Toyota entered its “Camry” body shell into NASCAR (North American Stock Car Automotive Racing) competition in 2007. Ford since entered a Fusion shell onto the typical NASCAR rear drive chassis with 5.8L V-8 running on Ethanol.
The mid-size front drive family sedan was suddenly snatched from the jaws of prosaic.
Relentless lead-footers with familial obligations could now “Come out of the Closet.”
“Drive…He Said” already whipped the pricey, all-wheel drive Ford Fusion Titanium 2.0L AWD into a frenzy.
It was time to put spurs to more affordable, front-drive family tigers: the re-designed 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T and 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6.
Dialed Back Appearances:
– The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T fell victim to a Fluidic Styling 2.0 “Shave & Haircut”, after the “Long-Haired” 2011 Sonata launched the model onto a sales blast-off. Taming the wild lines of past coincides with the launch of a more menacing luxury market Genesis (Mk. II) sedan. Behold the much-copied Aston Martin-esque hexagonal “Mouth-Agape” grille.
It’s surely a more mature 2015 Sonata allowing an upcoming re-design of cousin Kia Optima to be more daring.
What does it do for us? How about those bright white LED Daytime Running Lights. At night, they do a great imitation of a Tesla Model S coming at you.
– The (NMS) Toyota Camry XSE departs from anything dating back to the Unintended Acceleration recalls of late 2011-2012. Evaporated is the Frigidaire look of the 2012 Camry. It marks a return of some curvature to America’s perenially top selling family sedan. A more raked windshield and de-rigeur tapered LED headlight housings generate greater intrigue.
The 2015 Camry won’t be mistaken for the drop-dead Mazda6 . Toyota marketing won’t abandon it’s “Appliance Loving” core North American customers. Smoked fan-blade wheels are a breakout design. However, optional blacked-out trim can’t mask enough chrome. And the lattice grille has nearly evolved into a Lexus spindle obscenity.
Grade: Sonata: B+ Camry: B
– 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T swaps in a smaller twin-scroll turbocharger into the direct injected, twin-cam, Theta II 2.0L straight-4 aluminum engine. Some 34 horses were lost. But there’s a hustling 260 lb-ft of output spin in store at a barely off idle 1350 rpm reducing the turbo lag of old. By the 3800 rpm mark the Theta II starts sounding strained. As for its idle note it compares well with… some diesels out there.
Sonata’s 6-Speed automatic is the type that makes the B-Line for the highest gear in the quest for lower consumption. And here is another application of redundant steering wheel mounted shift-paddles, which serve little more than finger exercise.
Torque rush addiction + cold weather MTBE fuel blend = Sonata Sport 2.0T EPA 23 miles-per-gallon combined rating was torpedoed down to…19 mpg.
– Toyota’s old straight-6-pot engines were legendary. Not quite as Gonzo, the 24-valve 3.5L V-6 seeing duty in the 2015 Camry XSE is ripped out of the one-rung-up Toyota Avalon . The same 268 horsepower pulls 100 fewer pounds in the Camry XSE. This powerplant is the cream that rises to the top.
Extra displacement doesn’t punish at the pump: 22 mpg of 87 octane unleaded swilled makes Camry XSE V6 the less thirsty of the duo.
Camry XSE’s 6-Speed automatic cogs quickly, without much hunting. Under darkness, simply get used to reliance on the selection display in the gauge cluster. The actual shift lever bezel indicator is that illegible.
Grade: Sonata: B Camry: B+
– The 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T dampens pretty quick on compression. The front strut/ rear quad-link chassis exhibits tautness on impacts and little body lean for faster turn-in. On-center steering return remains a “Hyundai Achilles Heel.” Low speed to high speed effort change is too dramatic. Overly eager brake bite desperately desires better pedal movement.
– The divergent dual link set-up in the rear of the 2015 Camry XSE damps better against rough pavement than the Sonata Sport. Straight-ahead tracking at speed is superior too. Pitch the Camry XSE hard into a corner and there’s a bit of roll, more understeer and some squealing Michelins. At that point highly bolstered sport front buckets go to work.
Camry’s helm actually has the more natural heft here. Reaction from the all-disc binders changes suddenly from lazy to nearly full lock up.
Grade: Sonata: B Camry: B-
Five Fitted Yays:
– Front sport seat backs in the Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T carve out decent rear knee clearance, despite giving away almost 4″-inches in legroom to Toyota Camry XSE .
– Sonata Sport 2.0T front headrests pivot up behind the neck, for greater support. That contrasting orange piping is hot.
– Camry excels at door armrest positioning and support for elbows and wrists. And at generous door pockets.
– Camry’s lower front cowl = commanding view outwards; Sonata’s lower seating position = > intimacy.
– Both trunks are cargo extendable due to 60/40 split folding seatbacks. Sonata has a full cubic foot advantage, but its high liftover causes parcel bumper cover scrape consternation.
– Camry’s channeled hard rear-seat backing is vastly more spill-proof than any automotive carpeting.
– Sonata knows a things or two about functionally sized cabin storage. As in a convenient cubby to fit the shapely remote key fob.
Grade: Sonata: B Camry: B+
– The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T is chock full of soft touch surfaces with large graining. Metallic accents impart modernity without cheapness. The previous hallmark Sonata waterfall center stack switch array is history. The revised grouping, borrowed from the premium Kia Cadenza sedan, is more condensed.
As far as base (non-Navigation) infotainment displays go, Sonata’s 5″-inch touch LCD unit is a keeper. But you can keep Hyundai’s alarming bright blue LCD hue & switch backlighting.
Switch markings necessitate Bi-Focals for some. Magnifiers for others.
Improved Sonata hands-free communication voice commands still don’t prevent contact dialing Communcation Breakdown.
Without the Navigation option on our tester, the Apple CarPlay / Android Auto smart phone interfaces were MIA. Blue Link packages range from vehicle diagnostics and S.O.S. emergency dispatch to remote lockout and up to turn-by-turn directions. After the free teaser trials, each package costs $99 per year with successive packages requires the preceding. Ouch & No Thanks!
– Impressions of the 2015 Toyota Camry XSE confirm mostly subtle changes from the 2012 Camry , which was already among the most intuitive and comfy cabins of the class. Finish impresses with a instrument binnacle canopy featuring contrasting stitching normally reserved for exotic European cars from marques ending with the letter “I.”
Switchgear is sized for the “All Thumbs” dexterous. Rotary dials feel crafted. Markings are nearly road sign visible. ELD gauges are color variable. For Octogenarians, Toyota Camry is THE CAR to pass driver’s license tests with.
As on Volkswagen Passat , Camry XSE’s ultrasuede inserts on otherwise leather-trimmed seating seems more of a lint magnet. For it’s $36,000 price tag, you think Toyota could have splurged for some pseudo carbon fiber a la Nissan Altima ?
Enhanced voice commands on the 2015 Camry XSE work great until attempts at basic Navigation point of interest selections. Then it becomes Bing Search time.
Entune infotainment suite lacks the hype of Sonata’s available Apple CarPlay / Android Auto . But it compensates with completeness, ease of linking and price: standard and free on all Camrys. Thinking about spending the $139 after first complimentary year of Safety Connect S.O.S. and stolen vehicle locator? Realize that professional thieves chop cars up pretty quick. And you probably already have mobile phone.
Grade: Sonata: B Camry: B+
Drag Away, All Day:
2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T: Hits: An affordable front-drive Genesis . Practically renders the notch-up Azera superfluous. Priced at under $29K, Hyundai again delivers on extraordinary value. Where others have tarted-up cabins simply to overwhelm the senses, the new Sonata swallows some maturity, hones the details, and inspires with simplicity.
Misses: Casual attitude towards power delivery & excessive fuel thirst. The previous R-Rated design was trashed in favor of something more PG-13. Sonata gets nice alloy wheel designs, but Kia’s Optima’s are still nicer. Unless you spring for Navigation, standard infotainment apps are sparse, and telematic/ valet services cost a bunch. Fuel economy suffers at mercy of enthusiasts.
2015 Toyota Camry XSE: Hits: Keeping V-6 front drive power alive for Who Knows How Much Longer. Because Toyota Avalon still has that Florida retirement community stereotype. Did we already mention the Mercedes E-Class Series W-124 solidity? The love big/clumsy fingers and diminishing eyesight receive from Camry controls and displays? Toyota has priced driver’s assistance technology within reach of us working stiffs. Entune Apps = FTW. Not too big of a gas hog…for a V6.
Misses: $36K for a Camry which isn’t a hybrid & has not much bling? Some fans had just become accustomed to the previous boxy design language.
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