Words and Photos by Anne Proffit
The family Toyota Camry is one of the most ubiquitous sedans on the road. There’s no one that hasn’t ridden in one of these front-wheel-drive, four-door sedans at some time or another; many have owned multiples of Toyota’s mid-size mainstream vehicle.
The 2017 Toyota Camry XLE is imbued with all the qualities we love about the brand: it’s modestly handsome with clean smooth body lines that give great visibility to both driver and four passengers. It’s a calm place to be when the driver is a typical Camry operator, using the car as a proper appliance. It doesn’t even complain when ridden hard and put away wet, as it was on this Florida trip.
The ruby flare pearl option paint on this Camry is deliciously rich; coupled with standard on the XLE model leather-trimmed parchment seats, this Toyota reeks of richness. The sedan America buys has had 12 iterations to date, half narrow-body and half wide-body. The Camry model is set for a refresh in 2018 and is racing in NASCAR’s premier Cup series with the silhouette of its new shape.
Under the hood of the 2017 Toyota Camry XLE lies an adequate 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 178 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque at 4,100. The engine needs to be hammered to accomplish passes on country roads. A six-speed electronically controlled and shiftable (on the floor) six-speed automatic transmission allows the Camry to attain an excellent 24/33/27 miles per gallon from its 17-gallon tank using regular unleaded fuel. My mileage from a car with around 6,000 miles on the odometer was above the federal ratings; I consistently achieved mileage in the 30s and achieved more than 34-mpg over the road for the ride from Gainesville to Orlando, Florida.
Toyota’s unit-body construction allows the Camry to be very quiet inside and gives it great ride qualities, whether in town or over the road on less-than-compliant pavement. Thank the MacPherson strut front and rear suspensions for the great ride. The Camry XLE uses electric power-assisted steering that is a bit vague on-center but, when the car is put in sport mode tightens appreciably. Power-assisted ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes stop this 3340-pound sedan handily. The Camry’s 215/55R 17-inch tires hold 10-spoke painted/polished alloy wheels.
The 2017 Toyota Camry XLE driven here has a complete list price of $32,228 including transport. There’s a large grouping of options. The beautiful red paint is one, there are extra charges for door sill enhancements and carpets throughout both cabin and trunk. The nice one-touch power moonroof is an extra-cost item, as are pre-collision system, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams. The blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert rate a fee, as do emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification.
Toyota has an extra charge for a convenience package that includes its smart key system on both front doors and trunk (fob stayed in a pocket the entire trip), pushbutton start, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink transmitter, as well as an anti-theft system with alarm. Add to that the Entune premium JBL audio with integrated navigation and App suite. This includes the seven-inch high resolution touchscreen with split-screen display that allows the front-seat occupants to access both navigation and audio simultaneously, an AM/FM/CD system with MP3/WMA playback, 10 JBL speakers in eight locations, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming through Bluetooth systems, Siri eyes-free, Entune app suite, HD radio with predictive traffic and doppler weather notifications, XM/Sirius with 3 months free and Gracenote album cover art. Access to the Entune app suite is free.
It sure would have been nice if some of these items were included in the XLE’s list price, making the need for such an elongated option list unnecessary, particularly with the safety items and radar cruise control, which are becoming ubiquitous on most vehicles of this nature. At least Toyota includes Qi wireless phone charging as a no-cost item. As it was, the lane departure warning was one of the first items I turned off, and the radar cruise control’s adjustments had me using the least amount of following length.
Inside the 2017 Toyota Camry XLE provides solace from the world’s cares. Its leather seats are both comfortable and supportive; Toyota gives power controls to both front occupants. All essential information is easy to find, albeit not always easy to see as the dash is often washed out in direct sunlight. There are some soft plastics atop the dash. Seat heaters are on a wheel in the central tunnel by the dual cup holders – there’s space for cups in all four doors and in the rear, pull-down armrest. Do we really drink that much???
The steering wheel has audio/mode on the left side and trip info/phone on the right. Pairing the phone was easy peasy. Toyota continues to use a dedicated cruise control stalk – once you’ve used one, you know them all. There’s a coin tray for Florida’s continuous tolls at the lower left of the dash, right by the lane departure/blind spot monitoring on/off controls. As seems to be government-inspired, there is a “BRAKE” warning light that goes into action if you don’t slow immediately.
Rear seat passengers have a ton of space and are given air flow in the rear of the central console. With hotel prices at nosebleed level in Sebring, FL, there was nowhere else to sleep but the rear seat and it held little me just fine. Many thanks to driver Scott Dixon for his loan of a blanket and pillow! There’s a 60/40 fold to those rear seats to increase the trunk’s hold of 15.6 cubic feet. Despite trying, with cases of wine as gifts for my hosts, along with my large carry-on suitcase, backpack and ‘track bag’, I never managed to fill the thing. There is no spare tire here; an inflation kit will have to suffice.
Toyota conveniently places the USB, aux and 12-volt plugs in covered storage at the base of the central stack; there is a second 12-volt in the covered central armrest. Its navigation system is exceptional, recalling the route each driver has used in the past so it never becomes necessary to reset the system to return to your hotel, AirBnB location or that restaurant that was so good. There are verbal alerts for the weather and traffic, which makes the driver want to scream sometimes when being advised that there’s horrible traffic – and sitting in it.
Still, this made-in-Kentucky Camry feels safe as houses with mostly five-star ratings for its passive safety. It would be nicer to have the active safety of a nimble vehicle. Alas, no matter how you cut it, the 2017 Camry XLE is an appliance. It’s a very nice appliance, but an appliance nonetheless.