2015 Camry: Toyota redesigns America's best-selling car

America's best-selling sedan for the last 12 years has a new look.

Just three years after Toyota redesigned the Camry, the family sedan has gone under the knife again for 2015. This time, though, Toyota says it has rebuilt the Camry from the ground up with more than 2,000 new parts. The roof is the only unchanged part of its exterior, according to the automaker.

The result is a car with all-new styling that actually looks all new, and it seems to be in direct response to the increasing prevalence of bold-looking competitors like the Ford Fusion and Mazda6.

Much of the 2015's focus is on a sportier experience in both the style and driving performance. The current Camry SE trim level is the sportiest variant, accounting for 45 percent of Camry sales, which Toyota took as a hint that its buyers want sportier models. A new XSE trim level tops the SE as the most sporting with unique hardware, while the Camry Hybrid now has its own SE version.

Exterior

Designers and engineers rethought the entire exterior. The 2015 model is longer than the outgoing Camry by 1.8 inches and features a 0.4-inch wider track. The chassis and body are strengthened with additional spot welds for enhanced rigidity and improved ride quality, Toyota says.

The 2015's headlights will be available in LED low and high beams along with an auto-leveling system.

The new front end is the most daring element of the 2015 Camry, which debuted at the 2014 New York International Auto Show.

A huge lower grille connects with a thin chrome upper treatment that forms a Toyota version of Lexus' signature spindle grille. It's sure to elicit strong opinions from shoppers, especially the mesh-style opening in the new performance-oriented Camry XSE model. That in itself is a big departure for the Camry, which long has been known for its understated looks.

The new lines carry through the rear, which is much less angular than the outgoing Camry. Toyota says this design conveys a sense of motion. The rear roof pillars are about the same size as the outgoing model's, but Toyota designers managed to make them look a lot thinner by finishing a significant portion of them in piano-black and chrome trim. It's a neat trick that works to good effect with the rest of the design updates.

Interior

Inside the new Camry are more premium and soft-touch materials, as well as a new 4.2-inch color screen between the gauges of SE, XLE and XSE models for controlling vehicle functions, audio, navigation, warnings and communications. The interior is finished in a satin chrome trim, and premium cloth is the standard interior upholstery; a package with leather and Ultrasuede material with contrast stitching is also available.

The cabin gets design tweaks like a newly styled center console, but the interior retains the overall appearance of the prior version. The console tray increases storage capacity and offers a DC outlet, USB port as well an available wireless charging system for select smartphones, which Toyota says is a segment first.

One focus of the redesign was to quiet the cabin. Toyota says it has addressed road and wind noise by improving window and door seals and adding 30 percent more insulating material to the carpet. The side mirrors are also redesigned to reduce air turbulence and noise.

The XSE trim's leather and suede front bucket seats are comfortable, and the door trim has soft-touch surfaces.

Backseat passengers have to make do with hard upper door plastic, and the seating area doesn't feel quite as roomy as the backseat in the new 2015 Hyundai Sonata, which also debuted at the show. The Camry's backseat is still comfortable, but it doesn't have quite as much legroom.

Under the Hood

The existing four-cylinder, six-cylinder and hybrid powertrains carry over, though two new trim levels, the XSE and Hybrid SE, bring new performance flavor to their respective models. The XSE adds unique 18-inch wheels, its own shock absorbers, firmer bushings, higher rate coil springs and unique steering tuning to make it what Toyota calls the sportiest Camry yet.

The electric-assisted power steering gets a tweak for better feel and straight-line stability, and the brakes have also been modified to offer an improved feel. Like other SE models, the Hybrid SE has its own suspension tuning and chassis stiffening parts to offer a more spirited driving experience.

Safety

The Camry will offer driving aids such as lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, automatic high beams and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert.

The Camry was the best-selling car of 2013 by a healthy margin, but midsize-sedan competitors have been picking up sales at a faster pace, reducing the Camry's sales lead. Toyota appears to be banking on new exterior styling to keep the Camry on top of the midsize-sedan pile.