Perhaps “venerable” is not a good word to describe this car, as I always enjoy my time behind the wheel of this latest generation model.
A few times on this website, we spoke on how sedans are regaining ground in the automotive market worldwide. The proliferation of the SUV continues across the board. Recent sales figures speak to a new trend bring consumers back to sedans.
One such example of a sedan that is holding its ground and gaining sales traction is the venerable Toyota Camry. Perhaps “venerable” is not a good word to describe this car, as I always enjoy my time behind the wheel of this latest generation model.
Rumor has it that a new Camry is on its way. It will be on the same platform as its current edition, but it should sport new styling inside and out. Perhaps some of the influence from the Crown may be evident. Who knows?
This calls for some speculation. Rather, some ideas that I have to create a new generation of Camry that will bring more consumers looking for a sedan to drive.
Let me take you to a world of pure imagination – without the late Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka – and see what a next-generation Toyota Camry could be.
THE BASICS: The current XV70 is built on the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) K platform. It is a solid platform underpinning some of Toyota’s mainstream vehicles – the RAV4, Venza, Highlander, and Sienna included. This is the company’s bread-and-butter architecture for North America, therefore the next Camry should continue on it.
Architectures can be altered. I suggest that that thise alterations be minimalized. Increase the rigidity, of course. Experiment with suspension systems for sportier models to increase tracking and improve handling and cornering. A tweak here and there.
POWERTRAINS: Here’s a question: Should the next Camry go all hybrid or not? Maybe. Yet the USA and Canadian markets would be remised if the gasoline engine is omitted from the lineup.
The solution is to offer a lot of powertrain options. For regular gasoline engines, the 2.5-liter A25A-FKS four-cylinder should continue to be the baseline for the lineup. However, there should be plenty of improvements made to it, such as better noise, vibration, and harshness control. Make the naturally aspirated four-cylinder smoother and quieter, while increasing horsepower slightly. That also includes better calibration of the eight-speed automatic transmission.
In this generation, I would drop the tried, tested, and true V6 and get with the times. Its replacement is the T24A-FTS 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder, seen on the Lexus RX. Immediately it puts out more power than the 2GR-FKS 3.5-liter V6. You can still couple this with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The turbo should invigorate the lineup indeed!
As far as hybrids go, the Camry’s baseline should continue to be the A25A-FKS 2.5-liter engine with the electric motor. However, I would also add one – or both – of these drivelines on top of it. One, would be a plug-in version of the A25A-FKS 2.5-liter engine which should be called the Camry Prime. The other is the Hybrid Max, which is essentially the T24A-FKS 2.4-liter turbo with two electric motors attached to it. The latter would be the hybrid option for the sportier Camry models.
Non-turbo hybrids should continue to be coupled to an electronic continuously variable transmission. The Hybrid Max, as seen on the Crown and the upcoming Grand Highlander, will get a six-speed automatic transmission.
As for all-wheel drive, this should be available on all models. In fact, one modification to the TNGA-K platform would be better accommodation for these AWD systems – including hybrids. Also, adding a plug-in Prime version would also require a larger battery pack. Again the platform would need some tweaking to accommodate these new drivelines and all of the necessary components they need.
THE DESIGN: A Camry should continue as a three-box sedan. Making it sleek would be helpful, but not as “controversial” as the Crown. However, you can give it some elements from the Crown and the newest Prius to help shape the next Camry – just keep it attractive enough for mainstream, middle-of-the-road consumers.
A non-negotiable piece of the design language should be improved access to the cabin. Door openings should be wide and large enough for North American adults to gain access to the front and rear seats. That would keeping the roofline at its current height – not lowering it for aerodynamic efficiency.
This also means ensuring that maximizing interior space is a priority. The goal should be accommodate a family of five or for four large-sized adults to be seated comfortably. If this is achieved, then you will see more Camrys in the hands of former SUV owners.
The biggest leap in the Camry’s cabin design should be right in front of the driver. There should be a happy medium between the Crown and the Prius when it comes to instrument panel design. The squared-off design of the Crown’s dashboard fits better in a next generation Camry, however with some tweaks. You can make the instrument cluster taller and more separate from the infotainment screen. You can definitely employ a full digital instrument cluster on higher-specification models, while maintaining an analog/digital cluster on others. Make the dials readable no matter which instrument cluster you use.
The infotainment screen is critical, as a larger tablet-like housing is easier to navigate with Toyota’s latest infotainment architecture. Not exactly a 14-inch screen, but large enough not to overpower the interior design. Keep the climate controls with push buttons – nothing touch capacitive or haptic controls. Camry customers want to continue using real buttons and switches to operate their cars.
Let’s talk seats for a moment. It would be a greater service to customers looking at its sportier models to have a set of front seats that are comfortable and supportive. Increase the bolstering to lock in all bodies behind the wheel. You can meet them halfway in luxury models. Yes, you;’ll end up with up to three types of seats, but you wouldn’t have to. The goal is to ensure that the driver and front passenger are comfortable with some ergonomic support to reduce fatigue on longer drives.
THE LINEUP: Currently, the Camry has a wide variety of models to choose from. By having a wider choice of trim levels ensure that there’s a Camry for every type of owner. My thought is to expand on this by shuffling the lineup and introduce new trim names to the mix.
The “base” model should be the LE. I would increase the feature content to include optional items from current packages as standard – including blind spot monitoring. The emphasis should be safety across all trim levels. Then, you can move the XLE into the middle spot for those who want more than just an LE. That is where you’ll find the seats in SofTex instead of cloth. The next step up is the luxurious Limited model. That is where you pour on the luxury – just enough to not encroach on the Crown or any Lexus model. That would come in the turbocharged engine or Hybrid Max.
On the sportier side of the house, you can continue to start with the SE. Similar to the LE, but with sportier seats and trim. Then the XSE that is not a full-on sports model, even with improved suspension components and larger wheels and tires.
To top it all off – a GR Camry. Not a TRD – a GR. This is where you’ll find the turbocharged engine, enhanced GR suspension and brakes, better bolstered seats, and everything else that has been massaged by Gazoo Racing’s USA arm. Do not expect the GR Camry to be offered with any hybrid driveline.
Camry Prime models will be only available in sportier trims – the SE and XSE. A mix of sportiness and plug-in hybrid efficiency which should be aligned with what’s offered on the Prius and RAV4 Prime models.
There will be a non-plug-in hybrid variant for each if these trim levels, except for the GR Camry. The LE, XLE, and SE will get the 2.5-liter hybrid motor set, whereas the Hybrid Max would be available on the Limited and XSE.
SAFETY: Can we simply ask that the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 be added to all Camry models? Every component has been enhanced on this latest edition of the company’s driver assistance suite. Pedestrian Detection, Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist and Proactive Driving Assist will help the Camry’s cause towards reintroducing sedans to SUV owners.
At this point, I am truly scratching the surface. The bottom line is that the Toyota Camry is a crucial vehicle to our economy, with a wide majority of them produced at the Georgetown, Kentucky plant. Practically a majority of the components are sourced in North America. You can also pivot Toyota’s North American engine plants towards adding the Hybrid Max and turbocharged engines to their lines.
One thing is for sure: Toyota will always offer sedans. The Camry currently sells at a rate of 23,000-28,000 units per month. It saw a rise in sales of 10.9 percent in the first half of 2023, compared to 2022. Historically, Toyota would sell more than 30,000 Camrys per month to both retail and commercial customers.
This is how important that Toyota delivers on a next-generation Camry that will be primed towards bringing customers back to sedans.
All photos by Randy Stern