the cabin, but if you prefer buttons and knobs over menus, like most titos of Manila, it might set you off.
Automatic headlights with auto-levelizer, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers are standard, while you’ll definitely miss having a rear parking camera. Front and rear proximity sensors are available, nonetheless, and the auto-brake hold isn’t itching to lock your brakes, which eases up crawling through bumper to bumper traffic.
The infotainment system, on the other hand, doesn’t conform to the overall finesse of the cabin. It has too many colors and isn’t user-friendly. As a trade-off, you get a great sounding speaker system with a wide bandwidth of frequencies to suit several music genres. Handsfree calls are also crisp and clear, but having no ‘end call’ button on the steering wheel is a bit odd.
With a perfect ASEAN NCAP safety rating under its belt, the Toyota Camry is at the forefront of the market when it comes to keeping its occupants, well, alive. Even with the lack of safety assist systems like blind spot monitors, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist, it has a lot to boot that’s standard with the whole Camry range: ABS with EBD, seven airbags including a knee airbag for the driver, brake assist, vehicle stability control, hill-start assist, and ISOFIX child seat anchors. The driver and front passenger also get seatbelt reminders.
Kidding aside, the 2.5L gasoline mill wasn’t overflowing with power, but it could deliver its 181 horses and 231 Nm torque when needed. Pressing deeper onto the accelerator, the six-speed automatic tranny wasn’t hesitant to downshift, handing over the requested pull. Engaging the sport mode would excite the engine as much as it would excite you, while halting was never an issue, thanks to its four-disc setup.
Handling and traction was probably the Camry’s best asset in terms of performance. I won’t jump the gun and liken it to the 86’s, but it’s close enough to make me forget that I was driving a 3,200-pound front-wheel drive. It stayed composed when I attacked long curves at around 80 km/h with only a bit of a body roll. Slow and tight city maneuvers, on the other hand, were a cinch even with the weighted steering wheel.
Now, the Camry’s target market isn’t the type of people who would really care about gas money. But if you’re dying to know, an hour in heavy city traffic read back 6.9 km/L, while a Sunday drive at around 60 km/h clocked in 10.5 km/L. Highway stints were decent, able to record 14.2 km/L with the cruise control nailed at 90 km/h.
At P1,992,000, the all-new Camry is still that same well-rounded sedan that leans towards comfort rather than performance. It cradles you like a mother holding her child from the first to the nth time, or your wife when she’s in a good mood because you came home with her favorite salad. Its refinement is intoxicating, addicting even, at least in the front seats, which made returning the media unit one of the hardest things I had to do in my life.
If that statement above enticed you, then by all means, you should get this car. You probably could, anyway, because you are the Camry’s market – the white-collared leaders and managers with enough buying power to employ chauffeur during weekdays while still reserving the weekends for personal driving.
With all things considered, the Toyota Camry is both a hit and a miss, but it still has the recipe to retain its status as the King of sedans.