While I was in the greater Washington D.C. area in my last week back Stateside, I rented a Toyota Camry. As I posted on my rental Dodge Caliber last week, it is now the Camry's turn.
I can see why people buy the Camry in droves. It is functional, spacious, has clean and inoffensive styling, and gets decent fuel economy for a large-midsize sedan. However, it is utterly devoid of any character. It is a soulless automobile that could never be an Autobot nor Decepticon. Instead, in 30 years, it will be stacked with its ilk ready to be run over by the Grave Digger. Consider that a compliment because that would be 20 or fewer years for most cars.
Like the Caliber I rented earlier, this Camry felt like a typical base-engine rental model. In this case, the engine was more adequate, since it was probably a 2.4L instead of the Caliber's 2.0L. The exterior styling is bland and nothing says boring like the white paint job my rental possessed. (Not a fault of the Camry, but more Hertz's fault, the car was riddled with scratches along both the front and rear bumpers.) The interior was equally functional. I did wish for a second power port, but some dreams will always go unfulfilled. It had everything you needed in a car, but there was nothing memorable.
That is both what makes the Camry so successful and yet so painfully mundane. It represents many generations of manufacturing refinement, an iterative process that has helped drive quality up and prices down. The pragmatic engineer in me takes utter delight in those aspects of the car, but the it has a averaged-out appeal that makes it palatable to most, but delectable to none. This is perfectly acceptable since Toyota is running a business, and the fundamental purpose of business is to make money so that it can stay in business. Businesses that don't make money are something else, like hobbies or charities. Thus, Toyota will march on with its vanilla Camry and great sales record and never sell one to me. Well, they will never sell a new one to me. A used one may be an eminently functional car, but if I am ever to buy a new car again, it needs to have some zing. Something like the latest generation Chevrolety Camaro. Now that's a car that has not been focus-grouped into styling oblivion. Even the current generation Ford Fusion has quite a bit more visual character than the Camry.