Big news! The 2025 Camry is here. Yes, hold onto your hats, CCers, it’s practically the dawning of a new age because while geologic history is measured in epochs, the Holocene is subdivided according to generations of the Toyota Camry. The outgoing model finally got the attention of enthusiast outlets for strong handling dynamics and then cranked it up another notch with a TRD version. Toyota was looking serious. Hot on that momentum comes this redesign, and you must ask yourself: am I ready for it?
It debuted at the LA Auto Show last week…aaaannd landed with a dull thud among the automag comment boards. Kind of like every Camry debut, come to think of it, except perhaps the 2018. This comes soon after the hyper-conservative 2023 Accord redesign, which also generated a lot of disappointment nearly everywhere outside the Ministry of Ethically Questionable Corporate-Media Relations at Car and Driver, who put it straight on the 10 Best list without even fully testing it. They assigned one of their better writers to justify this, but geezus–only the purest of loyalists failed to see straight through that one. Honda apparently has no dirt on MotorTrend leadership, because that outlet has given more balanced reviews.
The cause of these unenthusiastic responses is the palpable and surgical elimination of high output powertrains from both cars, and it speaks volumes about both the future of the midsize sedan and of accessible performance. The Camry is now 100% hybrid. No more V6. No more top-shelf powertrain at all. It is 2.5-liter 4 cylinder + electric motors for everyone and if you don’t like it you can lump it.
It is just the latest tremor from the shifting tectonic plates of the automotive sector. In a world of contracting midsize sedan sales and emphasis on fuel economy, Toyota is paring back to the thickest part of the Bell curve and the slow-selling V6–as with the manual Accord a few years ago–no longer makes the cut. Overextend yourself to engineer and certify powertrains with a low take rate, and your margins begin to thin, fracture, and tilt like the crust of the Great Basin.
Honda made the move first, replacing the quick 2.0T with a “performance” hybrid last year and thus nailing the coffin closed on any lingering notion that the Accord is an FWD sports sedan. Some thought this left an opening for Toyota to wrest the enthusiast’s crown from Honda, but this was irrational exuberance. Toyota and Honda are reading the same tea leaves.
Toyota was clear about the 2GR V6 going away, and the new 2.4-liter turbo they’re loading into CUVs in its place isn’t quite capable of replicating its performance. In a Camry it would likely match the new Accord hybrid’s 6.5 second run to 60 and then leave it far in the dust by the quarter mile, but it would do so at a big mpg penalty and without the 2GR’s smoothness and enthusiasm. There’s really no market for that, although Nissan, Subaru, and Hyundai are still offering thirsty optional horsepower to those few disenfranchised shoppers. For now.
We all expect more of this, I think. North America has been a holdout against low-displacement engines and widespread hybridization but that’s been coming to an end in several popular vehicle classes. These are global manufacturers responding to global market and regulatory forces and North America can only steer them so far. Hybridization is a large part of the foreseeable future, and Toyota is a master of it. The Sienna. The Highlander. The Grand Highlander. Big vehicles with hybrid powertrains delivering a combination of acceleration and fuel economy unimaginable a decade ago. Even the Prius can nearly outrun my Fiesta ST now.
This new Camry might, as well. Toyota cites 225-232 horsepower for the new one, depending on FWD/AWD. That’s not a big number but it somehow propels the 4,000 pound Crown to 60 in 7.2 seconds and the quarter mile at 91 mph in C&D’s instrumented test, which is quicker than you’d expect from the rated output. The lighter Camry could be high-6s and mid-90s. I could clutch-dump the Fiesta all I want and still not beat it down the onramp. My Fiesta doesn’t get 50mpg. Or have 100 cubic feet of passenger space. That’s food for thought. A slow and noisy last-gen Prius doesn’t interest me but a quiet Camry with these specs doesn’t seem half bad at all.
While the electrified future raises some hackles here, there are distinct advantages having nothing to do with the environmental responsibility aspects that irritate some of us. I was briefly in Singapore last year–among the highest per capita income nations in the world–and a substantial portion of the cars there were small displacement hybrids, including the hideous Alphard luxury van that requires serious money to buy. All were capable of whisking along quite nicely and it made for a refreshingly quiet and nerve-free urban core. Engine thrash and exhaust roar suck for everyone but the narcissist behind the wheel, and if I could wave a magic wand to make my own neighborhood a refuge from brodozers and hogs Powerstroking their egos up our street while little kids plug their ears and wince, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
So should we rejoice in this electrified future? Or pack up for the UAE to torch off as much gasoline as possible while broiling in a desert hellscape for which the fuel consumption of its car culture is only helping crank the thermostat? Well, I’m not thrilled about the idea of EV-only, but I’m coming around on hybrids. The phrase “First World problems” exists for a reason and we’re a tad spoiled if we believe large, quiet, confident sedans capable of 0-60 in 7 seconds and 50 mpg is truly an erosion of our quality of life. But then, hybrids are not very engaging even by commuter car standards, and I’m still looking around for that nice 3.5L Lexus sedan that chugs at 24 mpg. Hypocrisy, find thyself in the mirror.
Anyway, enough about me and my peculiarities. How about you and this new Camry? Does this still look like a stalwart ally of America’s middle class? It’s not a full redesign as the commenters are fond of shouting about, but it didn’t need to be. The TNGA platform is really quite good and fully competitive already. The profile and greenhouse are still sharp, although they missed an opportunity to make it truly good looking by keeping the oversized grill. Should’ve grafted the new Prius’s entire face on there rather than only the headlights.
I’m not sure if anyone shares my ambivalence about the dashboard design. I was fond of the creative swoop of the outgoing dash, it was nice to see such inventive flair in a mainstream car. This new interior was designed entirely around the enormous LCD screen everyone has been conditioned to demand now. The dash is bland and indistinct and the vents and climate array are compressed into thin strata beneath the screen’s hulking mass. All the enjoyable design language of the outgoing car has been removed.
Fundamentally, though, this is going to be a refined and well-executed sedan with an impressive blend of power and efficiency for a fraction of the average new vehicle purchase price. It’ll be cheap to fuel, quiet, ride well, and handle all but technical roads with composure. The Accord will be much the same but continue to steer with more purity and suffer from road noise. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
I ain’t excited, but if my future held a Camry or Accord hybrid I wouldn’t be stretching for Orwellian references. Modern hybrids are too good for that. If it’s the future, it isn’t a dystopia. In the meantime, where in the hell is that damn GS350 I’ve been looking for? They’re thin on the ground and I’m not quite ready to welcome the hybrid overlord onto my driveway just yet.