Since MotorWeek first went on the air in 1981, there have been no less than 7–generations of Toyota Camry. and, for the last 15 years, it has been the best-selling car in America. But cars, in general, are fast losing ground to utilities as basic family transportation. mindful of that, Toyota promises the 8th gen, 2018 redesign is most exciting Camry yet, but… we’ve heard that one before. So, let’s see if the new Camry can hold back the tide.
The Toyota Camry, is the benchmark of a fast fading breed…the midsize family sedan. But, even with sales shifting to utes, we’re still talking about some 400,000 U.S. made Camry’s a year. So the 2018 Toyota Camry is still a very important car for Toyota.
And this one is about as all-new as it can be, riding on Toyota’s New Global Architecture Chassis. It fulfills the usual sportier aspects of being lower and wider; but more importantly, its center of gravity is also about an inch lower for improved driving dynamics.
Engine choices start with an all-new 2.5-liter I4 with up to 28 more horsepower than before at 206. Torque is also up to 186 lb-ft. Despite those numbers, we felt a lack of any kind of sporty torquey punch. So, this 4-banger is clearly tuned for fuel economy.
Indeed, ratings come in at an impressive 29-City, 41-Highway, and 34-Combined in base L trim.
The available 3.5-liter V6 has been updated as well, now putting out 301-horsepower and 267 lb-ft. of torque. Our choice for spirited driving. But, both engines connect to an eco-minded 8-speed automatic transmission.
The Camry Hybrid returns as well, with a 208-horsepower combined output and CVT. It operates very smoothly as always, and you can expect upwards of 52-Combined MPGs.
But, the biggest news for us, in trying to live up to the claims of added excitement; the Camry’s new fully independent suspension now includes a handling-oriented double wishbone setup in the rear.
You’ll notice it most in SE and XSE trims, which get a more aggressive tuning. Combining the XSE with the V6 will get you the most of that promised excitement. So is it indeed more fun to drive?
Well, yes; but it takes more than a new rear suspension and heavy steering feel to make a performance car. So it is still a Camry, and dare we say still “appliance-like”; but it’s a much snazzier stainless steel one, with lots more bells and whistles.
Those looking for the more familiar Camry feel can opt for the L, LE, or XLE models.
Regardless of trim, there’s no sacrifice to the Camry comfort that we’ve all come to expect.
Elsewhere throughout the very nice interior, you’ll find a flowing design that’s pretty jazzy in execution compared to the typical midsize sedan blandness. Though again, not so far as to eliminate familiarity for Toyota buyers.
Likewise seat fabrics are a bit more atypical; but more importantly, those seats remain very comfortable and proved both firm and supportive over the long haul.
Connectivity is provided by Entune 3.0, which is still not the most user-friendly system out there. However, in addition to the easy-to-read gauges, a full color Head Up Display is available. A backup camera is standard.
More vital for family duty, advance Active Safety is also standard including radar cruise control with automatic braking.
If there’s any bad news, it’s that cargo capacity shrinks just a little from 15.4 to 15.1 cubic-ft. But the space remains highly useful, especially with the 60/40 folding rear seats on most trims.
Where the new Camry really pegs the excitement meter most, is in exterior design, again most in upper trim levels; which get the more aggressive fascias that borrow a lot from Lexus.
Both hood and roofline are an inch lower than last year; while the back end gets “classied” up a little with new Camry scripting stretching across the deck lid.
Priced very competitively, the Camry starts at $24,380 for an L, ranging to $35,835 for an XSE V6.
So the question is, did Toyota do enough with the 2018 Camry to stay on top of its segment, and at least temper current owner defection to SUVs. Yes, we think they have. It’s both more exciting to see and drive, even if the Ford Fusion Sport and Volkswagen Passat still have nothing really to worry about. The Camry has all of the tech and safety upgrades expected in today’s market; yet overall hasn’t changed drastically enough to scare away the Camry faithful.
With a new Honda Accord and Nissan Altima also on the way, let’s hope the new Camry is the start of something really good; a midsize family sedan renaissance in this SUV-mad world.
Engine: 2.5 liter / 3.5 liter
Horsepower: 206 / 301
Torque: 186 lb-ft. / 267 lb-ft.
EPA: 29 mpg city / 41 mpg highway