It hasn’t even been a full three years since the Toyota Camry was redesigned for the 2012 model year, but the popular mid-size sedan is already getting an extensive makeover for 2015. Before that happens, though, Toyota is sending its perennial top seller off with a new appearance package inspired by the stylish Camry SE V-6 trim level.
Ever since the current Camry was introduced, the SE V-6 trim level has given Toyota’s family sedan a more exciting look (backed up by a 268-hp V-6), but now Toyota is adding this styling to the more efficient versions of the Camry. While there is a new Camry Hybrid SE Limited Edition, our recent test drive focused 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport, which brings the visual styling of the SE V-6 with a some additional popular equipment. The result is a sharp, well-equipped version of the current Camry, but we spent a week with this newest model to see if an appearance package can really help spice up the four-banger.
2014 Toyota Camry SE Sport Specifications:
|Engine:||2.5-liter I-4 - 178 hp / 170 lb-ft|
|Cargo Capacity:||15.4 cubic feet|
|Curb Weight:||3,275 pounds|
|Fuel Economy:||25 city / 35 hwy / 28 combined|
When it comes to exterior styling, the four-cylinder Camry SE already includes sporty cues like an aggressive front with the mesh grille, blacked-out projector beam headlights, lower rocker panels, a decklid spoiler and a unique rear fascia, but the 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport finishes off the full SE V-6 clone with the dark gray 18-inch wheels with a stylish twisted five spoke pattern. Aside from the small of amount of chrome trim in the front fascia and around the side windows, the SE Sport has a very monochromatic look. These visual changes make the SE Sport instantly distinguishable from other 2014.5 Toyota Camry models such as the value-minded L trim or the chrome-clad, range-topping XLE trim. The only styling element that the Camry SE Sport doesn’t get that the SE V-6 offers is the dual exhaust outlets. While the appearance package definitely helps make the Toyota Camry look sporty, this tester’s Barcelona Red metallic paint is the perfect finishing touch.
Matching the SE trim level, 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport gets a sportier interior with leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped shift knob and plenty of faux metallic trim throughout the cabin. The most interesting aspect of this model is the “sport seats” that combine cloth along the center of the seats with Softex (a faux leather) material for the bolsters. The true benefit of the SE Sport is that it comes standard with a power driver’s seat and moonroof, which are optional on other Camry SE trim levels. In order to prevent too much overlap with the Camry SE models, the only factory option available on the SE Sport is the $1,300 Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite. In addition to the convenience of navigation, Entune allows users to integrate their smartphone technology to use mobile apps that include Bing, Pandora, iHeartRadio and OpenTable. Entune can also provide weather and traffic alerts, fuel prices and gas station locations as well as the ability to have text messages read and pre-set responses sent.
The overall design of the current Camry’s interior matches its exterior styling: conservative yet attractive. Setting the tone is the soft-touch instrument panel with its prominent center stack, while the three-spoke steering wheel and more Softex stitched onto the top of the dash add to the sportier vibe. The black-and-gray seats on this tester looked good, but if you really want to get the full effect of the SE Sport appearance, you should check out the black-on-black color option.
The Toyota Camry has grown a lot over the years, and it now has the cabin size that you might expect from a full-size sedan with room for five adults, numerous storage cubby holes and a good-sized trunk that can hold 15.4 cubic feet of cargo. Unfortunately, with the rear seats folded down, the pass-through is surprisingly small, which makes accommodating longer or bulkier cargo more difficult.
As sporty as the 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport looks, it still keeps its efficient four-cylinder engine. This 2.5-liter engine produces 178 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque that leaves this car feel anything but sporty, but if you want to get as much of a thrill as possible, the SE Sport does come with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The good news is that it does help return impressive fuel economy with EPA estimates of 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and a combined rating of 28 mpg. This seemed about right as the analog fuel economy gauge was at about 27 mpg after our week in the Camry SE Sport was up.
Just because there is no extra power under the hood, Toyota points out that like the SE trim levels, the SE Sport has a sport-tuned suspension that includes “exclusive steering knuckles and lighter, stiffer lower front control arms.” The overall ride quality doesn’t feel any different from other versions of the Camry, though, which means you’re looking at a smooth ride, compliant steering and brakes and surprisingly decent handling abilities. You probably won’t want to take this car to the autocross track, but you’ll sure look better dropping your kids off at soccer practice.
At the end of the day, the 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport is essentially a styling package with some added standard equipment sprinkled in to help absorb some of the extra cost. At $25,430, this car is priced almost exactly in between the Camry SE I-4 and the Camry SE V-6, and Toyota says this package represents a saving of about $435 when factoring in the standard equipment. With the optional Entune, various port/dealer-installed accessories (like wheel locks and “Camry” embroidered floor mats and trunk carpet) and the destination charge, this 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport had an as-tested price of $27,950.
Through the years, one of the things that has contributed to the Toyota Camry being the perennial best-selling car in the U.S. is the fact that there are a seemingly endless number of configurations allowing customers to get exactly what they want. The 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport continues this trend by offering yet another version of the car that combines the styling of the sporty SE V-6 with the fuel efficiency of the standard four-cylinder engine. As the 2015 model year approaches, all Camry models will get a more aesthetically pleasing design, but if you really want to get behind the wheel of a Camry now, then the 2014.5 Toyota Camry SE Sport is a good-looking choice.