Camry may get little respect, but it does a lot of things right

The Camry continues to set the sales pace for the midsize sedan segment and ranks in the top 5 for all vehicles sold in the U.S. in the first three months of 2016.

2016 Toyota Camry

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Is there such a thing as too much success?

Not talking about the Kardashians or Justin Bieber here (another, more lengthy, topic), but the automotive world and Toyota’s Camry. Probably no other vehicle that sells as well as it does (No. 4 in the U.S. for the first three months of 2016 behind only three pickups) gets as many shrugs among motorheads as the Camry does.

“I just bought a new car.”

“Oh, yeah. What kind?”

“A Toyota Camry.”

“Oh. That’s nice.”

Yawn.

Part of the reason for that, no doubt, is its class. Sedans in general are the “practical shoes” of the auto world. (Does that make crossovers and SUVs the “practical boots”? Just wondering.) You’re not going find many affordable family sedans on the wish lists of many lottery winners, not even so-called “sport” sedans.

But the Camry still seems to get more “blah” reactions than its competitors. Maybe it’s the natural reaction to pick at the flaws when something enjoys such ongoing success. Or maybe it’s because of the Camry’s conservative styling of the past. Or maybe it’s because of the lack of excitement it delivers to the person behind the steering wheel.

Or maybe it’s a combination of all three.

Whatever, apparently, as evidenced by the sales numbers, a lot of Americans don’t care about any of that. They see the Camry as exactly what they want when it comes to family transportation.

But just in case, Toyota made a pre-emptive strike at the competition a couple of years ago by injecting some excitement into this traditionally staid sedan in giving it a pretty thorough updating just three years after its complete redesign.

Toyota kept the engine the same with with a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with the capability of manual gear selection. That combination offers a satisfying combination of fuel mileage (25 miles-per-gallon city, 35 highway) and enough power (178 horses, 170 pound-feet of torque) to meet daily needs.

If you want just a little more oomph, an available 3.5-liter V6 boosts power numbers to 268/248, respectively, while trimming fuel consumption about four miles per gallon is available on upper trims. And for more fuel savings, the Camry also is available with a hybrid drivetrain as well that boosts mileage figures to 41 or 40 mpg overall depending on the model.

The big thing is that the new Camry is a more appealing vehicle visually. Toyota gave it several styling updates in that 2015 haulover, and the 2016 model continues those lines. There’s also a Special Edition model based on the SE trim for this year that tinkers with the looks even more (two new colors, distinctive wheels, and gloss black-painted accents, among other touches).

Other features like a standard moonroof and certain design touches on the interior plus technological items like wireless charging for Smart Phones also are included in the Special Edition models.

And the Special Edition (and the LE, SE, XSE, and XLE models as well) has Camry’s usual doses of comfort and convenience. Really, that’s what the Camry has been all about for all these years any way. Toyota may have firmed up the ride a bit on the SE and given the Camry an overall jazzier, bolder look, but it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

Even the fabric seats in the SE (the XSE and XLE models get leather) have a nice feel and attractive look about them. A backup camera, not yet mandatory per federal guidelines, is standard across the line.

And the Camry’s ride is comfy and oh-so quiet.

It’s also priced competitively, starting at $23,855 for the Camry LE (including destination and delivery). The SE starts at $24,675. Four-cylinder XSE models have a starting MSRP of $27,145. The XSE and XLE V6s start at $32,205. Hybrid models have starting MSRPs of $27,625 (LE), $28,830 (SE), and $30,975 (XLE).

Little wonder why it has such a strong market.

What’s good about the 2016 Toyota Camry: Without a doubt, one of the most appealing features its the ease of operation of its technology. The optional navigation system with its 7-inch high-res touchscreen sets the standard for the industry when it comes to punching in desired functions. Even with the four-cylinder engine, the Camry responds quickly to throttle input, and it handles corners well.

What’s not-so good about the 2016 Camry: Unless you’re looking for more in the way of driving dynamics, there’s nothing to really dislike about the Camry. One small thing: The company can cut out the pretense of having a “sport” model by not bothering with adding paddle shifters to the steering wheel.

For a look at the 2016 Toyota Camry and more details, check out the accompanying slide show.

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