2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L
2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L
2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L
2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Simon Hill

When explaining the Toyota Camry’s popularity, it’s tempting to trot out the old joke “Eat moose, 60,000 wolves can’t be wrong.” But such a Canadian-flavoured witticism somewhat misses the mark, because while the Camry is North America’s clear mid-size sedan sales leader, here in Canada it actually lags behind Ford’s Fusion.

I doubt Toyota would be in a hurry to swap places with Ford, however: Toyota may be 1,900 mid-size sales behind Ford north of the border (Ford is number one with 20,145 Fusions sold, and Toyota is second with 18,245 Camrys), but south of the border Toyota sold a whopping 113,204 more Camrys than fourth-place Ford sold Fusions (that’s 408,484 Camrys versus 295,280 Fusions), and the Camry has held onto the number-one spot for 11 years straight.

So I guess a more accurate joke might be… I don’t know… “Eat gar, five million alligators can’t be wrong.”?

Whether we’re talking wolves or alligators, it’s the dependable food sources that win favour, and the same could be said for car buyers: One of the Camry’s widely celebrated secrets to success is its solid reputation for reliability. Not wanting to mess with this formula, when Toyota updated the North American Camry with the current XV50 version two years ago, it changed almost everything inside and gave the sheetmetal a crisp evolutionary update, but kept the same basic mechanicals, with improved versions of the existing 2.5L four-cylinder and 3.5L V6 engines (there’s also a Camry Hybrid, which Toyota markets as a separate model).

My test car had the base 2.5L four-cylinder, which develops 178 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque and is hooked up to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. While the V6 does offer a little extra refinement and torque, the four-cylinder pumps out plenty enough power for comfortable everyday driving, even if you’re in a bit of a hurry. It also offers significantly better fuel economy than the bigger engine, with official Transport Canada city/highway ratings of 8.2/5.5 L/100 km, compared to 9.7/6.5 L/100 km for the V6. My test car was showing a real-world long term average of just a hair over 10 L/100 km in mixed driving, and my own results were about the same.

No matter which engine is fitted, the 2014 Camry gets electrically assisted power steering and a retuned suspension that offers a more alert, responsive driving experience than the previous generation version. While my XLE test car’s ride stopped short of being athletic exactly, it handled itself with reasonable aplomb and was pleasurable enough to weave through the corners, while still maintaining a comfortable, quiet, and refined ride.

It all adds up to a pleasant driving experience that’s made better knowing that, barring anything unusual, your car should offer the sort of appliance-like dependability for which Toyota is celebrated.

2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L
2014 Toyota Camry XLE 2.5L. Click image to enlarge

Even better is that the latest Camry really is a very nice car, especially when decked out in top-of-the-line XLE trim. The Camry may not have the Fusion’s Aston Martin looks, the Mazda6’s zoom-zoom, the Hyundai Sonata’s rear seat heaters, the Volkswagen Passat’s chic European heritage, or the Chrysler 200’s low, low sticker price, but it does have a really good balance of likeable characteristics.

Styling-wise the current Camry is somewhat sharper and more angular than previous-generation versions, though it’s still by no means a showy-looking car, even with my test car’s chrome trim and alloy wheels. Pressed for an opinion, I’d describe it as “elegantly conservative” or perhaps “accomplished looking.”

Inside, this Camry is leaps and bounds ahead of previous generations even in base LE trim, and my top-of-the-line XLE test car was appointed downright luxuriously with attractive tri-colour leather seats, a thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, glossy woodgrain trim, and a combination of chrome and brushed metallic highlights. The door uppers are soft-skinned, and the stitched leather-look upper dash panel is all soft-touch, as are any of the surfaces you’re likely to come into contact with. Where rigid plastic is used, such as for the centre console and door lowers, it’s decent-looking stuff.

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