For nearly 20 years, the Toyota Camry has been the country’s top-selling sedan. But for the past several years including 2018, there’s been a caveat to the numbers. And it hasn’t been good.
Despite the debut of the enduring sedan’s eighth generation, Camry sales were down 11.3 percent last year from 2017. Toyota and other top sedan-makers continue to ponder the public’s mass exit from sedans toward the versatile range of sport utility vehicles and trucks. Ford and Chevrolet have abandoned their midsize segments.
Statistically, the Toyota Camry was at its peak for four straight years beginning in 2012 with more than 400,000 sales annually. Sales have fallen since with 343,000 units sold last year, but the Camry is still the most popular sedan after two pick-ups and two SUVs.
It’s unlikely the Camry will surpass the top-four in the foreseeable future. But the 2019 Toyota Camry has improvements that further take the familiar out the family vehicle. Its gradual upgrades push the once staid sedan into the modern age.
There’s more technology standard, like Apple CarPlay. The exterior looks for more athletic with edgy angles and a gargantuan front grille that makes the Lexus approach seem subtle. The XSE and XLE, among five trims, offer 301 horsepower, a V6 engine and a new 8-speed automatic. The XSE trim has four exhaust pipes.
The Camry Hybrid option matches a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a battery-powered electric motor. It’s the only midsize sedan to achieve more than 50 miles per gallon; it’s rated at 53 mpg.
Lower levels gas trims have 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engines and about 100 horsepower less. Those offerings are ideal for many buyers. And it’s why the Camry has been an evergreen top-seller. It’s comfortable and has few weaknesses. Its best known for its longevity and infrequently required repairs.
But it’s the XSE and XLE models that launch the Camry a far haul down the road from yesteryear’s reliable yet bland offerings. The upscale trims feature dual-zone climate control, 7-inch configurable instrument display and 8-inch central touch screen, leather seats and selectable drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport).
Blind-spot monitoring, a panoramic glass roof with moonroof and electric parking brake are standard. And there is also the Entune 3.0 infotainment system. It has built-in Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free and Google voice control.
A JBL premium audio system with navigation, bird’s-eye camera, Qi-compatible wireless phone-charging cradle and head-up display are among options.
Despite its new sporty look, the Camry shouldn’t be mistaken for anything but a spirited sedan. The transmission shifts smoothly and the drive is steady and provides a good grip on the road. Occupants ride in comfort and there’s plenty of trunk space.
The Camry is quiet enough, but bumps and divots feel like bumps and divots. No distractions go unnoticed.
Gas mileage averages are 26 miles per gallon in city driving, 32 miles per gallon on the highway. Acceleration from 0-60 miles per hour takes 7.9 seconds. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $34,600 and the total price is just under $39,000 with the Driver Assist and Navigation packages and taxes.
The Camry’s upgrades also mean it joins the Honda Accord, Kia Optima and Nissan Altima among the segment’s offerings with desirable makeovers. It’s a further crowded market when considering the worthy sedans of Hyundai, Chevrolet, Ford, Mazda and Subaru.
The attractive group was once all considered compliant, comfortable and painstakingly common. But midsize sedans have adopted an attitude.
Lots of folks are driving SUVs or trucks. Purchase a Camry and you won’t be a trend follower. And you’ll be happy about it.
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.
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