The State and Camry: All New at the Same Time for the First Time

We’re not trying to be a General Motors,” Honda’s then foreign sales manager told the New York Times, the year after the went on sale. “Our modest goal is simply to become the number-one–selling foreign car in the United States.” When C/D first sampled the new Camry, the car hardly felt Japanese. “What we have here is the American car according to Japan,” we wrote, “in its purest form ever.”

The assimilated into American culture so thoroughly that they have long ceased being foreign at all. They’re largely engineered here, built here, and have topped the sales charts here for so long that millennials, post-millennials, and post-post-millennials don’t consider them anything but America’s most ubiquitous cars. Forget all the other minnows in the sedan mainstream. The Accord and the Camry are the big fish; the rest are swimming hard in their wake. And now, for the first time in the Accord’s 42 years and the Camry’s 35, they’re both all new at the same moment. It’s a weird sort of convergence.

Dumping the K platform on which three generations of Camrys have been erected, the eighth-generation Camry adopts the New Global Architecture that’s already under the current Prius and the goofy C-HR and destined to spread like a front-wheel-drive epidemic throughout the product line. TNGA is a set of components that can be chopped, channelled, twisted, and fried to support everything from compact sedans to hybrid crossovers. That’s practically everything sells except ladder-frame trucks and forklifts. The Camry is the first platform vehicle to enter production in North America.

Now two development cycles removed from the control-arm-front-suspension fetishism of the hard-core faithful, the 10th-generation adopts the global platform that’s already under the current Civic and stalwart CR-V and destined to spread like a front-wheel-drive epidemic throughout the product line. This platform is a set of components that can be chopped, channelled, twisted, and fried to support everything from compact sedans to hybrid crossovers. That’s practically every four-wheel smaller than the Pilot and Odyssey that isn’t a side-by-side ATV or a lawn mower.

The Accord goes elsewhere. It resisted forced induction right up until. And, no, Acura doesn’t count, either. Now the wastegates are open, and the Accord has embraced the blown future. Forget the previous generation’s base 185-hp 2.4-liter inline-four and welcome the turbocharged 1.5-liter four, making 192 horsepower here. Send last year’s 278-hp 3.5-liter V-6 down the memory hole, too. It’s been replaced by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a turbo heaving into it and making 252 horsepower. That power rating is deceptive, though: The old V-6 made its peak 252 pound-feet of torque way up at 4900 rpm, whereas the turbocharged 2.0-liter four thumps out 273 pound-feet from 1500 to 4000 rpm.

Until internal combustion is outlawed completely, the turbocharged present of fewer cylinders and smaller displacement will continue to pervade the market. It will succumb eventually. Probably soon.

One underappreciated advantage of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine is that there’s simply less weight up front than with a V-6. The dimensional differences between the new Camry and the Accord are slight, with the latter’s wheelbase only 0.2 inch longer than the former’s and its overall length a puny 0.5 inch more than the longest Camry. Yet the Accord Touring 2.0T automatic we had at 10Best checked in at 3419 pounds, while the Camry XSE V-6 was 3665 pounds. It is for the manual transmission in the Accord Sport 2.0T and curb weight drops to 3276 pounds, which, when compared, is more than an NFL lineman’s worth of mass. Of course this is apparent in the driving experience, given that the difference amounts to almost 11 percent of the Camry’s weight. This makes the Camry feel larger, heavier, and slower-witted. The Accord is lithe and lapidary, and hence more fun..

But the Accord isn’t just better than the Camry. This is a mass-market car selling at a keen price—and a better-driving one than many more expensive and pretentious performance cars. It’s the unquestioned victor here and everywhere else mid-size, mid-price vehicles may roam.