Cars
December 16, 2016

Along for the Ride: The Toyota Camry 2.5S

Words by Patricia Chong

With its sporty facelift and big retune, the Toyota Camry 2.5S is a dream machine you’ll definitely want to drive yourself

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Since the Camry rolled up Philippine shores, it’s held a reputation as one thing: the quintessential executive car, ferrying around important folk swaddled in luxury in the back seat. Generations upon generations of Toyota’s Camry models have stuck to the script of elegance — uninterested in edginess and, god forbid, sport — until now, apparently.

“That’s it?” someone points at the metallic blue package delivered almost clandestinely at Rogue headquarters sometime in the night. “That’s the Camry? Are you sure?”

The confusion is warranted. When one thinks of a Camry, one does not think of a huge hexagonal lower grille or an aggressive silhouette that runs you over just by looking at it — and yet here we are. The front bumper’s been re-sculpted for a more dynamic shape, fitted with LED daytime running lights that make the changes stand out even more.

The sportiest of the 2015 Camry variant bunch is what stood outside Rogue HQ that day — the S model, set apart from its brothers with its five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels and dual exhaust tailpipes with diffusers.

Loyalists will find solace in the fact that while the update looks different, it is much the same deep down. With the reliable 2.5L 4 cylinder, 16-valve VVTi engine resting under the hood, the 2015 Camry still has a maximum output of 294kW and a maximum torque of 346Nm at 4,700rpm.

So if the engine is the same, is the 2015 update just a face lift? Not quite. That becomes apparent not even five minutes into a test drive — if Toyota thought that the tweaking with the suspension would go unnoticed, they were wrong. The ride is firm and smooth, with all the cushiness associated with a Camry even as one speeds over the perennially rough roads in the metropolis, absorbing all those bumps with little problem.

But highway curves are where the S model really shines — exclusive to it is the front performance damper minimizing body roll and adding stability for those steep turns (think the roads of Baguio and Batangas). Jolts and shift shocks were nonexistent changing gears, and inputs on the leather steering wheel were precise and predictable, making for some damn good cornering.

Though many would resist the temptation to unleash the paddle shifters sitting there not-so-innocently, we had no such inhibitions. Okay, fine, the metal-accented dual gauge and information display behind the wheel kept us in check with our speed and fuel economy. But responsible use of the paddle shifters make changing gears and accelerating that much faster, allowing for a good measure of more direct control — though one may not be looking for it in a sea of traffic in the city anyway.

Floating through that congestion is also less likely to see you tearing your hair out. The 2015 Camry’s interiors see a big-time upgrade from its predecessors, from the soft touch dash to the dual gauge cluster behind the wheel to the black leather seats stitched with red. The clear blue illumination is also a nice touch on night drives.

The sports angle doesn’t seem to have taken a single thing away from the comfort we’ve come to expect — or the quiet in the cabin we suspect may actually be the result of black magic. In fact, it may just be the Camry that you’ve been waiting for: one that you’ll actually want to drive yourself without missing out on the prestige that comes with it.

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