The Toyota Camry is redesigned for 2018. Perennially the best-selling car in the United States, Camry returns with new styling, more powerful engines and additional convenience and safety features. The Camry is offered only with front-wheel drive and the sole body style is a 4-door sedan. Competitors in the midsize sedan segment include the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat.
According to Toyota, the 2018 Camry rides an all-new platform. Wheelbase and overall length grow by 2 inches to 111.2 and 192.1, respectively. Overall height drops an inch to 56.9 inches. Width and overall curb weight are similar.
As before, Camry is offered with three engines, all of them revised for 2018. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder returns with 203 horsepower, 25 more than in 2017. The 3.5-liter V6 gains 33 horsepower to 301. Also returning is a hybrid powertrain that makes a combined 208 horsepower. Additionally, the gas-only engines get two additional gears in the transmission for a total of 8. The hybrid returns with a CVT automatic.
Though the gas-only models come in L, LE, SE, XSE and XLE trims, the hybrid comes only in LE, SE and XLE trim. Standard on all Camry models are forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, rear-view camera and lane-departure warning.
Camry LE Hybrid lists for $27,950 and includes LED headlights, keyless ignition, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, and Entune Audio system with 7-inch touch screen. Camry SE Hybrid starts at $29,650 and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, simulated leather interior, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with transmission shift paddles. The Camry XLE Hybrid lists for $32,400 and adds leather upholstery, wireless smartphone charging, head-up display, and blind-spot monitor. Optional on all models is Entune Audio Plus. It adds an 8-inch touchscreen, a smartphone-based navigation app, wireless smartphone charging, a 4G LTE connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot, Toyota Safety Connect, and a nine-speaker audio system with satellite radio and HD radio.
The Camry Hybrid's gas-electric powertrain is upgraded for 2018 to a combined output of 208 horsepower. That's good for a 0-60 MPH time of about 7.5 seconds -- faster than most 4-cylinder competitors and on par with Camry's own gas-only 4-cylinder. Power delivery is smooth and seamless through the CVT transmission. As is the base with most hybrid/CVT combos the Camry doesn't jump off the line like a traditional gas-only model -- especially when in ECO mode. The Camry Hybrid can be driven in EV mode for short distances at low speeds, but even a modest stab at the throttle brings the gas engine online.
EPA numbers for the Camry Hybrid are trim dependent. Thanks to its Lithium-ion battery pack and low rolling-resistance tires the LE is the fuel-economy champ with a combined rating of 52 MPG. SE and XLE get Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries and a combined EPA rating of 46 MPG. In routine suburban commuting it is possible to average better than 45 MPG overall, but it's difficult to hit that 52 MPG number for the LE. In addition, maintaining those numbers through Chicago's hot summers and cold winters will be all but impossible. Still, there's little doubt that Camry Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan on the market right now.
From behind the wheel, the Camry Hybrid feels like just about any other midsize sedan (albeit one that favors comfort over sport). Around town the electric steering is nicely weighted. On the highway there a slight numb sensation that makes it a little difficult to track and straight and true. The brakes have adequate stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate in most circumstances. In stop-and-god driving, you do notice a slight sensation and difference in braking force when the system switches from regen to friction braking. The low-rolling-resistance tires hurt overall stopping distances a bit.
From a road holding standpoint the Camry Hybrid isn't going to win many auto cross events -- the soft suspension and economy-minded tires make sure of that. Still, the midsize Camry is more than capable in most situations and actually shines in urban environments and on bumpy roads. At the limit, the Camry Hybrid feels stable as its front tires give up grip first and the vehicle transitions into controllable understeer.
Interior noise levels are impressively low, especially around town where the electric motors are doing most of the work. There's a bit of engine drone in hard acceleration, but even at extra-legal highway speeds the Camry is free from tire and wind noise.
Inside, the Camry is totally refreshed for 2018. The design is flowing and functional, with materials that are appropriate for the class and price point. Drivers face a twin-dial setup that provides vehicle speed, and on the hybrid, energy output. There is a configurable display screen in between and a head up display is also available. The center stack features a high-mounted touch screen and buttons and dials for audio and climate control. Ancillary controls are well positioned for easy use with the exception of a few IP-mounted buttons to the left of the steering wheel.
Though the front seats don't look like anything special, they are extremely comfortable and offer just the right amount of support on long trips. In addition, the design will accommodate just about any body type. The same can be said for the rear seats, which offer adult-size comfort. Head and leg room is exceptional, front and rear. Entry exit is excellent thanks to large door openings and a reasonable step in. Visibility is also quite good thanks to a low beltline, large rear windows, and rear-view camera. Blind-spot alert and lane-departure warning are welcome options.
Toyota eschews Android Auto and Apple Car Play in favor of an in-house system called Entune. It isn't nearly as user-friendly nor as versatile and requires registration of the vehicle through Toyota. That said, the touch screen is quite large and is easy to navigate without any smartphone integration. The available wireless charging tray is a nice plus and its design allows you to slide it out of the way when not in use.
At 15.1 cubic feet, the Camry offers one of the largest trunks in the class. Thanks to a relocated hybrid battery pack, trunk space across the Camry line is the same. Most other hybrid vehicles lose a few cubic feet to their gas-only counterparts. The trunk opening is wide and lift over reasonably low. Interior storage is good, but not class leading. There are a few open and covered bins throughout, but map pockets and glove box are just modest in size.
Bottom Line -- Toyota had more to lose than to gain with a redesign of its best-selling Camry. Still, the fresh styling and additional features mask an stout chassis and enhanced powertrain offerings that keep Camry at the top of the class in terms of features and overall drivability. Kudos to Toyota for making adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist standard. Those are welcome safety features. Camry strong points continue to be comfort, economy, and passenger and cargo capacity. In other words, there's a lot to like in this new Camry.