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2016 Toyota Camry SE Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Toyota Camry SE

Handsome, Sporty And With All The Usual Camry Virtues


            • SEE ALSO: Toyota Research and Buyers Guide

After major revisions for model year 2015 that saw more expressive styling, improved road manners, and upgrades to electronic information and entertainment systems, Toyota has still found room for improvement to its ever-popular Camry midsize sedan for 2016. There are further electronic enhancements and a Special Edition of the popular mid-level SE grade.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Toyota Camry SE

The SE is the most popular Camry model, with 45 percent of sales. And SE buyers are younger than the Camry average, by an average of twelve years. The SE and XSE already have a sportier suspension calibration, front sports seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with shift paddles, and a reprogrammed transmission featuring quicker shifts in "S" sport mode. The Special Edition adds unique paint -- either Blizzard Pearl or Blue Streak Metallic -- smoked taillight covers, and exclusive alloy wheels in addition to the regular SE's gloss "piano black" grille. Inside, it's even more differentiated, with blue stitching on interior panel and seats and its own instrument cluster, trim, and floor mats. A tilt and slide moonroof is standard, as are the Smart Key keyless fob and Qi wireless charging for compatible devices. The Entune Audio Plus system has the new Connected Navigation Scout® GPS Link App that uses the driver's own phone (if applicable) for navigation.

The SE and SE Special Edition are offered with Toyota's 2.5-liter, 178-horsepower four-cylinder engine, as is the entry-level LE. XSE and XLE grades can also be outfitted with the 268-hp 3.5-liter V6. Both drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. The Camry Hybrid can also be had in SE trim, for a sportier green driving experience.

I've already tested the latest Camry V6 in XSE form and a Hybrid SE. Last week was time for the new SE Special Edition, in Blue Streak Metallic trim. That's a lovely color, and, as hard as it may be for some detractors to believe, the Camry has evolved into a car that is far more engaging to drive than any previous one in stock form. The suspension in SE form controls body roll well in spirited driving while still providing good comfort and control on poor surfaces. The electrically-assisted steering is not overly light, and the brakes work well. Yes, the four-cylinder engine isn't as powerful as the V6, or even the Hybrid, but so-equipped the price is less and the car goes farther on a gallon of regular unleaded. And is still quick enough to deal with short highway onramps and other situations where quick acceleration is a safety factor. The interior treatment more than makes up for all of the less than stellar materials and designs in Toyota's past, although you had better like blue. Most contemporary electronic conveniences are standard; this one had the Entune Premium system, adding navigation and other upgrades.

Is the Special Edition a real sports sedan? Let's just say sporty sedan, or in motorcycle marketing parlance, sport-touring. A hard-edged tuner car it's not, and no surprise. Consider it a Camry with all that is good about a Camry, and the boredom removed.

APPEARANCE: Dark metallic blue works well on most cars, and the Special Edition Camry is no exception. Add the SE's gloss black grille and foglamps set into faux brake ducts and hint of a splitter in front -- without the restricted clearance that makes "real" sports sedan body kits short-lived -- and a small ducktail spoiler at the rear of the trunk and the result is a handsome car that is not overdone.

COMFORT: Sport content inside the Camry Special Edition shows in front seats that are more bolstered than the regular ones and white-faced instruments. Front seat comfort and support are good, and the bolsters are not so high as to impede access. Centers are grippy cloth, in blue here, with leatherette sides. And blue stitching. The driver's seat is power-adjustable; the passenger's is manual. Padded leatherette with blue stitching also covers the instrument panel and upper door surfaces. Blue and black patterned plastic separates upper and lower parts of the dash, and "aluminum" (plastic) trim is used around the instruments, center stack, and on the steering wheel. The design is cohesive and conservative and should age well. The leather-rimmed (and blue-stitched) steering wheel manually adjusts for tilt and reach, and has audio, phone, and information system controls on its spokes. Cruise control is via the usual stalk.The rear seat has plenty of room for the Camry's size. Useful storage is found in all doors, with bottle holders. The Qi charger, a 12VDC power point, and USB connection are found in a covered compartment at the front of the console, with a medium-sized covered box with another 12VDC power point to the rear. The audio, information, and navigation systems are controlled through the central touchscreen and marked hard buttons. The interface is reasonably simple and intuitive. Trunk capacity is 15.4 cubic feet, with more space available by folding the 60/40 rear seatback.

SAFETY: Passive safety is addressed by a unibody structure that protects passengers and seat frames that help absorb side-impact loads. All models have ten standard airbags, with rear-seat side and front passenger knee bags new. As in all 2016 Toyotas, the Star Safety System™, comprised of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control (TRAC), antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and brake assist (BA) is standard. An electronic tire-pressure monitoring system and engine immobilizer are also standard in all models. Interior lights are deactivated after 20 minutes to lessen the chances of a dead battery. Good brakes and responsive handling improve active safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: As improved as the previous-generation (2012-14) Camry was over its predecessors, there was still room for further development. While the differences in ride and handling aren't quite as noticeable, they are there. Thank further improvements in unibody rigidity and development and fine-tuning of the MacPherson strut / dual-link suspension for that. Yes, the steering is electrically-assisted (EPS). Not, it's not video-game numb -- it doesn't have to be if it's done correctly. This is the company that brought you the Scion FR-S, proof positive that EPS is perfectly fine for a sports car. As there, good road information is fed through the steering column, although as a front-wheel drive family sedan, the Camry's suspension and steering bushings are softer than those in a rear-wheel drive sports car. Compared to other Camrys, the SE and XSE get firmer springs, shocks, and bushings and stiffer stabilizer bars. The shocks here seem a bit stiffer than the springs, but neither are in racecar territory and it's fun to drive more assertively than you might expect given the Camry name. And its quick, secure maneuverability is as much a safety factor as fun factor, as the accident you can avoid is one you don't have.

PERFORMANCE: No, A Camry with the 2.5-liter four is not as fast as the "Camry" that won the Daytona 500. But a four-cylinder Camry costs a lot less and uses far less fuel. And is still quick enough to deal with everyday driving. The engine is a standard Toyota design with dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder controlled by the VVT-i variable cam phasing system to improve efficiency and torque, port sequential fuel injection, and aluminum alloy block and head. Which is actually more more high-tech than the NASCAR V8. Maximum horsepower is 178, at 6000 rpm, with torque peaking at 170 lb-ft at 4100 rpm and plenty below that. The six-speed automatic transmission has overdrive fifth and sixth ratios for economical highway cruising, and in the SE its shift logic is reprogrammed for quicker, more assertive shifts in S(port) mode. D usually works well enough, with S best when the road gets interesting, and manual shifting via the paddles for entertainment. EPA mileage is 25mpg city, 35 highway. I got 26 overall, a reflection of minimal long-distance highway travel during the week. The best mileage recorded in the car's computer was 32 mpg.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2016 Toyota Camry SE Special Edition is handsome, and adds a bit of sportiness to the usual Camry virtues.


2016 Toyota Camry SE Special Edition

Base Price $ 25,715

Price As Tested $ 27,075

Engine Type DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with Dual VVT-i variable cam phasing

Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.

Horsepower 178 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 170 @ 4100 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 190.9 in.

Curb Weight 3305 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 18.6

Fuel Capacity 17 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P225/45 R18 91V m+s Bridgestone Turanza EL400

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, Smart Stop, Stability Control, and Traction Control standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent dual link

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 25 / 35 / 26

0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec


Entune Premium Audio With Integrated Navigation and App Suite: Entune Multimedia Bundle: 7-inch high-resolution touch screen with split-screen display, AM/FM/CD player with MP3 and WMA playback ability, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free $ 525

Delivery Charge $ 835

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