2018 TOYOTA CAMRY

 

NOT YOUR FATHER’S CAMRY

In the past, when it came time to redesign the Camry, Toyota would walk a fine line. The automaker would make enough changes to attract new customers, but not so different that it would turn-off traditional buyers. As a result, Camrys tended to blend in, rather than stand out. That philosophy has now been thrown out the window. The new Camry has bold styling that shouts “look at me.”

Akio Toyoda, the man in charge, told his designers that he wanted their cars to be more expressive. The designers took him at his word when they penned the new Camry. In fact, they came up with two different looks for the 2018 model. Some versions get a very large open-mouth grille and sharper headlights, while the sporty SE and XSE models, are fashioned with huge simulated air intakes next to the grille that look downright ferocious when you see them in your rearview mirror.

Inside, the design team gave the Camry fresh styling. A large, shield-like control panel dominates the center dash. It’s one of the most intuitive setups for controlling audio, air conditioning and navigational functions that I’ve seen. Buttons are well-marked and the touchscreen is large and bright. Furthermore, satellite controls on the steering wheel provide a nice backup. The cabin itself is well put together, and the materials are high quality.

The new Camry is about an inch lower on the outside, and the seats inside are lower as well. The designers reconfigured the front seats and made them more comfortable. However, the seats in the rear are not quite as good, but since kids usually ride back there, they’re okay. Yet, if adults are on board, the head-and legroom is sufficient. Behind the back seats, storage space in the trunk is about average size at 15.1 cubic-feet.

Most buyers will choose either a 2.5-liter, inline-4, or a 3.5-liter V-6. (A hybrid engine, also available, and will be reviewed later on.)  The smaller motor puts out 206 horsepower, and the V-6 cranks out 301. Both are teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. My test car had the V-6, and it performed smoothly while delivering brisk acceleration. The manual-shift function came in handy when more control was desired, like on steep grades. The V-6 powered Camry averages 26 miles per gallon of gas, whereas the four-cylinder version gets a significantly better 33.

Toyota offers the 2018 Camry in five levels of trim, L, LE, XLE, SE and XSE. Most buyers will go for the LE, which adds convenience items, like power front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels over the base L. The XLE adds luxuries, such as a JBL stereo and navigation. Those wanting a sportier Camry will opt for the SE or more luxurious XSE. They have more aggressive styling and a sport tuned suspension. Both the XLE and the XSE are available with the V-6 engine.

In regard to safety, Toyota should be commended. All versions of the Camry come standard with a suite of advanced safety features. This includes adaptive cruise control, front collision warning/braking, lane departure warning and mitigation and auto dimming headlights. Buyers can also order optional blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert.

My test car was an XSE with the V-6 engine. You might think that there was nothing more to this version than the more aggressive looks and luxury features. Not so. There’s all that, but this car also drives with verve. Toyota has tuned the suspension for more precise handling. Select the “Sport” mode on the console and the throttle response is quicker; the steering is more taut and the shifts are more aggressive. The result of all this is a Camry that will put a smile on your face on a twisty road. Yet, the ride is compliant, and the cabin commendably quiet.

The price of my loaded test car was $38,320, but you can buy the base Camry for just $24,350. However, if it were my money, I would go with the SE with the optional blind-spot monitor and rear-cross-traffic alert for $26,685.

 

SNAPSHOT REVIEW

Bold Styling

Choice of Engines

Standard Safety Features

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