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September 19, 2013

Camry still a smooth, dependable ride

If the Toyota Camry is anything, it's consistent.

That's one of the things that makes this a tough car to review. No matter how much technology is updated and new features are rolled out, this is a car that remains true to its mission — giving drivers a quiet, comfortable, dependable way to get around.

It's not exciting, but that's part of the reason it's been so successful, including being the most popular car in the United States for 14 out of the past 15 years.

As a basketball coach would say, it focuses on the fundamentals.

After getting an all-new design for 2012, the 2013 version sees minor updates. The biggest is the addition of a rear cross traffic alert feature for cars with the Blind Spot Monitor system. If you're in reverse, and the system senses a car driving toward you from the left or right, it beeps to get your attention.

Aside from that, little details stood out during my week-long test drive. It has storage bins everywhere and a tight-fitting, high-quality feel to all its switches and knobs.

My test car, a Camry SE, came with what Toyota calls a "sport tuned suspension" and "sport tuned electric power steering," but I think that's a mistake with this car. If you want something sporty and exciting, you really ought to look elsewhere because that's just not what the Camry does best.

It's a better car with the normal, softer suspension. Its ride is quiet and smooth, and trying to mess with that doesn't make much sense.

Power on my test car came from a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 178 horsepower, but you can also get it with a 3.5-liter V6. Personally, I'd stick with the four-cylinder engine because it's such a good match for this car and gets better gas mileage. It's rated for 35 miles per gallon on the highway.

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