2013 Toyota Camry Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 31, 2013

The 2013 Toyota Camry is no standout for design, but it's more than ever the sensible pick for those who value comfort, value, and frugality above all else.

The Toyota Camry is a perennial contender for the best-selling passenger car in America, and often the winner of the title. Nevertheless, we don't think it's the go-to choice for a family sedan shopper.

Why? Because, despite its reputation for reliability and practicality, the Camry just doesn't stand out in any area, from comfort to performance, technology to style.

That's not the say the Camry isn't perfectly acceptable in most regards, and even quite good in others--just that it's not better than some of the competition in most respects.

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It's also easy to dress up the Camry with more personality than you might be familiar with--by way of a V-6 engine, a sport suspension, and premium features--so it's not quite so relentlessly straight-laced.

The Toyota Camry was all-new last year, yet what arrived was merely evolutionary from a styling standpoint. Instead of trying to make the new car radically different, Toyota essentially took a look at the existing car and asked how it could redesign nearly every component to make a better end result for core values like comfort and safety. What it ended up with, for better or worse, was a car that looked very much like the outgoing version, but with a more upright front end, a few more creases, boxier corners, and a slightly different roofline. Inside, there's more to be said, as the Camry not only gets better materials and detailing throughout, but its new dual-tier instrument panel and corners that are pushed outward—in a sort of anti-cockpit layout—help amplify interior space.

Overall, the Camry rides and drives in a more refined, responsive way compared to any Camry you test-drove a few years ago, and the package and features have been much improved. Thanks to some very significant weight savings, the base four-cylinder Camry performs better than ever, while the V-6 fills a niche for those wanting a particularly strong, refined (yet still budget-priced) sedan.

The Camry's interior is one of its strong points. Thanks to a thinner front-seat design and new packaging, there's noticeably more back-seat space in these latest versions. Ride comfort is impressive, and trunk space is improved due to the boxier corners. Base front seats are a little disappointing, though, and we highly recommend the sporty SE model, in part, for its much better-bolstered seats. The SE drives better, too.

Just like the previous-generation Camry, the Hybrid version feels about as quick as the base four—possibly a little more so when you tap into full electric-motor boost. And the mileage improvement is phenomenal: 43 mpg city, 39 highway for the LE. Hybrids now come in LE or XLE models, and as before they give up a little trunk space (not as much now though, due to a smaller battery pack).

The latest Camry earns top 'good' ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the Institute's Top Safety Pick accolade; but it should be noted that in the latest test from the IIHS, the small-overlap frontal test, the Camry scored 'poor' (while the Honda Accord, for instance, earned a top 'good'). The Camry is a five-star vehicle overall in federal testing—although it's earned four out of five stars for frontal impact, its excellent five-star side result made the difference.

Toyota reclaimed one of the top spots among mid-size sedans, with ten standard airbags plus top overall ratings from both U.S. safety agencies. Bluetooth connectivity is included in all trims—even the base model—and the screen-based Display Audio system, with Bluetooth audio streaming, USB connectivity, and iPod connectivity, is now included even in the base Camry L. A navigation system with voice recognition is also available, as is a high-end JBL sound system, with HD Radio and satellite radio. And through Toyota's advanced Entune system—also available—you can tap into Pandora streaming audio through your smartphone, as well as a suite of connected services.

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2013 Toyota Camry

Styling

A ubiquitous shape and conservative styling make the Camry no standout, but up close it's crisper, neater, and a little more upscale.

Last year the Toyota Camry was given a full redesign; yet if you aren't tuned in to the subtle exterior changes in new models, you might not even have been able to tell it apart from the previous year's model.

While some might wince at that description, subtle evolution has been the Camry's specialty for the past couple of decades. Exterior dimensions were kept the same, with only slightly different doorcuts and tweaks to the roofline and greenhouse. It would be a stretch to call the Camry an object of beauty from the outside, and it oozes practicality and space efficiency way more that shape, stance, flowing form, or characterful sheetmetal.

Compared to both the previous Camry and most of its mid-size competition, the 2013 model looks a little more upright and angular. Toyota sharpened the corners with last year's redesign (they call it 'aero corners'), and its both a step ahead for styling and aerodynamics. Squaring off the corners helps a bit with trunk space, too.

Toyota called this current Camry's design theme "Rational Tech-Dynamism," which "aims for a rational and advanced style with sporty exterior and a modern, luxurious interior."

For the most part, Toyota holds true on that design promise inside. Thankfully, they replaced the former interior that we saw as a 'Corolla-plus' layout with one that draws from those models higher up the Toyota pecking order—looking influenced in part by Lexus sedans, accented with some of the dash details from Toyota's newest SUVs, like the new 4Runner. Yet oddly, we see the slightly larger 2013 Toyota Avalon as having taken off in an entirely different direction—one that we like better than the Camry's.

Like most new models, the Camry gets a multi-layered dash appearance; Toyota says that the layered, stitched-leather look of the instrument panel was modeled after saddles, media players like the iPod played a role in the layout and tactile logic of the center gauge cluster as well as the audio and climate controls.

Within the Camry lineup, you'll find a few key appearance differences, and they're significant enough to affect your aesthetic appreciation. Sporty SE models get a split, winged air dam that we saw at times as Subaru-influenced; but XLE and hybrid trims come with a more wide-open (but louvered) air dam (with XLEs getting a little extra chrome in the upper grille).

To sum, the Camry doesn't push any boundaries; in fact, next to the Chevrolet Malibu it's now looking like the most conservative entry in its class, despite being one of the most recently updated. To some, it's a snooze, but we think it's refreshingly different for bucking a trend and taking function (and rear headroom and trunk space) over form.

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2013 Toyota Camry

Performance

The 2013 Toyota Camry won't delight driving enthusiasts, but it handles well enough and accelerates responsively.

The 2013 Toyota Camry provides performance that's, for the most part, in line with its conservative look; it doesn't make any visual claims to be a sport sedan, and it isn't one. But don't dismiss all of these models for a lack of driving enjoyment, as there is at least one hidden gem in the lineup.

Some mid-size models like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, or Kia Optima have moved to all four-cylinder lineups, but the Camry sticks to its tried-and-true formula of offering either four-cylinder or V-6 engines. The base 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is uncharacteristically smooth in the way it starts and idles; though you can hear a hint of coarseness if you push it hard. It's clear this is no premium powertrain, but it provides plenty of power for most needs. Opt for the 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and you get a completely different, luxury-car personality, with lots of refined punch no matter what the speed.

In either case, the six-speed automatic transmission shifts unobtrusively and doesn't balk to downshift.In general, we like the base model's lighter front end and more balanced feel. There is a way to add more fun though: Get the sporty SE model, and its stuffer springs, rebound springs, solid stabilizer bars, and exclusive steering knuckles and lower arms. Altogether, the package makes the Camry more responsive without riding all that harsher on most surfaces. And you get downshift rev-matching and steering-wheel paddle-shifters that help heighten the experience when it counts.

Push the Camry hard into a corner and there's still a fair amount of body lean, as well as lots of roll; what has changed is that it deals with recoveries and transitions a bit better; combined with a reconfigured electric power steering system the net effect is that it's a bit more nimble—particularly in four-cylinder form.

Hybrid models were refocused last year with the redesign, and they're now both better-performing and more frugal—and offered in LE and XLE trims. They get an Atkinson-cycle version of the four, making 156 hp and 156 lb-ft, with output being 200 horsepower altogether. Mileage is phenomenal—43 mpg city, 39 highway for the LE, or 41/38 for the XLE (because of different tires and more weight) and now the Camry Hybrid feels about as quick as the base four—possibly al little more so when you tap into full electric-motor boost.

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2013 Toyota Camry

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Camry is quiet, spacious, and smooth-riding—and the SE is worth the upgrade for its better-bolstered seats.

The Camry still has one of the smoothest, most comfortable rides of the mainstream mid-size sedans; and with the latest version Toyota has succeesed in giving this model not only a more upscale feel but a little more interior space.

As opposed to some sedans that have more of a cockpit-influenced design in front—like the Kia Optima—the Toyota Camry pushes the dash forward and the corners outward, for an airier feel from the front seats. There's both more perceived space and more real, useful space; and last year's redesign brought thinned pillars from the inside plus reshaped door panels—changes that are subtle individually, but ones that add up.

This is one of the better mid-size sedans for taller adults. The back of the center console was reshaped, while front seats were redesigned, altogether for more rear knee and legroom. Three adults still might feel a little tight back there, but only because of shoulder room.

Rear seatbacks don't quite fold all the way flat in the Camry, and the trunk opening may make loading long objects from IKEA or Home Depot a little challenging. That's probably not the intended purpose of the trunk, though, and there's plenty of space for large suitcases or a big family's grocery run. Also of note is that Camry Hybrid models no longer sacrifice rear seating comfort or trunk space; the battery pack has become smaller and lighter compared to the previous model—although you'll still give up some trunk space compared to the other models.

The sporty SE model rides a bit harsher, but it's worth it for the better seats you get; they're more aggressively contoured—helping both to reduce fatigue and hold you in place in corners—and noticeably better than the spongy, flat ones you get in the most affordable Camry models.

The 2013 Toyota Camry is surprisingly quiet and well isolated from road and engine noise, thanks in part to added sound insulation and more layers of metal at the firewall. Trims, materials, and fine details are no longer on the chintzy side, as they have been for Camry's past; they're a little traditional looking, yet upscale. And it feels that extra attention has been paid to what's close at hand—for instance, in the chunky multi-function controllers on either side of the steering wheel, positioned right where your thumbs can be.

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2013 Toyota Camry

Safety

There are more airbags than most cars in this class, and great crash-test results--although at least one 'poor' results keeps it from being a true top pick.

With last year's redesign, the Toyota Camry went from being a subpar performer in U.S. crash tests to one of the better ones. Both U.S. organizations that crash-test vehicles have now given the 2013 Camry some high ratings, although there's at least one test category in which the Camry falls short--and misses a top 9 or 10 in our scoring system.

The latest Camry earns top 'good' ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the Institute's Top Safety Pick accolade; but it should be noted that in the latest test from the IIHS, the small-overlap frontal test, the Camry scored 'poor' (while the Honda Accord, for instance, earned a top 'good'). From the federal government, the Camry is a five-star vehicle overall—although it's earned four out of five stars for frontal impact, its excellent five-star side result made the difference.

Lighter yet stronger than the previous model, the Camry packs more safety features than ever, like a class-leading ten standard airbags, including new front passenger knee bags and rear side airbags for outboard occupants. A rear-view camera system is offered in some models, and an optional blind-spot monitoring system is now paired with Rear Cross Traffic Alert—with availability extended to the Camry SE. Separately, on all models, one tap of the turn-signal stalk now initiates three blinks of the lamps.
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2013 Toyota Camry

Features

Upper trims of the Camry, like the XLE and SE offer long lists of features, while the base models offer lots of value for the money.

Mid-size sedans like the 2013 Toyota Camry span a wide range in price and features, and the Camry is competitive every step of the way, with all that you'd expect to see given the price, plus a few extra items in each trim.

Four trim levels are offered: value-priced CE, mainstream LE, sporty SE, and luxurious XLE. There's also a limited-availability, base L model that you're more likely to see in rental-car fleets than on the new-car lot.

Each of the models get different upholstery and trim combinations; L and LE models come with Silver trim and fabric seats; SE models get silver-grain trim and synthetic leather; XLE models come with faux-woodgrain and leather, and Hybrids come with Metallic Tech grain and in XLE Hybrid (or available on the SE) a leather-trimmed ultrasuede. For 2013, all LE and XLE grades get better color-matching on Icory seat inserts; all models with leather have updated stitching accents; and all models have updated door trim.

Hybrid shoppers have a choice of two 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE models, which include dual-zone climate control, a Smart Key system, and Optitron meters, while the new Hybrid XLE comes with all the goodies that the V-6 XLE includes.

SE models also also get sport seats, 17-inch (four-cylinder) or 18-inch (V-6) alloy wheels, a special three-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel and, perhaps most importantly, a Sport mode with downshift rev-matching for the transmission, along with steering-wheel paddle shifters.

Bluetooth connectivity is included in all trims—even the base model—and the screen-based Display Audio system, with Bluetooth audio streaming, USB connectivity, and iPod connectivity, is now included even in the base Camry L. A navigation system with voice recognition is also available, as is a high-end JBL sound system, with HD Radio and satellite radio. Toyota's advanced Entune system is also available, bringing a suite of connected services, including access to Pandora streaming audio, for example.
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2013 Toyota Camry

Fuel Economy

V-6 versions of the 2013 Camry are no standout, while four-cylinder models are quite fuel-efficient—and the 43-mpg Camry Hybrid might as well be an honorary Prius.

Gas mileage is a much higher priority than it used to be for mid-size sedan shoppers, and whether or not you think that the 2013 Camry meets your expectations depends on which model you're considering.

Undoubtedly, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is the star of the lineup for efficiency. Its hybrid powertrain achieves an astounding 43 mpg city, 39 highway, according to the EPA.

The latest Camry Hybrid includes a readout for real-time gas mileage, as well as a power-flow display. And as in the Prius, Toyota has added EV Mode and Eco Mode to the Camry Hybrid. Under some situations, given proper charge, the lack of steep hills, and light throttle application, the Camry Hybrid can go about a half-mile or more on electricity alone.

Last year brought a number of changes to the other four-cylinder and V-6 models (lighter weight, earlier torque-converter lockup) aimed at mileage improvements, and ratings went up to 25/35 mpg for four-cylinder models and 21/30 mpg for the V-6.

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April 24, 2015
For 2013 Toyota Camry

Outstanding car for the money.

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There is no real comparison in the family car class to a Camry. If you want sport features, go with the sport version, if you want all the bells and whistles, go for the other versions. Incredible reliability... + More »
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7.6
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Expert Rating
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Styling 6.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 9.0
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