Driven: 2018 Toyota Camry

In an effort to banish the Camry’s bland image, Toyota gave the latest generation a more expressive design and used a more sophisticated suspension to improve driving and handling.

With five trim levels offered – a base L, a mid-grade LE, and a better-equipped XLE, plus the sporty SE and upscale XSE – the new Camry has been improved from its previous model in styling, safety, features, and fuel economy, but it delivers in performance with its new chassis.

Styling

PDAKM_ToyotaCamery-8470The 2018 Toyota Camry has a “firm, wide stance,” with sportier and arguably more upscale looks. Front and rear occupants sit an inch lower, and the Camry itself is an inch lower and slightly longer over the previous model in addition to being wider.

According to officials, the goal was to make one of Toyota’s most mainstream vehicles more expressive, and to our eyes, it succeeds quite nicely.

The 2018 Camry’s two-part grille has what Toyota terms “flowing” lines, with a larger Toyota badge at the center, tinted blue on Hybrid models. The body sides and rear of the car carries far more sculpting and complex shapes. Sportier SE and XSE models not only lead with a different front end and grille, but also have a revised rear bumper, a small lip spoiler on the trunk lid, and sill extensions below the doors.

Inside, the lower front seats have been entirely redesigned and a larger touchscreen dominates the center of the dashboard. Toyota has used a mix of soft-touch materials and colors to give even lower-end models a more premium impression.

Performance

PDAKM_ToyotaCamery-8459The 2018 Toyota Camry is offered with an optional V-6 engine in the high-end models, which makes it somewhat of a minority in its segment, however, despite its powertrains, handling, and suspension a vast improvement over the last model, they are essentially average for the segment.

The base version, fitted with a 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 206-horsepower and mated to an 8-speed automatic, did not seem particularly powerful, but the speciality Hybrid and V6, rated with 301-horsepower, proved more enjoyable.

The Camry Hybrid models use the latest generation of the Toyota two-motor hybrid system, first launched in the 2016 Prius. The Camry Hybrid uses a 176-hp 2.5-liter engine tuned to run most efficiently in combination with electric motors to power the car under light demand. A new Sport Mode in the Camry Hybrid lets drivers move through six simulated “gears” in the electronically continuous variable transmission if they choose.

Like the Prius, the battery pack of the Camry Hybrids sits under the rear seat rather than in the trunk. On the road, the 2.5-liter engine and 8-speed automatic didn’t feel all that fast, but what it lacks in speed, it makes up for in handling. The battery position gives the car a very balanced feel.

PDAKM_ToyotaCamery-8479The V-6, on the other hand, delivered smooth, fast power in virtually any situation, and seemed to require fewer downshifts. It’s the engine to have if you want power, though it’ll cost you in fuel economy.

On the road, while the new Camry is definitely an improvement over its rather soft predecessor. Toyota has definitely improved its electric power steering, which was previously among the numbest in any car. It holds the road as well as most mid-size sedans, but the tall tires on the base LE are soft enough to feel squishy around corners on fast, winding rural roads. The larger wheels and tires of the XLE are a noticeable improvement.

The best-handling Camry model was the XSE V-6 we tested, a full-bells-and-whistles model with strong acceleration, a sporty appearance, and the tautest on-road behaviour of all. It’s also a minor factor in the Camry lineup, albeit a profitable one, and the LE and XLE 4-cylinder cars will likely be the highest-selling versions.

Safety

PDAKM_ToyotaCamery-8444Every 2018 Camry is fitted with 10 airbags and the usual suite of standard electronic safety systems. All Camrys also come with the awkwardly named Toyota Safety Sense-P, which bundles forward-collision warnings (including pedestrian detection), adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings with active lane control, and automatic high beams. The 2017 Toyota Camry’s front crash prevention system was rated “Superior” by the IIHS for helping prevent low-speed crashes, and mitigating higher-speed crashes.

The adaptive function of the cruise control covers all speeds except in the lower L, LE, and SE models, where it is restricted to higher speeds. The LE and SE versions of conventional and hybrid models offer optional blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert as part of a package of options. That feature is standard on XLE and XSE versions and adds rear cross-traffic braking as well.

A surround-view camera system on the central display combines images from four high-resolution cameras at the front, rear, and sides of the Camry. This shows the surroundings to drivers who are maneuvering in tight confines. The Pedestrian Detection function alerts drivers to standing or approaching pedestrians, both audibly and via a display notification.

Features

PDAKM_ToyotaCamery-8425All Camry models for 2018 come with a 4.2-inch display between the instruments; XLE and XSE models upgrade to a 7.2-inch multifunction color display showing more operating information. SE and LE models get fabric-trimmed seats with 6-way power adjustment for the driver, while the base L model has manual adjustments. XLE and XSE models move up to eight-way power adjustable front driver and passenger seats with leather trim, including contrasting stitching on some versions—and a remarkable, vivid, very un-Toyota-like bright red color available on the XSE only.

All Camrys also include the Entune 3.0 connectivity system, which connects to apps on an occupant’s smartphone and offers various navigation options depending on the trim level. Available Remote Connect includes starting and door-unlocking remotely, status notifications, and a vehicle finder. A wi-fi hotspot for up to five devices is also available. New icons have been added and the visual presentation is updated, but significantly, the 2018 Camry cannot be ordered with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

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