When is a mid-cycle refresh not a mid-cycle refresh? When is an all-new model not really all new? When it’s a 44-percent-new Camry. The mid-size sedan market is big business in North America. In Canada it’s compacts that dominate, but down in the USA the Toyota Camry is the bestseller.

This all-important sedan anchors the Toyota brand alongside stalwarts Corolla and RAV4. Why then, would Toyota push through a dramatic refresh just three years after launching this generation Camry?

Toyota says this is a mid-cycle refresh of “unprecedented scale”. Every body panel except the roof is different from the semi-previous generation. Toyota says each alteration was designed to increase the outward athleticism of the car and also increase the sense of quality inside. It is part of the company-wide push towards more emotive motoring.

Over 1,900 change points make up the new Camry – but none of them are to the drivetrain.

There are still three power units, a 2.5L four-cylinder and 3.5L V6 as well as the hybrid option with its 2.5L Atkinson cycle gas engine and CVT. Output is unchanged at 178 hp/170 lb-ft for the four and 268 hp/248 lb-ft for the six – though the new five-cycle ratings have the fuel economy figures looking a little different.

The four-cylinder gets 9.7/6.9/8.4 L/100 km city/highway/combined while the six achieves 11.0/7.7/9.5. The hybrid, with a combined output of 200 hp, achieves 5.5/6.0/5.7 in LE trim and 5.7/6.1/5.9 in SE and XLE trims – the difference is due to weight and aerodynamic, though it’s worth noting that the weight and aerodynamic differences of the four-cylinder and six-cylinder models don’t have an impact on fuel economy. Fuel economy testing is hard.

Additional spot welds have improved the chassis stiffness, while inserts to the service holes and updated carpet have improved NVH. We were distracted by a vibration coming from the fan in our tester, but wind noise is minimal and road noise was as well – low enough for us to notice the vibration from the fan.

The dash now has soft-touch leather covers in the upper trims, and there is an overall increase in the amount of soft-touch materials. The door skins are now sleeker and sport better materials in the inserts – notably French-stitched leather in the SE and XLE trims.

2015 Toyota Camry2015 Toyota Camry dashboard2015 Toyota Camry centre stack
2015 Toyota Camry, dashboard, centre stack. Click image to enlarge

The three-dial gauge cluster of old is gone. In its place a two-dial cluster with a 4.2-inch TFT screen nestled between them. The screen is full colour, HD and takes the driver through navigation, trip information, vehicle information and audio displays as well as warnings and system messages. It’s a good-looking display that rivals the others in the segment and was a much-needed catch up.

The centre stack has been redesigned too. Gone is the hideous and outdated Toyota clock – though its removal tugged at this writer’s heartstrings. I loved to hate that thing and now I’m sad it’s gone.

The HVAC controls are now more sensible, and even LE and SE models get a 6.1-inch touchscreen in the dash. XLE and XSE models get a 7-inch system with navigation and a suite of vehicle apps. It is the same underlying system we covered in the Subaru Starlink tech piece and provides Toyota with a high-tech upgrade to its older systems. Text-to-voice and detailed audio streaming information is standard. The navigation menus are easy to use and the graphics good, updating quickly when you’re on the road. Infuriatingly, Toyota has taken the advice of the lawyers and hand-wringers to heart and most navigation options are locked out when the car is driving. Or to put it another way: when the car is being a car, you can’t use its systems.

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