WASHINGTON — When you hear “Toyota Camry” you might think, “the most popular midsize sedan on the market.” Some call it an appliance on wheels with good reliability and plenty of space, but it’s rare that you’d hear, “fun-to-drive sedan.”
Toyota has been trying to change that, and coming soon will be a new 2018 Camry that promises a more engaging drive. But for 2017, the XSE trim level offers a more sport-tuned suspension than other Camrys, and buying this model might save you some money.
I’ve driven other trim levels of the popular Toyota Camry, and handling is never top of the list. The handling has improved but not enough to get it to the top of the class; still, it’s more willing than any Camry I can remember. I’ve driven the XLE before, and this XSE version seems to handle a bit better with less floating and body lean in turns.
Another item on this $35,113 Camry is the optional V-6 engine. Most Camrys are four-cylinder models and Toyota is still one of the few manufacturers that offers a V-6. The engine is a willing partner. With nearly 270 horsepower, it moves the Camry with authority. It seems to easily spin the front tires even when you don’t want to act like you’re 18. It still soaks up bumps well, but you do feel a bit more of the road with this version. There also are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, something I didn’t expect to see in a Toyota Camry.
Inside, it is still the normal, roomy place with seating for five but with a different vibe than other Camry models. The front seats are a combination of leather and Ultrasuede materials, which gives it that sporty look and nice feel.
The seats are comfortable, and there are plenty of power adjustments for the driver; not to mention, it’s equipped with four-power adjustments for the front seat passengers.
There is now a wireless charging standard on the XSE trim level. The Entune premium JBL audio and NAV system is easy to use, and the buttons are very large so you should never have a problem hitting the right one.
Rear-seat riders have plenty of head and leg room and can host adults comfortably. The trim is racier than a normal Camry, with red stitching on the dash and some aluminum-looking trim pieces to set this Camry apart from the rest.
Just like the interior, the exterior is different, helping the Camry XSE become a bit more menacing in the parking lot. The grill and most of the trim pieces are painted black and show well with the optional Blizzard Pearl paint I had on my test vehicle. There are LED headlights, and the housing of the lights is also painted black to further the sporty image.
The 18-inch alloy wheels forgo shiny chrome for a more black-and-grey color scheme. The sporty theme also continues to the trunk where a body-colored spoiler lives and dual chrome exhaust tips just sneak out past the rear bumper. While never a standout with styling, this XSE trim level does make the Camry more noticeable.
The 2017 Toyota Camry XSE V6 is a preview of what’s to come in the future for the Camry models: more interesting styling, better handling and the usual comfort and room this sedan is known for. With the new 2018 coming soon, it could be time to save some money on the most popular midsize sedan while dealers make room for the next Camry.