KONA, Hawaii -- Slicing through a vast field of black lava that once flowed down from the towering Mauna Kea volcano, the Kohala Highway on the big island of Hawaii serves as a test track to sample the velvet comforts of Camry, Toyota's best-selling sedan.
Camry's nameplate dresses one in five Toyotas in North America and accounts for millions of units worldwide since Camry's 1983 debut.
Slotted in the mid-size class of notchback sedans with four passenger doors and seats for five, the front-wheel-drive Camry for 2017 extends its 2016 issues but with additional standard equipment aboard as price points on all models remain unchanged from the previous model year.
The MSRP for 2017 Camry gasoline-sipping models ranges from $23,070 for the price-leader Camry LE 4-cylinder grade to $31,370 for the deluxe Camry XSE V6.
Toyota builds the 2017 Camry in six tiers: LE, SE, XLE, XLE V6, XSE and XSE V6.
The standard powertrain is a 2.5-liter in-line-4 engine with dual overhead cams (DOHC), Toyota direct ignition (TDI) and Toyota's intelligent variable valve timing (VVT-i). It produces 178 hp at 6000 rpm plus 170 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm. The 4-pack plant qualifies for Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV-II) status and delivers fuel economy numbers as high as 33 mpg.
The transmission is a 6-speed electronically controlled with intelligent shift control (ECT-i) and sequential shifting -- pull the console-mounted shift lever to the left, then tip it forward to move up the gear ladder one step at a time, or click backward to shift down that ladder.
A 3.5-liter V6 -- Toyota's 2GR-FE engine -- becomes the optional power upgrade for Camry's two top trim tiers of XLE and XSE. The V6 employs chain-driven dual camshafts with dual VVT-i controls. As a result, it romps with 268 hp at 6200 rpm and torque pushing to 248 lb-ft at 4700 rpm. The 6-speed electronic automatic also applies to the V6, with EPA estimated fuel economy figures of 21/30 mpg city/highway.
Toyota's exterior design for Camry appears sleek and shapely with a broad and low stance reflecting subtle lines and subdued paint colors in the manner of a sophisticated -- and expensive -- vehicle. The aerodynamic body features a long and low-sloping hood and a windshield severely raked leading to an arching canopy over the cabin with deep windows on doors and side pillars muted to create the impression of a sleek coupe.
Camry wears an aggressive front grille planted between narrow headlamp clusters which wrap around the corners. A broad intake valence yawns below the grille as top trim versions add bottom corner foglamps.
Camry's passenger compartment is an efficient design with comfortable seats in place and useful instruments and controls plus a load of standard equipment aboard. The conventional layout includes a pair of bucket seats up front flanking a center console which holds the transmission shift lever, then a rear bench which accommodates three riders but has scooped positions for two. All trim grades provide a standard 60/40 split folding rear seatback to expand cargo capacity and seatback sections may be lowered by a remote release in the trunk.
The price-leader Camry LE edition stocks as standard gear projector-beam halogen headlamps and 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers and 205/65R16 tires, air conditioning, a backup camera, remote keyless entry system, fabric-trimmed front seats with seatback pockets, 8-way power driver's seat, tilting/telescoping steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth hands-free phone voice command controls, Optitron instrumentation and TFT Multi-Information Display, power controls for door locks and windows, overhead console with map lamps, covered center console with sliding cover armrest and storage bin, illuminated glove compartment and two 12-volt auxiliary power outlets.
The SE and sportier XSE grades add unique front fascia with piano-black mesh grille and a dark chrome coating on halogen or LED headlamps. The SE rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels with graphite finish, while the XSE sports 18-inch machine-finish alloy wheels with gloss black accents.
Camry XLE and XSE grades load up on luxe like a dual-zone automatic climate system, leather-trimmed seats and heated front seats.
Additional standard equipment added for 2017 to XLE and XSE editions include the Entune Audio Plus multimedia system with Connected Navigation app & JBL Audio. The gear provides a 7-inch high resolution touch-screen display, AM/FM/CD player and 10 JBL GreenEdge speakers.