2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6 — New and improved

By Peter A. Hubbard


(July 23, 2018) The Camry may not be as old as dirt — but unless you were born around 1975, or earlier, you probably don’t remember a time when Toyota Camrys were not cruising America’s highways and byways.  

First introduced in 1982, the Camry has been around for over 35 years now.

For those of you not around back then, all Japanese models from the 70’s and early 80’s arrived on these shores as either sub-compact or compact models.  The Camry was the compact, the Corolla the sub-compact.  While the top-end Cressida (renamed Avalon) was larger than the Camry, and considered a mid-sized model, it’s still a compact by today’s standards. 

All were smaller, lighter, simpler and humbler versions of what we see today. 

Now that we’ve established the fact it’s been around awhile … ever wondered how it got the name "Camry" in the first place?  Camry is actually an Anglicized phonetic spelling of the Japanese word kanmuri, which means “crown.” It follows Toyota’s long-standing tradition of using the word crown, or various derivations, as names for its primary models. 

1982 Toyota Camry

This started with the first Toyota Crown, which made its debut in 1955.  This continued with the Toyota Corona which arrived in 1957, and the Corolla in 1966 — Latin words for "crown" and "small crown", respectively. What started out as Japanese import, has been pretty much Americanized now, with most Camrys sold in the U.S. being built at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky. 

Now in its eighth generation (dubbed the XV70), the Camry is all-new for 2018. Toyota's iconic midsize sedan has marked the occasion by totally reinventing itself.  It arrives with sleeker and bolder body styling and much more athletic road manners.

Thanks to the extensive make-over, the Camry goes from being a ho-hum grocery-getter, to downright fun to drive!  And in the process it’s gone a long way toward closing the perceived “fun factor” gap that has always persisted between the Camry and the Honda Accord – its perennial nemesis.  

The number of options on the Camry build sheets remains as generous as always.  One again, five different trim levels populate the Toyota showroom – L, LE, SE, XLE and XSE – plus the Camry Hybrid.  Powertains include the standard 4-cylinder, a powerful V6, and an economical 4-cylinder/battery-powered hybrid rated at over 50 mpg.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE

The least expensive 2018 Toyota Camry L is a solid buy that includes automatic transmission, manual 6-way-adjustable front seats, the TSS-P suite of safety and driving aids, and an infotainment system that includes a rearview camera and a 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and USB/auxiliary inputs.

For $500 more, we recommend the LE as it includes a power driver's seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats, alarm system and 17-inch alloys. Toyota Care (two years/25,000 miles of complimentary maintenance and 24/7 roadside assistance) is included in the car’s MSRP. Step up to the SE model and you get sportier exterior aesthetics, 18-inch wheels, paddle shifters, sport front seats and a sport-tuned suspension.

The premium XSE and XLE models have dual-zone climate control, 7-inch configurable instrument display and 8-inch central touch screen, leather seats, selectable drive modes (Eco, Normal, and Sport), blind-spot monitoring, panoramic glass moonroof, and electric parking brake.

Among the various available options are JBL premium audio system with navigation, Bird's-Eye View camera, Qi-compatible wireless phone-charging cradle and a 10-inch color head-up display. The standard Entune 3.0 infotainment system has built-in Wi-Fi.  And while it lacks CarPlay or Android Auto integration, it does offer Siri Eyes Free and Google voice control.

Our test unit was the sportiest of the lot – the XSE equipped with the 301-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6.  Base price was a budget-friendly $34,950. Just three options were added to the build sheet on our tester. These included the $1,050 Driver Assist Package that includes the bird’s-eye camera, the $950 Navigation Package and a $500 two-tone paint scheme. The test car came with Blue Steak paint on the body and Midnight black accent color on the roof.  With the $885 delivery charge, our MSRP totaled $38,325.


In recent years, Toyota has been making a concerted effort to design out the “boring” and design in the “aggressive.”  The Camry is one of the latest models to undergo Toyota’s effort to incorporate more edgy styling.  From every angle, this newest Camry shows off Toyota’s newfound athleticism and aggressive attitude. Its large front downward spreading grille is hard to miss, but it’s now nearly as awkward looking as some of the protruding “cow catcher” grilles on other Toyota and Lexus models. This Camry's new, 1.6-inch-lower aluminum hood also shows off some interesting creases.

One of the most surprising features on our sporty XSE model were four chrome exhaust tips – a feature more commonly found on Corvettes, Ferraris and other sporty exotic models. One of the most distinguishing style elements on our test unit was the 2-tone Midnight Black Metallic roof – only available on the XSE.  In another effort to signal the Camry’s more sporting demeanor, our test model came with a modest rear deck spoiler. 


When it came to a remake of the interior Toyota decided not to use the same “extreme makeover” approach that it did on the exterior … which suits us just fine. The cabin has many of the traits we’ve come to admire – and expect:  roominess, ride comfort and easy-to-use controls. We especially liked the sporty and supportive two-tone red and grey sport seats in our XSE test car.

Regarding controls, small touches like placing the tune/scroll audio knob directly below the volume knob make a big difference. Likewise, the steering-wheel-mounted controls are easy to see and use. Most models have only one USB port, while higher trims are better-stocked with three. Even the standard 7-inch touch screen looks good. In lieu of navigation via CarPlay or Android Auto, Toyota offers its Scout GPS Link App.

Like most mid-sized and mid-priced 2018 models, the Camry comes with an impressive suite of safety features and driving aids. Not only were such features not available as recently as 10 years ago – they weren’t features most people even dreamed of having.  Sure, there were back-up warning signals, but not 360-degree cameras – in addition to a back-up camera. And the new brake assist technologies are most impressive – and usually standard only on luxury brands. Even the lowest-priced Camry has dynamic radar cruise control, which has the ability to detect pedestrians or objects and apply the brakes.  It also keep the vehicle from drifting in lanes and automatically adjusts the high beams.


Three powertrains remain available, and all have been revised for 2018. The most popular is the Camry’s base engine, the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that now boasts 203 horsepower (206 in XSE models) and earns up to 41 mpg on the highway. The optional 3.5-liter DOHC V-6, which came standard on our XSE test unit now delivers 301 hp @ 6000 rpm and 267 lb-ft or torque @4700 rpm. The EPA mileage numbers for the V-6 are listed at 22 city/33 highway. Both of these engines are mated to a new buttery smooth 8-speed automatic.

The new 2018 Camry Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a battery-powered electric motor for enviable fuel economy of 51 city/53 highway. Camry Hybrid LE models actually use a pricier lithium-ion pack, while the higher-trim Camry Hybrid SE and XLE variants use a nickel-metal hydride battery. Toyota says the rational for this has to do with fuel-efficiency goals and pricing strategy. All Camrys are front-wheel drive.

Given Toyota's 21-year history of success with the Prius hybrid, it's no surprise the latest gasoline-electric Camry Hybrid is better than ever. The new version packs more power than the standard 4-cylinder model and is quite satisfying to drive, offering the best of all worlds.


For as long as we can remember, the Toyota Camry has been a nice comfortable and compliant sedan, but not exactly known for providing an adrenalin rush when you slide behind the wheel and take it out for a drive. It has essentially been the “plane jane,” point-A-to-point-B type of boring family sedan. That all changes with the arrival of the new 2018 Camry.

It now sits on a new double-wishbone rear suspension, and features a lower center of gravity and stiffer body structure, with a 30-percent increase in torsional rigidity.  All those elements translate into a more lively, fun-to-drive motoring experience. The 2018 Camry feels noticeably tauter than the outgoing model, and the steering is also more precise.

The new 8-speed automatic is a willing partner when you mash that old gas pedal, and some models even allow you to click over to manual mode and used the wheel-mounted shift paddles when moving through the gears. The standard 4-cylinder engine that powers the majority of Camrys may suffice for buyers who want nothing more than the basics. But those who like a little excitement in their motoring experience, they’ll appreciate the more aggressive attitude provided by the 300 horsepower in the V-6, which can chirp the front tires without too much effort. 


The 2018 Toyota Camry has a fairly modest and competitive price range. The base L models lists for just $23,645, and the sportier Camry SE bows at just over $26,000 with freight, while the very well-equipped XLE and XSE trims start just under $30,000. 

The V6 Camry, only available in XLE and XSE trim, begins over $35,000, and the new Hybrid starts at $28,685, with freight charge.

At these prices, the Camry is in line with the comparably equipped Honda Accord. The Camry's starting price is slightly higher than those of the Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Mazda6, Kia Optima and all-wheel-drive Subaru Legacy.  However, the Camry tends to retain a higher resale value, as Toyota's mid-size sedans having a history of holding their value at, or near the top, of its class.


If your family is looking for a midsize sedan with a reputation for reliability, durability and outstanding resale value, the new Camry sedan continues to fit the bill. But this newest generation of Toyota sedan – often ranked #1 in car sales in recent years – is fending off the market’s pall mall rush toward crossover models.  So to help it keep up, it now offers an impressive roster of standard safety features and driving aids, plus enhanced power and efficiency.

While tech-savvy Millennials are sure to appreciate all the new safety and convenience features, they’ll have to look elsewhere if they want a new car that has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration. While other major automakers have gotten on board with Apple and Google's audio systems, Toyota is going its own route with its Entune infotainment setup.

That aside, we really like both the sportier styling of the new Camry, plus how eagerly it take to the highway.  After all, who could possible argue with a car that’s more handsome and more athletic than its predecessor.