Review: 2018 Toyota Camry aspires to inspire
The 2018 Toyota Camry has been completely revamped, yet again, as Toyota continually pushes to keep its top-selling vehicle in the limelight. To its credit, the changes made to the Camry are not only comprehensive, but are very well done. There is still room for improvement, but less so than there was before.
The new Camry comes with three powertrain flavors, all of which are significantly better than they were previously. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that aims squarely at fuel economy in a budget package. This engine maxes out at 203 horsepower (151 kW), channeled into a new eight-speed automatic transmission. We did not drive this version of the Camry, but the specs say it will be better than the lackluster four-banger offered before.
We did drive the V6 and Hybrid models, however, and can vouch for their smart upgrades. The 2018 Toyota Camry V6 uses a newly-upgraded 3.5-liter engine that outputs 301 horses (224.5 kW) and is also mated to the new eight-speed automatic found in the four. This engine and transmission option offer smooth power delivery and confident movement to the Camry, and we found it to be an enjoyable match for the newly-revamped sedan.
The 2018 Camry Hybrid model combines the updated four-cylinder engine of the base model, re-tuned for the Atkinson cycle, and Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. HSD combines a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with an electric drive motor and a generator. Together with the engine, this produces 208 hp (155 kW) of output for the 2018 Camry. A small battery pack allows short-distance, low-speed all-electric driving via energy derived from excess engine output and regenerative braking.
Battery chemistry depends on trim level chosen, with the LE using lithium-ion and the other hybrid model trims using nickel-metal hydride (NiMH). The fast torque delivery of the electrics and the smooth balance of the Camry Hybrid's overall weight distribution make the Camry Hybrid a joy to drive compared to previous generations of the sedan.
The Toyota Camry, despite being a kicking post for many an automotive journalist (this one included), sells in extremely high volume for two reasons: it has a reputation for quality and reliability, and it delivers on core needs extremely well. These qualities are what have made the Camry the go-to vehicle in the midsize segment for generations of buyers. Toyota produces somewhere around a million of these cars a year, globally, and about half of those are sold in North America.
The Camry itself has undergone several generational changes in just a few short years. It underwent design changes in 2012 and then a major facelift in 2015 before once again seeing changes for 2018. Although Toyota called the 2015 changes a refresh of the car, nearly every body panel was changed and the car saw significant design upgrades because of it.
The continual changes to the 2018 Camry reflect the ongoing market competition the midsize sedan has been seeing. Several competitors have brought A-game cars to the segment over the past decade, and the Camry has had to keep up. With the major changes made to the 2018 model year Camry, though, we think Toyota has kept the Camry in the hot spot as the benchmark for the class.
The bodywork on the 2018 Toyota Camry is now far more aggressive and design-oriented than it's ever been before. It's not what we'd call "visually stunning," by any means, but it's a big jump forward for Toyota's design team and its normally very conservative products. Like most Toyota vehicles now being produced, the 2018 Camry is an attempt to create an identity beyond boredom, and it largely succeeds in that.
The Camry's new front fascia is sleek, keeping the generally curvy grille work seen in most Toyota-branded vehicles today. Below the marque is a large, slatted intake. Under that is an aerodynamic, race-hinting finishing touch. Thin headlamps and a well-rippled hood create a dynamic impression above. Simple, but bold lines along the body emphasize the tires pushed out towards the curb and a faster-paced roofline that sits lower than it did before.
With the exterior's changes, one might expect the interior to have suffered as a result. That assumption is incorrect, as the lower roofline is matched by lower seating arrangements to retain the roominess the Camry is well-known for. The dashboard sits a little higher, the seating feels a little more firm, and the doors feel a bit wider out than before. All of this translates to great headroom, legroom, and shoulder room in the front of the 2018 Camry. Behind, the back seat also offers lots of space to the outboard passengers with a center seat that's comfortable enough for occasional use or for use by kids.
Where Toyota could start improving the Camry is in its infotainment. Because neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto are available in the Camry (no matter the trim), getting around the limitations of the Entune system is nigh impossible. The infotainment is slow, has a limited app suite, and feels very dated. The large virtual buttons are great for being easy to read/understand and use, but slow responses stymy that.
Adding the Entune 3.0 app to your phone doesn't help much, though it does add some app options not available otherwise. The phone has to connect both via a cord (USB) and Bluetooth in order for that to work, however. Our experience in several Toyota models, including the Camry, is that Bluetooth streaming on an Android phone can become a headache, with random disconnects and refusals to connect on startup being common. What's more, using your phone's navigation while the phone is plugged into the car means no audio from either the phone or the car to prompt for turns and signs. This requires the user to look down at the phone's screen to see where to go. Not safe.
Unless listening to satellite radio and occasionally making short Bluetooth-enabled calls from your phone are all the infotainment is needed for, users will be disappointed. This is by far the most glaring fault in the car.
On the road, the 2018 Toyota Camry in either its V6 or Hybrid models (and, we assume, the four-banger) also benefits from chassis changes. Toyota stiffened the Camry's platform, added a double-wishbone rear suspension, and smartened up the steering. This results in a more drivable ride quality for the 2018 Camry and makes the interior far quieter than it was before.
Toyota also added a lot of technology to the Camry, much of it as standard equipment. It now comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense-P, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning and mitigation. Auto-dimming LED headlamps are also standard equipment. Even the base-level Camry has all of that. Impressive.
Fuel economy in the new Camry is good on paper and in the real world. The four-cylinder model is rated at 32-34 mpg combined (7.35-6.9 l/100km), depending on its trim level configuration. That's not bad for the segment. Six-cylinder models are EPA-rated at 26 mpg combined (9 l/100km) and Hybrid models are rated at 46-52 mpg combined (5.1-4.5 l/100km). Our experience with the V6 model showed that the EPA numbers are close to reality with our average being about 24.5 mpg overall (at high altitude). The Hybrid model varies more, depending on driving cycles, with our lower 46 mpg trim model returning almost exactly that in daily driving, yet dropping considerably when higher highway speeds were the norm (75-80 mph/120.7-128.7 km/h freeway).
The 2018 Toyota Camry's updates are comprehensive and well done. Aside from the lackluster infotainment system, most everything about the Camry is now top shelf. The 2018 Camry starts at US$23,645.
Product Page: 2018 Toyota Camry