I hate the new Camry ads. The notion that a Camry could be the most exciting car a person has ever driven and that they LOVE to drive it just bugs the hell out of me. Listen, a Camry as a car is fine the ad is what annoys me but the more I look at it the more it may be actually true and that makes me incredibly sad.Toyota built an empire on the Camry. It was born in the 80s as a narrow body compact car and has morphed with each iteration into THE mid-size family car until in 2001 when it became the best selling car in America. Toyota builds them well and they last long, they’re not flashy or really very expensive but they will get the job done well and won’t break. It’s a perfectly serviceable car. I would say it’s the stereotypical definition of a car, when a kid is learning to draw and you ask it to draw a car it will draw a Camry but exciting?
First of all, the car in the ad is not the base Camry. It’s the most expensive fanciest Camry. The XSE is more than 11k pricier than the base L model and it has two cylinders more and 2 liters of capacity more as well. The XSE V6 generates 301 hp. That number raised my eyebrow, a Camry generating over 300? That’s pretty impressive. Of course Horsepower isn’t the only thing that can make a car exciting, to get a better idea we have to look at how effective that horsepower is relative to the weight of the car. The XSE has a curb weight of 3600lbs, which means that it has a power to weight ratio of of .081 hp/lb which is kinda good? For comparison the BMW 440i generates 320hp and weights 3740 lbs giving it a .085 hp/lb ratio. That’s pretty good when you take into account that this car is 20k more expensive than the Camry. The Camry could improve in Torque which the BMW and other cars of its class clearly outclass it, but again at 267 lb/ft it’s pretty respectable.
Here’s what I’m ultimately getting at, the majority of people don’t drive BMW 4 series. The Majority of people don’t drive Miatas, or Hot hatches. By and large the vast majority of people drive boring cars. The best selling cars last year were the Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, Honda Civic, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Nissan Sentra. How many of those get your blood running? Most young people can’t even afford those and are instead relegated to driving Nissan Versas or Toyota Yaris, which are depressing. With more and more people dumping cars in exchange for ridesharing services and car manufacturers caring more about the interiors of the cars rather than the GUTS of the car or how they make you feel maybe the higher end Camry IS the most exciting car the masses will ever drive.
I believe that car ownership is dying off, and perhaps in my lifetime we will not all compulsively own cars. There’s a few of us though that will continue to own them because we’ve felt what it’s like to drive a car that is fun to drive. When a car becomes more than a form of transit from point a to point b and is instead becomes a driving experience, you’re hooked. Toyota’s Camry XSE may be proof that the giant manufacturer is noticing that people will start to shift to only buy cars if and when it excites them or provides something more than just transport. Let Lyft and Uber get the base model people need to be excited by cars to buy them, even the beige car needs to be exciting.