Posts by Chris Stout
Some people are on their phones way too much. I am one of those people. It’s not like I’m crazy anti-social or anything, but between all the calls, music streaming, PFT reading, texting, emails and crushing candies, a full cell phone charge in the morning isn’t likely to last an entire day. Sure, you can charge your phone at home, at work, in the car and all that, but we all have those days where we need more juice. And as phones get even more smarter, they need for constant charging becomes that much greater.
Enter the myCharge RazorPlus. This portable lithium-ion power bank packs a serious punch for such a small package. Slim, lightweight and easy to stash, the Razor Plus fits just about anywhere. Heading out for the night? Toss this thing in your lady’s purse. She won’t even know it’s there. Living the single life? No worries. This thing is comparable in size to a sleek cell phone. You can drop it the pocket of your jeans and still have room for other carry on items in your pants – like keys or that Costanza wallet you insist on carrying around with you.
The RazorPlus provides up to 13 hours of additional talk time for your smartphone. You can hook up your tablet or your sweet headphones or whatever else you lug around that could use an extra battery boost by the end of the day.
I love that this thing comes with a USB cord, too. Sure you have like 5-10 of those already, but they’re already hooked up to other things, right? When manufacturers assume that you don’t need an additional USB cord to go with your new digital toy, that irks me. The folks at myCharge know this, so they include an appropriately sized cord that you can easily pack with you RazorPlus.
You can find these things online for like $40. Think of how much you’ll use it, though. Day trips, late nights, flights, BBQs, sporting events, train rides, hours of Spotify and Candy Crush tournaments – you get the idea. For as much as you spend on your smartphone – both time and money – dropping $40 to make sure that thing stays on when you need it seems like a no-brainer.
Exactly 256 players heard their names called during the seven rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. One of those guys was University of Miami (Ohio) cornerback Quinten Rollins, an intriguing prospect that the Packers selected with the 62nd pick overall. Rollins played four years of basketball in college and finished second in school history with 214 career steals. After securing a fifth year of eligibility, Rollins turned his attention to football, a sport he hadn’t played since high school.
The results were pretty impressive. Playing in just one season, Rollins racked up 72 tackles and seven interceptions in 12 games. That single season performance earned him MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and kept things rolling, securing an interception in that game as well.
By all accounts, Rollins just knows how to get after it. He’s the only basketball player in Miami history to register two 7-steal games. His ball-hawking skills are unquestioned. He was a turnover machine on the football field and the guy likes to tackle, too. He may not have years of experience under his belt, but the dude’s a proven athlete who has shown that he can get results. I got a chance to chat with Rollins a couple weeks before the draft.
So what made Rollins go back to football?
“It was the right move,” he said. “I thought about playing football out of high school. I was playing both basketball and football, but basketball is the path that I chose for education purposes. It was my first opportunity to get to college. My first scholarship offer my junior year. I always knew that I would get back into football. It was just a matter of when and where. I thought about it after my sophomore year, but it didn’t happen. Then my senior year came around and I got an opportunity for a fifth year, and I just took a chance. I decided to sit down and meet with Coach Martin. I was in on a trial basis for spring ball. He gave me the opportunity to come out and earn a scholarship, and that’s what I did.”
I had read that Rollins considered playing basketball overseas, but ultimately, that idea didn’t appeal to him.
“Well, I’m a father. I had already been away from my daughter, being away at college with a 24-7 demanding schedule as far as academics and athletics go. I just didn’t want to go that far away from her. I felt like it would be better for me to stay over here in the US and get back into football. It was just a matter of when and where, and it just happened to work out perfect.”
Rollins is working with Speed Stick on their #DefyTheDoubt campaign. The experience of going from a student athlete to a professional with corporate sponsors supporting you as you make the leap to the next level has got to be a trip, right?
“It’s great,” Rollins said. “I’m blessed that Speed Stick gave me the opportunity to share my journey up until this point. Hopefully it continues to get even better as I continue to grow as a person and as an athlete. It’s definitely surreal to get opportunity to work with these guys like Speed Stick to get these types of endorsements. But at the end of the day, it still matters what you do and how you represent yourself as a person and as an athlete. I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s definitely been a blessing that they’ve allowed me to share my story and my journey. Hopefully, like I said, it continues to keep getting better.”
When tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates make plays in the NFL, there seems to be some sort of rule that an announcer must always reference the fact that they played basketball. Seriously, has Jimmy Graham ever caught a touchdown without an announcer mentioning the phrase “former basketball player?” It doesn’t happen. It gets mentioned every single time the guy scores. And he’s scored 51 touchdowns in five NFL seasons. This only seems to apply to offensive players though. I asked Rollins what skills he honed on the court that could make him a defensive difference-maker on the football field.
“Man-to-man defense in basketball,” Rollins said. “That helps me tremendously in man-to-man coverage on the football field as far as my feet go. In basketball, it’s all about your feet. Sliding and moving your feet. It’s the same in football, but in the NFL you can’t put your hands on a guy past five yards. So that’s definitely been one of the most vital things. And then as far as end zone coverage and being point guard, you got to see the whole floor. That’s allowed me, in end zone coverage, to open up and get back to my natural instincts of being a point guard and seeing everything that’s going on and see the big picture. And anticipation. As a point guard, you got to always be a play ahead. It helps in football, too. I can anticipate things and just see it happen before it does happen. Also, having that next play mentality. As a point guard, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have turnovers. You’re going to have bad plays. But just like in football, you might get beat on a catch, but you got to have that next play mentality. You can’t have your head down, because it’s most likely going to come right back at you so you got to be prepared for it.”
Some scouts have projected Rollins as a safety in the NFL. Does he have a position preference for the next level?
“I really don’t care where I play at” he said, “whether it be nickel, outside, inside, back end safety. I’m just ready to get somewhere, learn the system and get going.”
So why defense? Rollins played running back at Wilmington High School in Ohio. He had a chance to play running back in college as well, but Rollins chose defense because of the upside potential at the professional level.
“When I gave coach Martin my film,” Rollins said, “he obviously saw me at running back in high school. He gave me the option, when we sat down and met, he said you can play offense or you can chose defense. After going over the pros and cons for each, I felt defense was going to be better, especially for longevity purposes. Running backs really don’t play that long in the NFL, as opposed to corners. With my size and my athletic ability, I chose the more elite position. It’s valued more. So I figured that was the best route for me to go.”
Smart move, especially with his existing skill set. Big ballin’ tight ends who have size, can get separation and handle the ball in the paint/endzone have certainly become a thing in the NFL. But this could be another trend worth watching. The Packers took Rollins in the second round this year, but last season they selected Baylor CB Demetri Goodson in the sixth. Goodson was also a point guard who didn’t have a ton of football experience in college (he played basketball at Gonzaga). The emergence of highly athletic, ball-hawkish point guards in the secondary is worth monitoring. Especially when these top-flight athletes are making the conscience business decision to apply their skills at a premium position that tends to attract big money.
Basketball and football are obviously different. Sure, the similarities help a guy like Rollins, but he appreciates the differences as well.
“I love the way teams bond together, but that’s what was different. With basketball, we were a very close team, but you look at the work that a football team puts in, it’s totally different. Like how you can get a hundred guys all on the same page, working hard and everything. There’s just something about that that’s special,” he said.
At the end of the day, Rollins just loves to make plays. And big plays can be a lot bigger on the football field than on the basketball court.
“In basketball, there’s a lot of possessions. In football, the possessions are limited. So any time you get the opportunity to make a game-changing play to impact the game in a vital way,” he said, “it’s something special.”
Talking with Rollins, it’s clear that he loves football.
“Everything that comes with the game, I enjoy,” Rollins said. “I actually didn’t realize I missed it that much until I got back out there on the field again. I mean, there’s nothing like Friday night lights, obviously, but Saturdays are special, too. And I’m looking forward to see what Sundays are like.”
Ah, Burgers and beers. They go together like peas and carrots. Like peanut butter and jelly. Or football and Sundays. This winning food and beverage combo forms the bedrock of the American belly. It’s what most of us are made of, really.
We already told you about the announcement of the Bud and Burgers Championship. It’s is a three-month nationwide competition where amateur chefs will compete at major festivals across the country. The winner will take home $100,000 to jumpstart their culinary career. The winning chef will also be invited to compete in a new cooking competition show on the Esquire Network.
Last week, I got to experience the higher end of this fine Bud and burger pairing at an exclusive dinner hosted by Budweiser and Chef David Chang. Before Chef Chang was introduced, the folks from Budweiser announced the upcoming burger competition with the bold claim that the burger was first unveiled to the world at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. This meant that burgers and Budweiser were joined at the hip from the get-go.
I decided to look into this a bit, and it turns out the 1904 World’s Fair was a pretty big deal. The origins of the burger in America are a bit murky, but one thing’s for sure, people were probably chomping on burgers and sipping Budweiser during in St. Louis in 1904.
Also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis lasted for seven months. Sixty-three countries participated in the expo and over 19 million people attended. The first Olympics ever held in the US took place during that summer in St. Louis. Geronimo was on display in a teepee. Helen Keller gave a lecture. Max Weber was there. TS Elliott wrote a short story about his expo experience for his high school newspaper. Jack Daniel and his Tennessee whiskey were awarded a gold medal at the World’s Fair, something that’s still advertised on every Jack Daniel’s bottle.
Was it the first time the world was introduced to hamburgers? Hard to say, but if you believe different accounts, it was arguably the first time people were introduced to things like Dr. Pepper, peanut butter, cotton candy and the waffle cone, too.
So yea, a lot went down at the world’s fair that year, but let’s get back to burgers in 2015, specifically the burger that was served at the dinner that kicked off this whole Bud and Burgers Championship thing last week in Santa Monica.
Too often a premium burger has too much going on. If you can’t hold it in one hand and put it in your mouth, is it really still a burger at that point? I say no. But i’m a simple man. Chef Chang’s burger recipe was simple by design.
“Keep it simple,” Chang said. “Simple is hard to do.”
And simple it was. Simply delicious. Here’s the recipe:
- Short rib beef blend (or at least a 80/20 lean/fat blend)
- American Cheese Slices
- Hamburger Buns
- 2 TBSP Neutral, High heat Oil
- Bread & Butter Pickles
- Cast Iron Skillet
How You’ll Make It
- Ask your butcher for a short rib blend (16oz will make four 4oz burgers). If you can’t get a short rib blend, make sure ou get a blend that has 20-30% at content
- Form the patties. Measure/estimate out 4oz portion and form into 1/4” thick patties
- Season liberally with salt on each side
- Add oil to cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat
- Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side. During the last minute, add one slice of cheese to the patty and a dab of butter to the pan. Baste burger until cheese is melted and set aside on a cooking rack to rest
- In the same pan, toast buns face down until golden brown
- To assemble the burger, place the patty on the bun, dress with bread and butter pickles to taste and top with the other side of the bun
What’s this, you ask? No veggies?
“If you want vegetables,” Chang said, “eat a salad.”
The no frills burger was perfect. The short rib provided the proper fat balance, it was just salty enough, and the pickles were a nice crunchy complement. Did it look pretty? Not really, but who cares? Taste should dictate success in any burger sampling exercise, and the taste quality was off the charts. Pair it all with a frosty Budweiser Signature Draught, and you get a room full of happy people. The bud and burger combo wasn’t complicated. It was familiar and user-friendly, and according to Chef Chang, that’s all part of the appeal.
“Cooking Zeitgeist is changing,” Chang said. “The burger is the perfect example of where food is going. You’re doing something delicious that’s also accessible.”
Think you got a winning burger concept? Submit a photo or video of your burger creation to Budweiser.com/burger to see if you can score a festival invite and a chance to compete in the final burger battle at the Budweiser Brewery in St Louis. Good luck, burger lovers!
I’m not going to pretend to know Cole Whitt. I mean, how can you really get to know someone after two interviews and a weekend in Daytona? But I think I got a good read on the guy, and if I could use one phrase to describe him, I’d say that he’s approachably focused.
He’s equal parts humble and hungry. Whitt doesn’t carry himself like a superstar race car diva. He’s got work to put in and he welcomes that work. That doesn’t mean he won’t flash a big, genuine smile when meeting a fan or take time to answer silly questions from bloggers like me.
When you meet Cole, you sense quickly that he’s a private guy. Not a limelight seeker by any stretch. He prefers CrossFit and the outdoors to press rooms and podiums. Behind this surface of shyness, though, there’s a big heart and a ferocious sense of purpose. You don’t earn a nickname like the Ginger Lion by being a pansy.
It should be noted, that racing ain’t easy, man. Especially if you want to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the nation’s highest stock car division. It’s a taxing endeavor all around. You need financial backing from your teams and sponsors, and soul support from your family and crew. On a weekly basis, you have to overcome the physical rigors of driving hundreds of miles with inches separating you from disaster. Then there’s mental prep required to get your head right before, during and after competition.
This is some seriously stressful stuff, but the stakes are high, my friend. This year’s Daytona 500 had a purse of over $18 million. That’s a lot of coin for 43 drivers to chase in one day.
Thanks to our friends at Speed Stick, we were able to follow Cole Whitt’s full experience of the 2015 Daytona 500. Join us for a moment as we step into his racing shoes…
Imagine you’re a pocket-sized, 23-year-old professional driver entering your second full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. You’re a full-blown ginger and your height and weight aren’t listed on your NASCAR profile. The biggest expectations you have come from within. You’re confident, because you’ve been racing for more than half your life. There’s doubters all around, but not in your inner circle.
Your first season had its set of challenges. Your car got jacked up during practice at the Daytona 500 and there was no backup car available. Your team rallied to make repairs, just to get you into qualifying. With no guarantee that you’d even compete, you make up eight spots on the final five laps of your Budweiser Duel to secure entry in the 2014 Daytona 500.
You showed a ton of promise in your first full Sprint Cup season. You finished better than you qualified in three of every four races you entered. You created some rookie of the year buzz and things looked promising.
With little warning, your racing team shuts down operations in April. You switch teams to close the year out and it’s unclear who’ll have a spot for you next season. Shoulder surgery that cuts into your offseason prep, but at least you secured a spot a new team. With your second season set to begin, you find yourself back in Daytona needing to fight your way in again.
This is where the Ginger Lion stood, right before the Budweiser Duels. Running in the #35 car for Front Row Motorsports, Cole Whitt was on the outside looking in and needed a good showing to earn a spot in the Great American Race. It’s #DefyTheDoubt time for damn sure.
“I told all the guys, it’s like, everything kinda rides on the 500,” Whitt said after qualifying. “If we can get into the 500, from there, the pressure is a little bit off. We still got a lot of work to do for sure, don’t get me wrong. But missing this race could turn the whole career to the wrong side. It could make it pretty hard to get through the season.”
So, no pressure, right?
“I’ve been through this situation more times than I want to be. Last year was very stressful and this year was just as stressful. As far as I was concerned, we had to run top 15. And we did.”
Whitt’s strong finish in the Budweiser Duels meant that he punched his ticket into Daytona to start the 2015 season.
“To be able to lock ourselves in and get all three cars in and push Front Row down the right path, it’s going to be awesome. I look forward to see what we can do this year.”
Speed Stick gave us the opportunity to follow Whitt and his #DefyTheDoubt attitude around Daytona for an important weekend in his young career. Here’s the beat and video we put together to chronicle the experience:
Gear up for the weekend with these tasty Jeremiah Weed cocktail options. Whether you fancy refreshing iced tea with a kick for day drinking, a change-of-pace taste of apple cinnamon spice or nice end-of-the-meal sarsaparilla treat, we got options to cover every occasion.
JW Spiced Tea
- Two shots of Jeremiah Weed Spiced Whiskey
- Fresh Lemon Juice
- Brewed Iced Tea
- One can of 7-Up
- Mint Sprigs
- Fill tall glass with ice and fill glass halfway with brewed iced tea.
- Add two shots of whiskey
- Top off with 7-Up and four to five dashed of fresh lemon juice.
- Stir completely and garnish with mint sprig.
Twisted Apple Cinnamon
- 1 1/2 oz. Jeremiah Weed Cinnamon Whiskey
- 1 1/2 oz. Apple Schnapps
- Mix in a whiskey glass
- Finish with some light cinnamon garnish
Sarsaparilla Whiskey Root Beer Float
- Two shots of Jeremiah Weed Sarsaparilla Whiskey
- One can of root beer
- One (reasonably-sized) scoop of vanilla ice cream
- Combine whiskey and root beer in a large mug
- Scoop the ice cream on top
- Consume quickly
Have a good weekend!
The bourbon whiskey that Jeremiah Weed produces is not for the faint of heart. If you’re not a fan of flavor, you should take your whiskey drinking needs elsewhere. This stuff reserved for those select few whiskey enthusiasts who aren’t afraid of a little spice. Okay, a lot of spice. Probably more spice than you can handle, man.
In late 2014, Jeremiah Weed released three new whiskey variations:
- Jeremiah Weed Spiced Whiskey
- Jeremiah Weed Cinnamon Whiskey
- Jeremiah Weed Sarsaparilla Whiskey
The attention-grabbing, old-timey packaging of these bottles hints at the palate party that awaits whiskey lovers who reach for this level of zesty flavor. The Spiced Whiskey is sweet with a kick and makes a good mixer. The Cinnamon Whiskey is a spicier alternative for the ever-growing, shot-crazed Fireball crowd. The Sarsaparilla Whiskey harkens back to a time when root-seasoned beverages were the norm. It’s like root beer on flavor steroids. All these variations come in at just over 70 proof (35%ABV) and can be enjoyed affordably (and responsibly) for around $19 for a 750ml bottle.
Our friends at Jeremiah Weed invited us to participate in a blogger challenge to design a new t-shirt for the brand. Here are some of the initial designs we came up with, sticking with the curiously strange old-timey theme, of course:
The winning blogger will receive a set of 50 limited edition t-shirts and tickets to a TBD concert, show or sporting event. Wish us luck, guys!
The Golden State Warriors have the best record in the NBA and two-time all-star Steph Curry is a big reason why. An early favorite to win the MVP, Curry’s been lighting it up for a while now. But this year just feels different. Everything’s clicking for Golden State and first-year head coach Steve Kerr. The Splash Brothers are dominating from the perimeter again, yes, but the high octane offensive attack is now balanced by one of the league’s best defenses. Golden State is winning with conviction, too. Enjoying their hottest start in franchise history, the Warriors boast a league-best 11.5 margin of victory to go along with their 38-8 record.
And Curry’s just locked in, man. Top ten in points per game. Top five in assists, steals and free throw percentage. It’s all coming together for the youthful-looking point guard from Davidson.
Now you may think the guy looks like he’s 14 years old, but he’s full grown man of 26. That’s not to say he wasn’t an absolute baller when he was 14. When your dad plays 16 sharpshooting seasons in the NBA, there’s a good chance you’ll develop an appreciation for the game of basketball. Steph’s younger brother Seth is also a professional player who’s plying his trade for the Erie BayHawks, the Orlando Magic’s NBA developmental team.
So the guy’s a natural. Basketball’s in his genes. That’s not to say he doesn’t work hard. You don’t develop such a silky smooth jumper without putting in some time. But as Curry explains in this DegreeMen Game Changer spot, finding your own game is a careful balance.
After this spot ran, Steph Curry and John Wall of the Washington Wizards engaged in a playful/promotional exchange on Twitter. The two all-stars are now set to square off against each other for the title of Ultimate Game Changer in the Degree Battle of the Game Changers. It’s a shot-for-shot type showdown where each player has to match the other and fans get to vote on which shot they’d like to see by going to Twitter.com/DegreeMen after February 9.
We talked with Curry about the upcoming Battle of the Game Changers, first-time head coach Steve Kerr, who he thinks has the sweetest jumper of all time and what pointers he has for people with no shot whatsoever. Here’s the interview:
Make sure to check out the Degree Battle of the Game Changers live on NBA TV during the NBA All-Star Practice on February 14.
Signing up for wireless services sucks. It’s like you’re an elite football player in the days before free agency. The players union just isn’t organized yet. You can’t trust your agent. You’re stuck with the team that drafted you (or you know, maybe you signed with them early in your career and now you’re stuck). You can’t test the waters and bring your talents elsewhere. And then there’s that damn contract. It just binds you in ways you can’t even understand or collective bargain against.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. What if you’re mobile provider functioned more like a restaurant and less like a tyrannical professional sports team owner? What if you could pick and choose your own plans, change it all up whenever you want and achieve all this flexibility without a contract?
This is how Net10 Wireless is trying to do business. It’s a smart approach to shake up the outdated service relationship that exists between wireless providers and their customers.
I used to sell cell phones back in college. I was terrible at it. Things were just so convoluted and confusing back then. The 2000s just got started and cell phone technology and service plans were totally ridiculous. You name it, things were silly. Imagine paying ten cents a text (and that’s after using just a number pad to string along individual letters into words). Or how about local roaming charges? That’s LOCAL roaming charges. God forbid you’re on the freeway and you ping a cell tower the next town over. Yep, that’ll be extra. Want to make an out of state call? Well you better make sure you do it from the hours of 5-10pm on weeknights only.
We’ve come a long way since those dark, early years of mobile, but there’s still work to be done. There are still some outmoded practices that need to be done away with. We all know at least one person who’s gotten burned with a crazy bill or some contract-busting stomach punch from a major wireless provider. Net10 Wireless is trying to simplify this stuff.
Net10 Wireless gives you two starting points. Show up with your own phone or buy a new Android phone from them. These guys partner up with the nation’s top four carriers so you get a familiar level of coverage across the country. Then you pick a plan. If you want to change your phone or plan at a future date, you can do it without any silly penalties.
You got options on the plans. You can go with a) unlimited talk, text and/or data, b) unlimited international long distance, c) 30-day plans, d) pay-as-you-go plans. Option A ranges from $35-$75 a month. Option B comes in at $65 a month. Option C ranges from 200 minutes/month for $15 up to 1000 minutes/month for $25. Option D has longer carry over periods and ranges from 200 minutes for $20 to 1500 minutes for $100 that’s good for 180 days.
So yea, you got choices. It may seem a bit complicated at first, and sure there’s some obvious fine print and whatnot, but those prices are cheap, man. If you’re worried about data usage, most phones allow you to set limits and alerts on this sort of stuff.
If you’re shopping for someone who needs a new plan, this is worth testing out. If you find yourself in-between mobile providers, check these guys out. If you ever consider getting a second line, this is definitely a smart option.
Mobile phones aren’t magic anymore. Phones got smarter. It’s about time that phone plans got smarter, too.
If you’re like me, the actual week of Christmas is when you knock out the bulk of your holiday shopping. Sure, there may be a random gift that you pick up ahead of time, but most of us don’t think ahead like this. We wait until the ultimate last moment, grab something just in time, and tell ourselves, next year will be different. We know this is isn’t true, but that’s a holiday routine that most of us can relate to.
So what sort of options are you looking at for last minute gift purchases? I’m of the opinion that you just can’t go wrong with a wireless speaker. Who would be upset with gift like this? Nobody, that’s who. Everyone’s carrying gigabytes of music around in their pocket these days and we all consume insane amounts of tunes and videos on the regular through phones and tablets and so on. If you’re wondering what to get that special someone who likely owns a smartphone or tablet, check out the Life n Soul BM211 Bluetooth Stereo Speaker.
It’s hard to think back to a day when Bluetooth speakers weren’t the norm. Auxiliary cables and dedicated, immovable home stereos are just so old hat now. How can you be expected to listen to music or watch videos from one dedicated spot in your house? That’s madness. You want to be able to stream Homeland in your kitchen while you’re doing dishes. You want the ability to bump music at a picnic in the park without lugging around a boom box. The Life n Soul BM211 Bluetooth Stereo Speaker is good for these things.
The speaker itself is lightweight, but still packs a punch. It’s collapsible, so you can easily toss it in a bag or a large jacket pocket. The thing I like the most about this speaker is that it doubles as a phone/tablet stand. Open it up, turn it on, connect your device and couch that baby in there. Boom – instant portable HBO GO machine.
The sound quality isn’t terrible. This isn’t some $4,000 high-end accessory, here. The Life n Soul BM211 Bluetooth Stereo Speaker leans more toward convenience and functionality than audiophile-approved luxury. But so what. It does the job, it doesn’t sound tinny and the volume reaches reasonable, room-filling levels, especially for the size.
The price isn’t all that bad either. You can pick this guy up for around $79 all over the place. There’s even still time for expedited shipping, so get on it!
I’ve never been to Hawaii before, but I always wanted to go. I was actually in the middle of planning a trip out there when our good friends at Toyota hit me up with an invite I couldn’t refuse. I’ve had my share of fun on Toyota trips in the past, mind you. I went on a Toyota Corolla San Diego mission last year that included nude beach paragliding, a helicopter tour and other shenanigans, so I figured, how bad could a week long trip to Hawaii really be?
Well everything you’ve heard about Hawaii is true. I made the trip to the Big Island and enjoyed things like daily snorkel missions with sea turtles, a night dive with manta rays, a scenic helicopter tour, sunset cruise, volcano visit, kayaking, Mai Tai’s on Mai Tai’s, you get the idea. Not a bad place to host a press event for test driving the 2015 Toyota Camry, Sienna and Yaris. I mean look at this place:
We’ll be posting our impressions on the Sienna and Yaris later this week, but first up is the 2015 Toyota Camry.
You probably already know this, but hey, it’s worth repeating. The Toyota Camry is an insanely popular car. Like 10.2 million sold since 1983 popular. 6.6 million Camrys still on the road kinda popular. People really enjoy this car and Toyota is happy to cater to this love by producing a brand new Camry every 54 seconds.
They sold over a million of these things in 2011, which was the highest year-over-year volume increase in the ultra-competitive mid-size sedan segment. It’s the best-selling car on the road for the past 12 years running,
So yea, people like it. But Toyota changed a lot of stuff with this new Camry. The 2015 has more than 2,000 new parts to it. It’s got a new grill, a new hood, a new bumper cover, a bunch of surface interior changes and so forth. Only the roof remained unchanged on the outside.
What makes the 2015 so different? I can talk about the 22 new reinforced spot welds or the percentage of lateral vibration improvement or things like this, but I’m a simple man. I need things explained to me from authoritative sources. So naturally, I went to the Chief Engineer of the Toyota Camry, Monte Kaehr.
Talk to Me, Chief
I first ran into Monte while photographing a gorgeous sunset during a cruise along the Kohala Coast off the Big Island of Hawaii. He seemed like a chill enough guy, so after my first 2015 Camry test drive, I sought him out for some insider info.
Kaehr told me about the premium athletic styling that’s become a major theme for the car – a theme that will remain a focus for the foreseeable future. But what I wanted to know was what fired Kaehr up the most about the 2015 Camry.
Kaeher explained to me that before ramping up the updates for the 2015 Camry, Toyota hosted driving clinics in three different spots: Long Beach, California; Denver, Colorado; and White Plains, New York. The clinics featured standard midsize segment cars and owners. Drivers were up front doing their thing as a series of preset questions were issued from the back seat, with auto super-geeks like Kaeher sitting in on the sessions to absorb some unfiltered customer feedback.
Kaeher told me about one woman who drove over a bump in Long Beach and commented that the bump felt “harsh.” The input forces weren’t that big, he said, but it was the sound itself that generated the harsh vibe.
“Taking the edge off the sound,” Kaeher said, became a major focus. Toyota used sound absorption materials throughout the cabin to suppress sounds near the frequencies of human speech. Custom-formed foam inserts seal service holes in the doors. They provided 30 percent more insulation while moving the side mirrors out to further reduce noise. They even put in acoustic windshields for the V6 and Hybrid models.
It’s that reduction of road noise that really gives the car “a more premium feel,” according to Kaeher. Previous Camrys didn’t have this. It’s really noticeable, too.
In another one of these clinical tests, some dude expressed concern that there wasn’t enough reserve braking power. When telling this story, Kaehr had to explain force curves to me, because, as I said earlier, I’m a simple man. Toyota wanted to make the force curve more linear in the Camry by increasing the spring rate to provide stronger feedback.
“Making it linear means you can predict it better and control it better,” he said. Linear feedback makes things “more precise, confident and natural,” Kaehr explained. The 2015 Camry is the first Toyota to roll this out. You heard it here first.
The model’s chief engineer also explained what didn’t change in the 2015 Camry.
“We looked at changing the engines and we decided not to,” Kaehr said.
Well wait a minute, chief engineer guy. I thought turbos were all the rage, right?
Well you see, the man drives a V6 SE and absolutely loves the engine. This seemed like a point he was more than ready to defend. Switching to Turbo may sound flashy, but Kaehr was eager to produce a Car and Driver article that showed the fuel economy benefits Camry had over similar midsize sedans that featured standard turbo engines.
“It may not sound sexy, but it’s the right engine to have,” Kaehr said. The man obviously knows his stuff and he had supporting documentation on competitive fuel economy benefits in his back pocket. He passionately made a good case, and I believe him. He wants the Camry to be seen as a balanced machine. One that provides performance pleasure and everyday enjoyment.
“Even if people buy it for its practical characteristics,” Kaehr said, “we still want people to love it.”
I tested a few different Camry models during my time in Hawaii. I tried the sporty XSE so I could test out the paddle shifters. That thing sure took on winding highways with ease (I’m looking at you, Mamalahoa Hwy). I took the Hybrid SE out for an impromptu 200-mile night drive to go see a guy about a volcano. (Side note: if you’re ever on the Big Island, do yourself a favor and go check out Kilauea at night. The misty glow from the crater is sight to see and the view of the stars from the top of that volcano are decidedly world class). It was a calm, quiet ride where the gas gauge remained friendly (EPA estimated 43 MPG in the city, baby) and the LED fog lights cut through a pillow of vog (volcanic fog) like nobody’s business.
I gotta say that the V6 engines didn’t leave me feeling underserved. There were plenty of times when I needed to gun past some lazy island drivers on a two-lane highway situation, and every time I punched it, the V6 Camrys would respond with an appropriate level of thrust.
If you want a detailed breakdown on camshafts, dual-independent variable valve timing with intelligence or K platforms, you can find that stuff from other, more reputable outlets. At MANjr, we take a more simple approach.
Was it comfy? It sure was. The seats can fit a big man and this whole Toyota push for soft-touch interior material throughout was a spot on.
Is it pretty? I mean yea, it’s not a bad looking sedan. You got the French stitching and metallic chrome accents on the inside and athletic lines with the piano black honeycomb grill on the outside.
Did it have cool tech? The 4.2” TFT Mutli-Information Display unit with the Entune app suite and a sound system designed by JBL were all pretty solid. Wireless phone charging is a pretty sweet (albeit non-standard) addition. According to Entune Subject Matter Expert Andy Lam, all you need is a $20 Qi wireless charging case from Amazon and you’re in business. LED headlamps, lane departure alerts, a pre-collision system, yea, this things got some nice gadgetry to it.
Bottom line, it’s an affordable option for drivers looking for reliability with a touch of sport and luxury. People love this car for a reason, and with a near complete overhaul midway through a typical model lifecycle, Toyota’s putting in some serious effort to stay ahead of the mid-sized pack. It’s worth checking out for yourself.
The 2015 Camry at a Glance
- LE base price: $22,970
- SE base price: $23,840
- XLE base price: $26,150
- XSE base price: $26,150
- XLE V6 base: $31,370
- XSE V6 base: $31,370
- Hybrid LE base: $26,790
- Hybrid SE: $27,995
- Hybrid XLE: $29,980