2016 Toyota Camry XLE Review: A Ton of Wow for the Price

Toyota Camry

If you saw me driving around with a smug grin on my face last week, that’s because I was driving the 2016 Toyota Camry.

Pulling up behind BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Lexuses, I had a distinct feeling of superiority. I was ensconced in sublime, incognito luxury. And, for the price tag of the 2016 Toyota Camry versus many luxury brands, you’d have plenty of money left over for other luxuries, like a nice pair of Jimmy Choos or this luscious Kate Spade Bag.

The Camry backstory: lots of luxe for a very reasonable price

Toyota Camry

More luxury details in the 2016 Toyota Camry include soft touch materials on the dash, real stitching and satin wood grain accents; photo: Scotty Reiss

Back in the day, Toyota mostly sold budget friendly cars that, being inexpensive, didn’t feature the finer things in life. Like air conditioning or electric windows.

But in the 1990’s, the company changed its strategy; Toyota loaded it with luxuries to shed the frumpy bargain-car image. It was about that time that my father-in-law Harry, who had been a Cadillac driver for most of his adult life, wanted a smaller car that got better fuel economy. He had heard that Camry was a good one, so he took the plunge. He couldn’t believe how nice the Camry was; we couldn’t believe how happy he was making the transition from a Sedan DeVille.

Harry wasn’t alone: Camry became the go-to sedan for value and dependability, offering luxury at very accessible prices.

Who This Car is For:

Toyota Camry

I love this feature: the navigation screen gives you the speed limit of the road you’re on; photo: Scotty Reiss

  • Singles, couples or small families
  • Buyers who love a classic sedan
  • Budget conscious buyers who want a lot for the money
  • Buyers who want leading technology
  • Buyers who want top safety features
  • First time car buyers
  • Car buyers who expect to drive 200,000 miles or more over the car’s lifetime
  • Buyers who value dependability and reliability

What Buyers Should Consider:

  • Traction and safety technology are not a replacement for all wheel drive
  • Fuel economy is middle of the road; we got about 22 MPG
  • More comfortable for four passengers, though it seats 5

The big news: All this for $35,000

Toyota Camry

The 2016 Camry side view; photo: Scotty Reiss

I was pretty stunned at all the luxuries and top safety technology that were included in the Camry’s price tag of $35,000. Not just creature comforts like leather seating and a roomy interior, but a ton of thoughtful technology and functional touches that really make a car pleasant to be in. Like:

  • Adaptive cruise control: set it and forget it; Camry adjusts its speed to stay with the flow of traffic
  • Articulating headlights: These lights move with the direction of the wheel
  • Auto-off high beam lights: just leave your brights on; they’ll dim when oncoming traffic or pedestrians are detected
  • Blind spot monitors: enough can’t be said about these, especially when a new driver or senior citizen is behind the wheel
  • Crash detection: we didn’t get to try this out (thankfully) but we assume it works and are glad to have it
  • Lane departure warning: you can easily turn this off if it annoys you, but it’s nice to have lights and sound to alert you if you’ve drifted out of your lane or forgotten to use your turn signal to indicate a lane change
  • Qi charge pad: Wirelessly charge your phone; Samsung and a few other phones have the technology built in, others require a case. We tried it out and it it was nice to have, although it didn’t charge our phone very quickly. You can read our review of the case we tested out here
  • Hands free connectivity including phone, directions (though we didn’t have great luck using the voice guidance) and when the phone was connected, Siri did the dialing for us
  • Toyota’s STAR Safety System: Traction control, stability control, brake force distribution and crash mitigation that keep the Camry safe by monitoring and responding to road conditions
  • Then, there were the creature comforts:
  • The oyster colored interior; the light gray (nearly cream colored) leather felt fresh and airy
  • Folding second row seats, making it easy to haul larger items like rugs, ladders or skis that normally just wouldn’t fit
  • Telescoping steering wheel
  • Heated front seats that were so warm I had to keep turning them down—I LOVE that on a cold day
  • Smart key with a pushbutton starer
  • A nicely designed cabin with room for everything (although my purse had to go on the floor, which I don’t love)

Small and agile, yet roomy

Toyota Camry

The Camry’s interior was really comfy; the leather seating gave the car a nice touch of luxury; photo: Scotty Reiss

One thing I loved about the week in the Camry was the ease of getting around: it was easy to drive, park and maneuver. The Camry is on the small side for a sedan, so the large trunk, front seats and rear seats were a surprise. It also had a lot of pep; getting in and out of traffic was a breeze and (whoops!) I had to watch my speed on the highway; it was easy to get up to and over the speed limit.

Nicely designed interior and media console

Toyota Camry

The 2016 Toyota Camry control center is nicely orgainzed; the cubby under the navigation screen has the Qi charger pad, USB port and 12 V cigarette style charge port; photo: Scotty Reiss

My friend Fadra had a Camry for a few years and loved it. But she decided she wanted to trade up to a Toyota Avalon and while she likes her Avalon, she misses the simple, well designed interior of the Camry. And I know what she means. The Camry has just enough spots for things like keys, change or your phone; the touch screen is easy to reach and use, and the information is nicely organized. I especially liked that the navigation screen displays the speed limit of the road you’re on. You can also display speed in the driver information screen between the speedometer and tachometer, and you can set a speed warning that alerts you if you go over the limit.

A ton of features: a lot to discover, but not overwhelming

I felt like I discovered something new every day I drove the Camry. From the display options to the safety technology to the high end features like articulating headlights, the car truly surprised and delighted me every day; and for a luxury product, surprise and delight is the golden rule.

What We Loved

  • The price, $35,000 for the model we tested
  • Articulating headlights
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Seriously comfortable leather seats
  • Roomy, spacious interior
  • Fold down rear seats with trunk access
  • Standard safety features

What You Need to Know

  • It doesn’t offer every luxury
  • More features and tech are on the Entune app
  • Fuel economy 21 MPG city/31 MPG highway; we averaged about 22 MPG 
  • Starting price about $31,000; price of the mode we tested: $35,118
  • Toyota care (scheduled maintenance) and 24/7 roadside assistance included for first two years

Want to see more?

You can see our walk around and look at all the Camry’s features in this video:

Disclosure: Toyota provided the Camry for my review; opinions expressed are all my own.

Toyota Camry

2016 Toyota Camry Monroney; photo: Scotty Reiss

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss