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S trims extend Camry’s boundaries

2016 Camry exterior

XSE and SE trims sport a unique front fascia with a piano-black mesh grille. Their headlights — either halogen or LED — are finished with dark-chrome coating.

The last time I drove Toyota’s Camry XSE, we were locked in winter’s grip. I wrote:

Eighteen-inch alloys wear beefy all-season tires designed to enhance efficiency and foul-weather grip. They proved themselves during my ice- and snowbound test week. The chassis and suspension upgrades lent the XSE a buttoned-down and well-damped character. Body lean is minimal and, though firm, ride quality is very good.

Flash forward to June, 2016. Bare and dry roads. Shod in low-profile tires, the sporty XSE retains its composed and well-damped demeanor.

2016 Camry interior

The S trims include sport seats and a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel.

This time, the XSE is powered by Camry’s base engine, a 2.5-liter, 178-horsepower four-cylinder. This engine is lighter than the 268-hp V-6 we tested last year and, with less weight over the front wheels, the XSE enters corners with a more neutral stance.

18-inchers pass along

On the other hand, the XSE’s low-profile 18-inch tires pass road-surface jolts through the chassis and into the passenger compartment. And the four-cylinder engine lacks the resources it needs to energize the 3,300-pound sedan with the conviction of the six.

Camry (from $23,905, including destination) is available in five trims, including a new-for’16 Special Edition ($26,6500). It bundles a sunroof, 18-inch wheels, smoked taillights, keyless entry and ignition, unique interior trim and gauges, Qi wireless smartphone charging and Toyota’s Entune Audio Plus package with its upgraded 7-inch touchscreen, satellite radio and HD radio.

The sport-tuned SE ($24,675) and XSE ($32,205) target younger buyers. Both sport a unique front fascia with a piano-black mesh grille. Their headlights — either halogen or LED — are finished with dark-chrome coating. Each has its own suspension tuning and wheel-and-tire packages.

They have sport seats and a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel. A multi-mode shifter includes an “S” mode that quickens shift times and rev-matches on downshifts.

The SE can only be had with the four, while the XSE runs either engine and brings such upgrades as machine-finish 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, a power passenger seat and dual-zone automatic climate control.

All Camrys are comfortable, quiet and well equipped. The base SE includes keyless entry, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, cruise control, an eight-way power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support and a 6.1-inch Entune touchscreen electronics interface, voice controls, Bluetooth connectivity and Siri Eyes Free.

The available Entune Audio Plus package includes an App Suite, with such functions as Destination Search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Facebook Places, Yelp and Slacker Radio. Also included are real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks.

All 2016 Camrys receive Connected Navigation Scout, which enables the integration of a smartphone navigation system into the car’s Entune display.

Camry’s infotainment and climate control interfaces are attractively designed and gratifyingly user-friendly. Par for the course at Toyota, whose common-sense approach has placed Camry at the top of the best-selling lists for what feels like forever.

And it matters little if the sport trims fall shy of enthusiasts’ hopes; Camry became America’s favorite midsize car answering the needs of American families. The S trims simply stretch the boundaries.

2016 Toyota Camry XSE
Vehicle base price: $23,070
Trim level base price: $26,310
As tested: $31,560
Key options: keyless entry and ignition; Entune Premium JBL Audio w/integrated navigation and app suite; Entune media bundle; blind-spot monitor w/rear cross-traffic alert; pre-collision system; lane-departure alert; dynamic radar cruise control; automatic high-beam headlights; moonroof; Qi wireless charging.
EPA rating: 28 combined/25 city/35 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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