2018 Toyota Camry
By Dave Boe
Toyota's mid-size Camry sedan already qualifies as the best-selling car in America for 15 consecutive years, thanks to a well-earned reputation for mechanical reliability, decent resale value, attainable starting price points and predictable, pleasant drive-ability.
What to do for an encore? Bring on an eighth-generation effort chuck full of advances wrapped in revamped, somewhat un-Camry like skin.
The 2018 front-wheel-drive Camry sheds its long running reputation for 'vanilla,' ho-hum exterior styling. Suffice it to say, this new Camry is the most eye-popping to date thanks to a lower roof line and reduced vehicle height. Bold character lines borrow a page from Toyota's upscale Lexus side.
The first-generation Camry, a compact, arrived to the U.S. in the 1983 model year with four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. Not until the third-generation effort (1992-1996) did Camry upsize by six inches in length to qualify as a mid-sizer.
Long-time Camry owners need not concern themselves with an unrecognizable or undesirable redo, as Toyota's well-precisioned redesign continues evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It's still the vehicle for rivals to emulate and catch in the highly competitive family friendly mid-size sedan segment.
This latest Camry benefits from TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) using a lighter weight, high-rigidity platform structure with a 30 percent increase in Torsion rigidity. It's the third recently redesigned Toyota to incorporate this framework.
The wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) gets stretched by 1.9 inches and overall length extends by almost an inch and a half with the roofline lowered by an inch.
Chad Moore, Product Training Expert for Toyota, was the keynote breakfast speaker at the Midwest Automotive Media Association's (MAMA) one-day fall rally gathering last month at the closed circuit Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, and brought with him a few 2018 Camrys to evaluate.
"We wanted to create a distinctive look with a little bit lower profile, give it a bolder look," Moore stated. "We also wanted to portray a sporty and upscale image. There are a lot of great (exterior) lines on this vehicle."
Recent Camry generations offered both four and six-cylinder powertrains. So too does this eighth generation effort, but both are all-new incarnations to Camry with increased fuel economy and oomph.
Camry continues offering a wide variety of trim levels. Four cylinder models include an all-new for 2018 entry L, joining the volume-generating LE, two sports-minded offerings (SE and XSE) and top-level XLE. Six cylinders whittle down selections to XSE and XLE.
A 2.5-liter four cylinder cranks out 203 horsepower, 25 better than last year. Move up to the 3.5-liter V-6 and horsepower eclipses the 300 mark (301 to be exact and 33 more than 2017). Both utilize regular 87-octane fuel.
Camry continues delivering better-than-average mileage estimates. The V-6 engine checks in at 22 miles per gallon city and 32 highway, one mile better in each category from 2017. The 2.5-liter four cylinder (in LE, SE, XSE and XLE trims) now extends estimates to 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway up from 25/35. Base four-cylinder L's extend mileage upward to 29 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.
Standard automatic transmission also gets updated as the outgoing six-speed variety gets replaced by an eight-speed version. Also retuning is the Camry Hybrid, now sporting fuel economy numbers rivaling Toyota's gas-electric hybrid Prius.
A sophisticated multi-link rear suspension (replacing struts) smooths out an already pleasant riding experience. A lower center of gravity and less overall weight now pump up handling characteristics.
Our tester, a six-cylinder XSE included a $34,950 starting price. With a smattering of options including a $1,050 driver's assist package, $395 ruby pearl exterior color, $299 illuminated door sills and $224 for carpet mats, the bottom line landed at $37,813. The lowest-priced 2018 Camry, a four-cylinder L, checks in at $23,495.
Both XSE four and V-6 editions come with 19-inch alloy wheels, the largest offered in the 2018 Camry.
Drivers sit slightly lower to the ground in the 2018 edition and enjoy good road perceptions in all directions with generous side and large rear windows.
The XSE and XLE trims benefit from a new, compact electronic parking brake, found to the rear of the transmission shifter. The three lower trims utilize foot-operated mechanical types. Nearby our XSE trim included three drive mode press-button choices: Eco, Normal and Sport.
The informative instrument panel includes two deep set circular gauges; with a dedicated analog speedometer and fuel gauge insert (right orb) and tachometer (left orb). Both sport bright red needles contrasting with white backlighting at night. In between resides a generous seven-inch display with a boatload of information and corresponding icons summoned from the steering wheel's 9 o'clock button patch.
A larger eight-inch, in-dash color touch screen centers Toyota's 3.0 Entune Audio Plus system in XSE and XLE V-6 models while seven-inch sizes support other trims and engines. Two inline twist dials, both left of the screen mechanically control audio volume and radio station selection, so drivers enjoy the final say concerning settings unless shotgun riders have extended wing spans. The touch screen includes large, easy-to-follow commands; it took less than 30 seconds to readjust the digital clock to Central Daylight Savings Time.
Heating and cooling chores handle through XSE's dual temperature dials flanking a rectangular display window with push buttons directing fan speed and direction below. The moon roof (standard in V-6 XSE and XLE) extends back into the second row in 'panoramic' style.
Peek under the flat floor of the generous 15.1 cubic foot trunk to discover a temporary spare tire, an extra not always part of a new-car purchase.
The sporty XSE takes a walk on the wild side (at least for Camry), offering an available two-tone colored roof and diminutive trunk lid spoiler for the first time. Also new for Camry and exclusive to XSE, a dual, quad chrome exhaust. Cockpit red color seating is also an XSE-only option.
Each Camry trim level includes its own unique front grille twist. Toyota's circular logo flanks the extending nose, resting in the center of bat-wing like trimming extending flight upward to narrow, wrap-around headlight housing with LED enhancements inside. Shelving-like extensions now exist below headlights, adding to an eclectic front end. Our XSE featured a honeycomb-filled lower air dam. The stout trunk lid includes a centered Toyota Logo with 'Camry' spelled out below.
All Camry trims (and recent Toyota redesigns including the compact Corolla sedan) come standard with 'Toyota Safety Sense,' a suite of passive and active safety laser-enhanced technologies. Included in this cadre is pedestrian detection with a pre-collision system, dynamic (adaptive) radar cruise control automatically slowing or accelerating a highway-driven Camry based on the distance of the vehicle ahead when 'cruise' is activated, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beam head lights and 10 standard air bags.
Bird's eye view cameras (available in XLE and XSE) provide four camera views (including rear camera feed) summoned via a dashboard-mounted button offering different viewing perspectives. Four Camry trim levels now include blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert standard. 2018 Toyota Camry
Price as tested: $37,813
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Overall Length: 192.1 inches
Overall Width: 72.4 inches
Overall Height: 56.9 inches
Curb Weight: 3,571 pounds
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city/32mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles
Assembly: Georgetown, Kentucky