Saturday, March 7, 2015

Top-tier Camry edges into Lexus territory

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – Well, the badging on the back of the tested passenger sedan said it was a 2015 Camry XLE V6, but it looked and felt like a recently driven 2015 Lexus ES 350 sedan.

Turns out there’s a good reason for that.  This top-end Camry – starting at a somewhat hefty $31,370 in this practical four-door segment – is a Lexus just waiting to happen.

Yes, that’s the same 3.5-liter V-6 engine putting out a max 268 horsepower.  And this Camry was liberally dressed up in safety, comfort and convenience features to qualify it as a primo luxo liner in the Toyota stable.

Throw in scores of improvements and refreshed features for the 2015 model year, and you’re riding in a status-symbol Camry instead of the comparatively humble Camry that other folks are purchasing.

Not that I had a problem with any of this.

I liked the power tilt/slide moonroof, the dual chrome-tipped exhausts, the leather/heated front seats and other standard features in my tester.  I also liked the $4,500-or-so in extras that included illuminated door sills, a rear spoiler and a premium JBL audio system.

Go big with a Camry.  That’s what I say.  Well, I say that when I’m not having to write a check for permanent ownership of the vehicle, of course.

Even so, yes, I believe I would be inclined to write a check for this loaded Camry XLE if the payment was coming out of my checkbook, and I wanted a quality decade-long transporter.

The driving characteristics of the tested Camry XLE were likewise more than one would expect from a more humble, everyday driver Carmy.  Accelerations were impressively brisk, and the XLE responded instantly to even the slightest twists of the steering wheel.  Controls were easy to reach and understand from the cockpit.  The Camry also was kind enough to warn me when I was motoring along too fast amid commuter gridlock.

Fuel mileage is a so-so 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

I have chuckled sometimes at the use of the Camry name in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.  After all, Camry is likely not the name most think of when it comes to mixing it up in pro-racer traffic whistling along at up to 200 miles per hour.

However, after a week in the Camry XLE, I think the reference fits.  It was a robust roadway performer, but its interior luxuries were much more pleasant than what one finds inside a rip-roaring NASCAR ride.

Eat your heart out, Jimmie Johnson.

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