STURBRIDGE, Mass. — The last thing you want to see at 9:30 PM, two hours from your destination, is a low tire pressure warning light.
But that’s what happened in my 2021 Toyota Camry XSE on a rainy night in southern New England. It wasn’t much of a worry at the beginning, low tire pressure isn’t unusual, and when it was at 29, I wasn’t too worried. The recommended pressure is 35, and I could fix it when I arrived at my destination.
But then it dropped again, and again. 28… 27… 25… I slowed down and started looking for a well-lit place to pull off and change the tire. I wasn’t looking forward to this. It had been years since I’d changed a tire, and it was raining.
I found a well-lit new gas station just off the highway, parked well out of the way, under a street light, and considered my options. Then I remembered I was driving a Toyota Camry that comes with a 2-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance plan that covers jump-starts, lockouts, towing, winching, fuel delivery, and, luckily for me, tire changing.
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I called the ToyotaCare 800-number and was texted a link to a website where I could fill out all the relevant information about what was wrong and where I was, and it even used my phone’s GPS to get an address. This was excellent because I had no clue where I was.
The app then gave me updates about the status of my request, and once a tow truck was dispatched, I got real-time updates about the truck’s location. A tow truck pulled up in less than 45 minutes, and my tire was changed less than ten minutes after that.
Now, I certainly could change the tire, but the tow truck had a floor jack that was considerably easier to use than the little jack included in the car. The driver also had an impact wrench that made easy work of the lug nuts.
After an hour and a $20 tip, my tire was changed, and I was back on the road, albeit at a much slower pace thanks to the donut now affixed to the back wheel. I’d picked up a screw on the highway at some point, and the rear tire was shot — but that’s a story for another day.
I was impressed with my 2021 Camry, a loaded XSE trim with all-wheel drive and almost every option, priced at just $38,274. For 2022, the Camry starts at $26,420, so there’s a lot of wiggle room on price, depending on how many options you want to load up.
The Camry is a wildly popular car, selling 313,795 units in the US in 2021. That’s more sedans than all of Lexus combined.
There are front-wheel and all-wheel-drive variants, and hybrid powertrains that get a ridiculous 52 mpg (my 2.5L four-cylinder Camry rated a decidedly less impressive 28 mpg combined).
The outside was reworked a few years ago, and it’s quite a looker these days. Gone is the boring Camry I grew up with in favor of something that, I’m convinced, could have badging from a German luxury brand affixed, and no one would be any the wiser. That’s especially true with the sporty XSE trim I had.
The Wind Chill Pearl paint was matched with some all-black trim pieces and a black roof for a two-tone appearance that looked terrific. Toss in all-black 19-inch wheels (albeit with tires that a screw can take out), and it looked Seriously Cool. When did the Toyota Camry become cool? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just getting old.
The beauty continued inside with a sports-car red interior, though the amount of gloss black plastic was a bit of a turn-off. Still, everything I could touch felt quality, and the nine-inch touchscreen was prominently mounted and easily visible.
Wired Apple CarPlay and Android auto are a must-use until the next-generation Toyota infotainment (it debuted in the new Tundra and is coming to everything else over the next few years) comes along. Everything is well-designed and placed, from the cupholders and the phone charger in the middle of the console to the door pockets and glovebox.
You don’t sell 300,000 cars a year without knowing a thing or two about how to build and design a car people want to buy. The Camry is the best-selling car in the US, beating the Honda Civic by some 50,000 units. And it’s the best for a reason.
If you’re on the hunt for a trustworthy sedan that doesn’t break the bank and looks surprisingly good inside and out, you won’t regret picking the Toyota Camry.