CarNewsCafe was invited to a Toyota-sponsored event in downtown Denver, Colorado to sample the all-new 2015 Toyota Camry, the 2015 Sienna, and the 2015 Yaris. I attended and met with fellow journalists and friends on Thursday morning. We were treated to breakfast and lunch at historic Coors Field, home of the Rockies, and to test drives and face time with Toyota representatives of the three vehicles.

Toyota’s Ethan Leighton, marketing manager at Toyota, gave us a presentation over breakfast to explain the 2015 Toyota Camry and the bottom-up changes they made to the vehicle. To be frank, Toyota has needed to do something to update the Camry despite its recent upgrade in 2011 (for 2012). Now only two years old, the Camry’s current-generation design is already dated and being outclassed by new competition. To remedy that, engineers at Toyota went all out and it really shows.

The 2015 Toyota Camry features a new chassis and new bodywork, along with a new trim level, but keeps its proven and well-accepted drive train and interior space and ergonomics. It’s a winning package on first impression and, despite calling Toyota out on their “boldness” campaign earlier this month, we think this could be a game-changing new design for the best-selling car in America.

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First Impression 2015 Toyota Camry

The new Camry is very well designed. Its front end is shorter and accent lines add, dare I say, a bolder look to the hood. A wider stance is achieved with slightly wider wheels that have been pushed out about half an inch from the previous model, putting them even with the fender flare to create a more aggressive curb appeal.

The windscreen slides upwards at a streamlined angle to the only portion of the 2015 Camry’s body that hasn’t changed: the roof. All four doors see their former flat sheet now being accented with slightly curving accents for a more upscale look to the bodywork. Those lines continue through the rear quarter. The deck lid is roughly the same as before, but has a more accented spoiler scoop and an actual spoiler on the all-new sport model.

Inside, the car is about the same and truthfully, little needed changing on the Toyota Camry’s interior anyway. Seating, roominess, and everyday use ergonomics are all excellent and have long been one of the Camry’s top selling points. What has changed are the interior fit and finish, which are far more upscale than they were beforehand. Most of the interior trim pieces are new for 2015 and some of the upper level offerings are amazingly beautiful for a non-luxury, midsize car.

The base manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for the base model LE is $22,970, just a few dollars higher than the current-generation. Prices climb over the $30,000 point for the more luxurious XLE and XSE trims. Both the four- and six-cylinder engines and transmission from the previous generation carry over into 2015 as does the hybrid drivetrain offering. That hybrid, by the way, accounts for about 10 percent of the Camry’s overall sales.

As for safety, Toyota has already received a Top Safety Pick+ rating form the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and expects to see a 5-Star crash test result from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On the road, the 2015 Toyota Camry is quieter than it was before and handles very well, even with the smaller four-cylinder engine that is its most popular option. It maneuvers smartly, feels comfortable in town and at highway speeds, and is more comfortable thanks to the better interior color and materials to soften sound and light.

The Hybrid handles very well too and we’ll see that as a press loan next month and will get more in-depth with it then.

Of note is the new XSE trim package, which offers a sportier ride and a little more performance than the standard SE package. Also of note is the new SE Hybrid, making two hybrid trim levels now being offered, which should increase uptake on the more fuel-efficient option. Fuel economy numbers carry over from the 2014 model year as well on the four- and six-cylinder Camrys as well as the Hybrid.

All together, we see that Toyota has made some great changes to the 2015 Camry and we’re impressed with their work. The days of the Camry being the butt of jokes could be over.

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2015 Sienna First Impression

During the event, we also had the chance to take out the new 2015 Sienna for a spin. This van is the luxury minibus that takes family hauling seriously. It’s virtually unchanged from the 2014 Toyota Sienna we reviewed a few months ago, but there are some small differences and additions.

The most obvious change is in the interior. The 2015 Sienna has a more upscale look to the base trim and some added elegance for the upper trim as we drove it. The Swagger Wagon also now has a beautiful new chestnut brown offering that is an excellent color combination for the interior cabin. For the new model year, both three-zone climate and a backup camera are standard on all five trim levels. The powertrains from 2014 carry over, including the class-exclusive all-wheel drive option.

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2015 Yaris First Impression

The little Toyota Yaris is a fun car on several levels, though it’s not often considered to be anything more than a cheap, entry-level option. That’s changed dramatically, though, as the whole segment the Yaris fits within has become a far more contentious and upscale market; despite the low price tags. Combating great entries from Chevrolet, Ford, and the best-selling Nissan Versa, the Yaris had to see some changes. And it did.

The 2015 Yaris is more upscale, has a sportier exterior look, and a lighter-feeling dashboard than its predecessor. Although this is not a full re-do of the car, it is a significant change showing that Toyota is finally paying more attention to this newly-important segment.

Re-tuned steering shows when on the road, making for a sportier drive even with the boring four-speed automatic the Yaris still carries over. Wider wheels, smarter wheel options, adding navigation as an option at all trim levels, and a three- or five-door body option are all things that will make the 2015 Yaris more impressive on the dealer’s lot.

By the way, Nicolas Zart will be interested to note that the Yaris is made in France. We’ll hold off on the Coneheads references in order to keep the younger crowd from feeling alienated.

Conclusions

2015 Toyota Camry - 2 AOA1200pxToyota is really feeling the competition heating up and is bringing forward some strong responses to keep at the top of the mountain. The new 2015 Toyota Camry is highly impressive and we fully admit that our initial impression earlier this month, based on factory photos and press information, was completely wrong upon seeing and driving the Camry in person. That Sienna sees little change, though the new interior is worth noting, and the 2015 Yaris has become a far more competitive vehicle for its segment.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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