Toyota has plenty to worry about. But the Toyota Camry, its best-selling vehicle, offers more cause for celebration than concern.
The midsize sedan has for years also been the best-selling car in the United States. So what’s a manufacturer to do a model year after a new generation of one of the most successful cars in history was introduced?
The answer is the new limited Special Edition of Toyota Camry. It’s the sports-oriented model that adds a new departure to the Camry stable.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
A five-passenger midsize sedan, the Toyota Camry is now available in six trims. My weekly driver was the above-mentioned Special Edition (SE) model. It takes the best of the LE and SE models and adds a sporting twist.
Standard equipment on the base LE Camry begins with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, keyless entry, a rearview camera, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat (with two-way power lumbar adjustment), 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, cloth upholstery, a 6.1-inch Entune touchscreen electronics interface, voice controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.
The SE trim adds a dozen improvements: 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sport-themed exterior styling and interior trim elements, cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters and a 4.2-inch color driver information display.
With the SE-based Special Edition, the Entune Audio Plus package and sunroof are standard. Added are 18-inch wheels, smoked taillights, keyless entry and ignition (including hands-free trunk opening), blue interior trim (including seat inserts and contrast stitching), unique gauges and Qi wireless smartphone charging.
That’s a lot of standard equipment and a sizable optional features package for a fair price ($525).
My week with the Special Edition (12,000 units will be available) included about 100 miles or a rarity — driving in a California rain. Like other Camry models, the trim did nearly everything right. It’s an efficient sedan that may not be the best in any single testing area, but the Camry does well in every concern and has no weaknesses.
It’s a comfortable sedan with substantial headroom and legroom for four adults passengers. (It’s rated at five passengers, like most midsize sedans, but it’s ideally a four-passenger car.)
And at night in the rain? It was the first rain of the year in Northern California and the adjustment to the slick roads was a driver’s refresher than any hesitancy from the Camry. The slick highway was handled without issue. Overall vision is a Camry strong suit, and while not the fastest sedan, the Camry accelerates with satisfaction.
The Camry also has strong braking. In a few instances, less-than-respectful nearby drivers changed lanes without using their turnovers or allowing proper distances between vehicles. I had to hit the brakes abruptly and the Camry stayed true to the lane and handled the abrupt decrease of speed without skidding.
My one of concern was the Camry’s shifting mechanism. It’s positioned low between the front seats and but it moves between gears awkwardly.
A sport-oriented Camry? Why not?
Comfortable and spacious interior.
Good overall visibility.
Great mileage range.
Not the smoothest shifting manual transmission
Heated seats? Nope.
Sport package without retractable side mirrors?
Where’s that wind rush coming from?
Facts & Figures: 2016 Toyota Camry
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.2 seconds.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg (city), 35 mpg (highway), 28 mpg (combined) six-speed automatic transmission.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $25,715.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.toyota.com.
Price As Tested: $27.075.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
What Others Say:
“Thanks to numerous improvements last year, the 2016 Toyota Camry is more responsive to driver inputs than the previous versions, not to mention more composed when going around corners. This is especially true of the SE, Special Edition and XSE trims, which dial up the driver engagement even further with their sport-tuned suspensions.” — Edmunds.com.
“Building on the solid base provided by the new-for-2015 Camry, the 2016 Camry Special Edition gets most of its “special” from a collection of cosmetic enhancements and technology features.” — CarandDriver.com.
“Have you ever seen a more stylish Camry? We haven’t. Bookended by a bold, eye-catching front end and a nicely detailed rear, the stylish – but not outlandish – Camry is sure to attract new buyers without scaring away longtime devotees.” — KelleyBlueBook.com.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“If the goal was to spruce up the Camry’s image, as if it needed to be something more than the best-selling sedan in the United States, than Toyota has succeed. No more does Camry equate to dull but functional family sedan.”
Article Last Updated: November 2, 2015.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.