2014 Toyota Camry Performance

7.0
Performance

The 2014 Toyota Camry drives in much the same fashion as it looks–a little conservative, a little reserved, but comfortable in a way that will please the masses. That's not to say that the entire Camry lineup is a yawn to drive, though; there's at least one hidden gem that looks and feels a little sportier.

Hybrid models were refocused in 2012 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.

A light feel to the controls and safe, predictable handling are the Camry's performance hallmarks.

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 stiffer 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.

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