The 2013 Toyota Camry XLE V6 Can Run With Nissan Altima and Honda Accord, But Can It Dance?

2013 Toyota Camry XLE V6
The 2013 Toyota Camry XLE V6. Handsome, roomy and quick.

Hot on the heels of our recent reviews of the 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL and the 2013 Honda Accord Touring, Toyota has sent us a V6 version of the Camry.  It's a 2013 model (Toyota seems to be booking a lot of journalists into last-minute '13s), but there are no major changes in the '14s, so what the heck.

When the first Camry came along for the 1983 model year, the competition was the Honda Accord and the Nissan Stanza, which stood where the Nissan Altima is now in the lineup.  And as unlikely as it seems given the juggernaut Toyota has become in the three decades since, it was an uphill climb.  There was a waiting list for Honda Accords.  And Consumer Reports found the Nissan Altima more reliable than the first-generation Toyota Camry (ouch!) for four years running (1983-1986, inclusive).

Well, Toyota learned fast, and grabbed not only the sales but the reliability crown and has never looked back.  Until recently, the Camry was in an enviable if not glamorous position...the safe bet in a segment known for boring cars.  In fact, it was deep clover for Toyota for most of the past decade, with Honda having seemed to lose its mojo and Nissan keeping costs down to the point where its cars were starting to feel like cheap goods.

But now, as we've chronicled in this space, we're in something of a renaissance of the family sedan.

The Americans are a mixed bag...Ford's Fusion looks fabulous (Ford: You really need to get us in one, because I'm driving and writing about everyone else's), especially from the front, the Chevrolet Malibu is better than anyone thought a Chevy Malibu could be, and the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler 200 are still rental cars you'll want to upgrade out of.

The Koreans are fully competitive and credible with cars like the Hyundai Sonata and the Kia Optima.  The Germans have a contender in the Volkswagen Passat.
And even sleepy Subaru is sleepy no more, with market share that goes up month by month and a strong candidate in the Subaru Legacy.

So how does the Toyota Camry stack up?

2013 Toyota Camry XLE V6
The 2013 Toyota Camry XLE V6 faces stiff competition.

Our tester was the XLE V6.  Base price of $30,465 and a standard-equipment list that would have been a Lexus list five years ago. Click here to read it.  The major stuff:  You get a 3.5 liter dual overhead cam V6 with variable valve timing making 268 horsepower mated to a six-spped automatic transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels.

0-60 in 5.8 seconds.  EPA estimated 21 mpg city, 31 highway.   That's quicker than the Nissan Altima by 0.1 second, quicker than the Honda Accord by 0.4.  On fuel economy, it's the same in the city as the Accord, one less than the Altima.  For highway mileage, it ties the Altima, but trails the accord by 3.  Combined fuel economy is one mpg less than Altima, 2 less than Accord.

2013 Toyota Camry XLE V6 interior
Stitched leather across the dash top?  This is a Toyota Camry?

The interior is a nice place to be, but less of a driver's environment than the Altima or Accord. Ours had options added...a blind spot monitor ($500);  Safety Connect , which includes stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification ($515), an upgraded HDD  navigation system with JBL audio and Toyota's entune infotainment app system ($1,620) and carpeted floor and trunk mats ($1,620).

Total price as tested (with $795 delivery processing and handling fee): $34,120.  That's $100 less than the bottom line price of the Accord and $1,000 more than the final tab for the Altima.

And ultimately, I'd pick either of those before the Camry.  They (especially the Altima) just are more involving driver's cars.  And, as I said in the Altima review, I'd really recommend you drive the 2014 Mazda 6 before you pick any of these.

Don't misunderstand.  The Camry is a very good car.  The best Camry yet, and it very likely will continue to top the sales in this segment because it remains the safe choice. I'd absolutely buy it before any of the Americans (Ford, seriously...I have to drive a Fusion before I can say otherwise).  It offers V6 power the Koreans don't. It's more stylish than the Subaru Legacy and has an infinitely better reliability record than the Volkswagen Passat.

It does everything a family sedan should do, and it will most likely never break....because it's a Toyota Camry.  For those of us who like our family sedans with some salsa, though, it's just a shade too mild.