2018 Toyota Camry

NEWBURG, Ore. — To say that the midsized Toyota Camry sedan is a massively popular car would be a gross understatement. After all, it’s been America’s best-selling passenger vehicle for 18 of the past 20 years, and 18 million have been sold around the world since it was first introduced in 1982.
Toyota sold over 388,000 Camry’s last year, but that’s down from more than 430,000 in 2015. Through May of this year, sales are down some 20,000 units over last year. Still, Camry is a popular vehicle and a solid bet to sell more than 300,000 by year end.

Later this summer Toyota will introduce the all-new, eighth-generation 2018 Camry at a time when Americans are turning away from passenger cars — particularly mid-sized sedans — in favor of SUVs and crossover utility vehicles.

The new Camry, introduced to automotive journalists earlier this month in Newburg, Ore., in the heart of the Willamette Valley, is a dramatic departure from the previous generation Camry. And it is the most attractive and technologically advanced model in the car’s 34-year history. Parked side-by-side, it’s amazing how dated the outgoing 2016 Camry looks next to it.

It is lower, wider, curvier, with a longer wheelbase, thanks, in part, to being the first sedan built on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform. This platform also underpins the Prius hybrid and Toyota’s new C-HR sub-compact crossover.

As with the previous Camry, it can be had in five trim levels including a new stripped down L model that starts at $24,380. That’s $425 more than the 2017 LE trim level.  Next is the LE at $24,885, upgraded XLE, the sporty SE and Upscale XSE $34,950. Fuel economy ranges with EPA estimates of 29/41 City/Highway for the 2.5-liter 203 horsepower four-cylinder to 22/33 City/Highway for the 3.5-Liter 301 horsepower V6.

The frugal Hybrid Camry will be available in LE, SE and XLE trim levels and starts at $27,800 up to $32,250 with spectacular fuel economy with an EPA estimate of 51/53 City/Highway for the LE trim level.

However, with the overhaul of the Camry, designers have created two noticeably different looks. The sporty SE and XSE boast more visual differentiation, with aggressive bumpers, rocker panels, mesh grille insert, rear lip spoiler and rear diffuser. The XSE differs from the SE, being shod with 19-inch black machine-finish alloy wheels. It’s even available with a blacked-out roof, red-leather interior and a V-6 engine that delivers 301-horsepower with first-ever-for-Camry quad-tipped dual exhausts.

Inside, Camry sports an all-new and roomier interior that looks and feels more upscale with upgraded materials that improve the quality and tactility of the execution. Front seats have been completely redesigned to be more comfortable and better looking. Rear seat passengers benefit from more room than the outgoing model, thanks to the new longer platform.

We were also pleased that the interior was devoid of cheap, questionable cost cutting usually found in most non-luxury sedans. Toyota did an excellent job paying attention to detail.

There’s also a new Entune 3.0 infotainment system that’s standard on all trim levels and includes an eight-inch touchscreen display designed to mimic the look of a smartphone or tablet computer. Options include a premium JBL audio system, 10-inch color head-up display, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. Disappointingly, Toyota still doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as most competitors do to make it easier and smarter to use your phone while driving.

Toyota’s Safety Sense technology includes a long list of safety and driver assistance features designed to help protect drivers, passengers, and people in other vehicles on the road by helping to mitigate or prevent collisions. Features include a backup camera, 10 airbags. pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure assist, and automatic high beam headlight operation, standard on all trim levels.

On upper trim levels, buyers can opt for a blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic detection and rear automatic braking to help prevent accidentally backing into people or objects.

Three new engines will be offered, including Camry’s standard engine, a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 203 horsepower, 206 horsepower if you get models with the quad exhaust. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine delivers 301 horsepower.  All engines are connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Camry hybrid models are powered by a two-motor gas-electric system that includes the 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric engine, producing a total of 208 horsepower, connected to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The hybrid battery pack is now located beneath the rear seats rather than in the trunk to help improve handling.

I drove Camry models with all three engines and found none of them lacked for acceptable power and smooth responsiveness. Most drivers will be perfectly satisfied with the 2.5-liter four cylinder, but for those who want a more engaging performance experience the 3.5-liter V-6 is a smile-inducing experience, with exceptionally strong acceleration and power immediately available at any speed for passing. The eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is actually worth using with the V-6 engine. The transmission holds the gears to the rev limiter and downshifts as you decelerate. An absolutely enjoyable configuration.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the outstanding experience behind the wheel of the hybrid. It was an excellent combination of on-demand acceleration thanks to gobs of torque from the electric motor and superb fuel economy delivered from the hybrid motor combination. We think it an absolute winning combination and strongly encourage shoppers to test drive it when considering the Camry.

If Camry’s new styling, improved interior and powertrain offerings aren’t enough to convince you, we think the quiet interior, comfortable seats, smooth ride and confident, predictable handling might make the sale. It certainly impressed us.

The only source of frustration and disappointment remains the absence of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the still-on-the-clumsy-side Entune infotainment system. My sense is Toyota will solve these issues in the very near future.

Overall, the new 2018 Camry is presented with terrific new looks, impressive driving dynamics, state-of-the-art safety features and a decades-long history of bang-for-the-buck value, and an excellent track record of exceptional resale and reliability. 

Vita Stats

Base Price: $23,495 - $34,950
Price as Tested: $36,870
Seating 5
Engine: 2.5-Liter four-cylinder (base engine)
Horsepower: 203
Fuel Economy:  22/33 City/Highway (V6) – 51/53 City/Highway (Hybrid LE)

Competes With

Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Nissan Altima
Volkswagen Passat

Fab Features

Hot new looks
Impressive driving enjoyment
Hybrid Camry is outstanding
— Jim Prueter