The conservative, dependable Camry is getting a kick in the backside for 2018. Toyota has jazzed up America's best selling sedan with a thoroughly modern interior, a new engine platform and a surprisingly sporty new look, coupled with dynamics changes that might make the consummate family car actually fun to drive.
As the perennial top selling vehicle in America that's not a pick-up truck, Toyota's Camry is a sales megalith. You could describe the Camry as many things: dependable, solid, practical, comfortable, but "exciting" would be a stretch. Full disclosure here: I bought one myself, when my wife was pregnant. Why not? They're affordable, they go forever and they make life easy, and hey, I'm not much to look at myself.
But at this year's Detroit NAIAS, Toyota pulled the covers off its 8th-generation Camry to reveal a fundamental shift in philosophy: the 2018 Camry just got a bit sporty.
It's not just a styling makeover, although that's certainly the first thing to hit you, with its subtly muscular lines over the rear wheel arches, integrated rear diffusers and lower, more aggressive hood design.
But the car also takes advantage of the Toyota New Global Architecture platform, a new structural philosophy that makes upcoming Toyotas more dynamic, sporty and fun to drive. For the Camry, this manifests in a lower, wider stance with a lower center of gravity for improved cornering, as well as a new double wishbone rear suspension system that splits its focus between sporty handling and a composed luxury-style ride for passengers.
Engine-wise, most Camrys will roll with a new 2.5-litre 4-clyinder engine, with an 8-speed direct shift auto transmission. There's also the option of a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6, and a Hybrid system that runs with a CVT, although you can treat it like a regular automatic if you like by using a simulated six-speed sequential transmission.
The interior frankly looks terrific, particularly the adventurous asymmetrical dash and touch screen design, which brings the Camry right up to date. A 10-inch, full colour HUD and a 7-inch info display between the dials take care of driving, while audio, climate and connectivity are looked after through the 8-inch touch screen off to the side. There's a WiFi hotspot for up to five devices, and multimedia is handled by an Entune 3.0 system with Bluetooth, self-updating GPS maps and a JBL audio system with a 10-inch sub built in.
Driver assist systems include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings with steering assist, automatic high beam headlights and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. There's no self-parking option, but certain models will roll with blind spot warnings in the mirrors and a rear cross-traffic alert to tell you if it's safe to back out of a perpendicular park. There's an optional birds-eye camera as well. All models get a reversing camera, stability control, traction control and ABS braking.
No information on pricing is available, but the 2018 Camry will hit showrooms in the US "in late summer 2017." If it strikes the right balance between the Camry's traditional conservative character and a slight spark of sporty energy, there's every chance it'll remain a top seller for years to come. See them in action in the video below: