New York Times Car Reviewer Notices How Lame the Toyota Camry Is

beige boring Toyota Camry
Times auto reviewer Ezra Dyer got the worst possible assignment last week — to write a review of the 2012 Toyota Camry. You have to feel for the guy. What the hell do you write about those ubiquitous, dowdy beige grocery-getters that could possibly make for an interesting article?

The Camry, which has less flavor than Mitt Romney eating half a saltine, has been America’s best selling automobile for 13 of the last 14 years. (Think about the awfulness of that next time someone starts bad-mouthing the cars coming out of Detroit.) To Dyer’s credit, he realized there is no way to talk about the most boring car ever built other than to point out numerous times how lame Camry owners are

Driving a Camry is akin to eating at a chain restaurant, drinking a Bud Light and watching the latest summer blockbuster. Sometimes you simply want to put your money on the known quantity without thinking too much about it.

And yet, just as beer snobs will try to foist their home-brew upon the contented light-beer drinker, I feel the quixotic urge to enlighten the Camry-driving masses to their more flavorful options.

People, have you seen the new Ford Fusion? It looks like an Aston Martin. How about a Kia Optima with a turbocharged engine and a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty? Are you aware of the Volkswagen Passat diesel? Off the top of my head, all three cars are more intriguing than the Camry. And yet, if there are so many other interesting choices, why is the Camry such a consistent sales monster?

Not a bad start, sir. But why the fuck is the Camry so popular? Dyer suggests that Americans want bland, baby-puke colored uniformity and even compared the Camry to the music of a certain chubby British import.

Toyota is so keen on apps that it has set up an iCamry Pandora station, which I sampled on my phone after the test drive. Based on that experience, it appears that Adele, whose silky laments dominate iCamry radio, is the musical equivalent of Toyota’s marquee sedan. Given that Adele had the top-selling album last year, I suppose she is sort of the Camry of pop music. I give Toyota credit — it stays on message.

Did he just compare Adele to a mid-sized sedan? YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR, SIR.

Dyer then makes fun of the non-camaraderie of the Camry ownership experience.

I didn’t sample the V-6, but at a gas station, a Camry driver at an adjacent pump called over and commented on the 4-cylinder XLE that I was fueling. He’d just bought a V-6 version, which he told me was exceedingly rapid. I was surprised — not that the 268-horsepower V-6 is fast, but that Camry drivers talk to one another.

Zing. In the staid world of car reviews that’s cold! My favorite part of the review, though, was when Dyer made an oblique reference to the “unintended acceleration” fiasco. (You may remember the media going crazy a few years ago over supposed glitches in Toyotas — which the government later discovered was simply lots of cases of old people mistakenly hitting the gas pedal).

Perhaps the wildest change lies not under the hood, but in the dashboard, where Toyota offers its new Entune multimedia system. Entune connects your car to your smartphone, offering Bing, Pandora and other apps through the display screen.

I applaud the idea of integrating phones in such a way that they become less dangerous, but I have to wonder if a trick multimedia system is at odds with the demographic of Camry buyers. The segment of Camry drivers who confuse the gas pedal with the brake pedal — per the findings of the unintended acceleration investigation — may well assume that pressing the Apps button causes a tray of jalapeño poppers to slide out of the dashboard.

Thank you, Mr. Dyer, for not just listing all th new electronic features of the car. Thank you for talking about the “driving experience” (even if the typical Camry owner doesn’t give a crap about that). I haven’t bought a new car in a long time but I love reading car reviews so I know how rarely reviewers will write what they really think about cars and the people who drive them. Toyota has been selling bland lameness for years now and their current lineup (other than the upcoming Scion FR-S) reflects that. Might as well say what you really think.

Just say no to beige.

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