2019 Toyota Camry SE. The redesigned 2019 Camry SE, which includes a sharper look, a new engine, and standard Toyota Safety Sense, is arriving now. Remaking Toyota’s bland best-seller to be more expressive is risky and may not even save this mid-size sedan from the big market shift that’s underway. But the sales success of the Nissan Maxima, one of the more daring sedans of the past year, might calm those jitters. We’re looking forward to driving the new Camry SE because we’ve long thought the top-selling sedan in America should be less boring.
And so arrives this Camry SE gone wild, with an only somewhat more toned-down version of the seemingly sci-fi-inspired look that makes the styling of the current Prius so polarizing, and some of the sculpting that invites a double-take of the upcoming C-HR crossover. The 2019 Toyota Camry SE is within an inch of the 2018 model in length and width, but Toyota hasn’t yielded to the crossover crowd by making the new Camry SE taller or more upright. It has actually gone the other way; the hood is 1.6 inches lower, and the roofline is lower by 1.2 inches. That let the automaker drop the occupants’ seating heights an inch in front and 1.2 inches in back.
The front seats have been resculpted, while the cowl, belt line, and dash have been lowered, adding to a more open feel inside the cabin. The Camry SE’s new dashboard does away with the former segmented T shape in favor of a more sweeping design, drawing inspiration from home furnishings while aiming for a more sculptural interior combined with warmer detailing. Mixed hues and tones on the interior move away from the former monotone themes. Beyond appearances, Toyota calls the TNGA platform that underpins this 2019 Toyota Camry SE “a structural reform movement for the entire company that will result in cars that are more dynamic, athletic, and fun to drive.” It also claims that, with the new building blocks, “drivers will notice the dramatic improvements within the first few seconds of driving.”
Given that previous generations of the Camry SE evolved so subtly, that’s a bold pronouncement. But, based on the level of improvement we’ve seen in the latest, fourth-generation Prius the only model with that platform to make it to production so far we’ll take it seriously. To complement the new structure, it boasts a lower center of gravity. Toyota takes the Camry SE into new chassis-tuning territory by ditching the struts in the rear for a multilink suspension setup, while a four-point engine-mounting system should help keep the cabin experience smoother and quieter.
Perhaps the greatest surprise in all of this, to gearheads, is that Toyota still hasn’t killed the V-6. Toyota has subbed in the latest direct-injection 3.5-liter version for its flagship Camry SEs. The base 2.5-liter Dynamic Force inline-four has a higher compression ratio, a variable cooling system, multi-hole direct injectors, and variable valve timing, and Toyota says it will have higher power and torque ratings, although it has not yet specified those figures. It also claims better fuel efficiency than with the outgoing engine of the same displacement and phenomenal 40 percent thermal efficiency.
A new eight-speed automatic transmission, with faster and more decisive shifts, should make the V-6 and four-cylinder versions more enjoyable. 2019 Toyota Camry SE hybrid models will also get a version of the new four-cylinder, and they should have improved powertrain drivability with their continuously variable automatic transmissions programmed to simulate a six-speed automatic, with paddle shifters included in the SE model. It’s possible there may be multiple battery setups as well, as with the Prius.
All versions of the 2019 Toyota Camry SE get a $250 bump to $3,000 factory cash back. That’s the most we’ve seen to date. While there is no rebate on the 2019 Toyota Camry SE, there are two loyalty bonuses. Current Toyota and Scion owners get a $500 bonus when they buy the 2019 Camry SE L, LE, or SE. Those who buy the XLE or XSE trims get $1,000 in bonus cash. To qualify, you’ll need to finance or lease through Toyota Financial. Toyota continues to offer 0% APR for 72 months on the 2018 Camry SE with $500 in bonus cash.
Buyers cannot stack this deal with the cash-back incentive, so pick the deal that best suits your situation. The 2019 Toyota Camry SE has no national lease offers yet, but buyers in the San Francisco area can lease it from $269 per month for 36 months with $1,999 due at signing. For buyers looking for the 2019 Camry SE Hybrid, it starts from $289 per month with $2,799 due at signing. These leases do not represent good deals for this class of vehicle, especially considering the excellent lease deal on the 2018 model.