2018 Toyota Camry: Top-selling Midsize family sedan evolves with sportscar tendencies

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, April 5, 2018

The all-new eighth-generation Toyota Camry is an established mid-size family sedan that has turned into a sports car … of sorts.

The best-selling sedan in America for the past 15 consecutive years has evolved steadily. Camry was launched as a compact car when introduced to the Japanese market as a narrow-body successor to the Carina in 1980. After it replaced Corona in 1983, Camry lengthened to mid-size, and captured the American market. Now, in 2018, Camry has evolved into a sedan that adds a more exciting and emotional character, with newfound performance and style.

The 2018 redesign offers three engine options, a luxury variant and a sporty trim, and is longer, wider, shorter and closer to the ground, for increased ride dynamics. According to the manufacturer, “there were three primary design goals when drawing the all-new Camry: a distinctive, low center of gravity that results in a firm wide stance; a practical-yet-emotionally styled cabin profile, and a sporty and upscale image both inside and out. These design goals have resulted in a new type of sedan that’s both exciting to look at and, more importantly drive, reestablishing itself as the new standard in the mid-size sedan category.”

Camry continues with mid-size dimensions, gaining 1.2 inches in length to 192.1 inches, in length; adding 0.7 inches in width to 72.4, and increasing its wheelbase 1.9 inches to 111.2, while lowering its height an inch to 56.9 and losing 0.4 inches of ground clearance to 5.7 inches. My test Camry XSE with the 3.5-liter engine, had a curbweight of 3560 pounds, a gain of nearly 200 pounds over Gen-7.

The dimensions are incorporated into Camry’s new look, starting with its face, which is accentuated by a two-piece grille comprised of flowing thin and thick treatments – key elements of the Camry’s “Keen Look” design philosophy. The curvaceous 1.6-inch-lower aluminum hood sits neatly above the grille’s uppermost section which accommodates a commanding Toyota emblem. Its stance is more aggressive than before, and the lower center of gravity shows off a road-hugging sportiness, as does the rear and its athletic motif that melds flowing lines and complex shapes to form a sculpted landscape.

Inside, the completely redesigned interior is a fusion of functionality, futuristic styling, and a high degree of personal space and craftsmanship. While the driver is situated in a sporty cockpit-type environment having gauges angled toward his or her direction, the front passenger is treated to a sense of openness and freedom that results from the innovative dashboard design.

All surfaces throughout the cabin -- dashboard, instrument panel, center console, door trim, etc. -- employ the highest grade of soft-touch and premium materials. Additionally, the new Camry features Toyota’s latest in-vehicle information technology whose next-generation displays offer a unique level of integrated information with minimal distraction. It relays information through three available interlinked displays: a 10-inch color Head-Up Display; a seven-inch multi-information display within the instrument cluster, and an eight-inch audio/navigation/HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) control panel that’s seamlessly integrated into the center console in a modern, flush-surface design.

Interior space is more sportscar than luxury sedan as headroom loses half-an-inch to 38.3 inches upfront 38.0 in the second row. Legroom gains 0.6 in row one to 42.1, but loses 0.9 in row two to 38.0 inches. Shoulder room also shrinks a bit to 57.7 inches in front and 55.7 in the rear.

Known for pampering rides, Camry gains handling and performance dynamics. Beginning with its power, Camry is a strong and economical force with three engine choices. Its base 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, twin-cam, 16-valve engine with VVT-iE has an aluminum alloy block and head. It provides 203hp and 184 lb-ft of torque for an EPA rating of 28mpg/city and 39 mpg on the highway. The aluminum 3.5-liter, V-6, twin-cam, 24-valve engine delivers 301hp and 267 lb-ft of torque and is rated at 22mpg/city, 32mpg/highway. And a Hybrid 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder, twin-cam, 16-valve engine with Intake VVT-iE is also offered and also aluminum, and distributes 176hp and 163 lb-ft of torque, rated at 44/city, 47/highway.

My 3.5-liter ride cornered like a proper autocross vehicle, with minimal understeer, and accelerated as one would expect a sports sedan to act, with solid velocity when called upon, both from a stop and while passing. A zero to 60mph dash was accomplished in a smooth 5.8 seconds during a 14.4-second quarter-mile. Fuelwise, I averaged 26.7mpg in mixed-use tests.

Available in L, LE, SE, XLE, XSE, XLE V6, XSE V6 and three Hybrid trims, the 2018 Camry in L trim starts at $23,495 with a 2.5-liter engine; the LE starts at $24,000; the SE starts at $25,200; the XLE starts at $28,450 and the sporty XSE bases at $29,000 with the smaller engine. The Hybrid trims start at $27,800.

My test XSE V6 based at $34,950 in Wind Chill Pearl paint (for an extra $395) and a Cockpit Red Leather interior, added a Driver Assist Package with Navigation and a Bird’s Eye View camera for $1990. The All-Weather Floor Liner package added $254, illuminated door sills added $299, mudguards added $129; and with processing and handling fees of $895, my test 2018 Camry XSE V6 stickered at $38,017.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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