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Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

The newest iteration of the Toyota Camry, top-selling sedan in the U.S. for many years, just came to market earlier this year as a 2018 model. While crossovers and SUVs are showing the most growth in the marketplace, sedans are holding their own, but just barely. We hear rumors that some of our sedan choices will be going away in the near future, but we expect this one will be around for quite some time.

This eighth generation of the venerable Camry is on an all-new platform called Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA – 30% more rigid, with new dimensions, new suspension geometry and upgrades in just about all systems. Lighter weight materials, including an aluminum hood and more high-strength steel in the substructure, contribute to lighter weight and a more lithe and agile character. It’s also just a smidge lower, wider and longer than its predicessor for a lower center of gravity.

Fresh, evolutionary style and design keeps up with modern trends getting more bold and brash with the last two updates. This mainstream, front-wheel drive, mid-size sedan left behind the white-bread image that had plagued this genre, and particularly this car, for generations. A lower hood, narrower A-pillars, distinctive front fascia and attention to aerodynamic tricks both freshens its looks (according to my entirely objective view) and improves its ability to slide through the air. Deeper, more detailed body sculpting along the side and around the back offer a sportier theme. The top trim levels also include dual exhaust with quad, chrome exhaust tips – something we do not expect from Camry. They’ve added some flashy new colors, including a two-tone scheme, and they even offer an interior trimmed in red leather.

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The new Camry’s stunning new interior design takes art and function to a new level for Camry. The design elements come together beautifully with artful intersecting curves and complex well integrated components. Toyota designers refer to the dash as a “waterfall” design, though I’m struggling to see that simile. Varied upscale materials provide the framework for the information and control functions. The larger-than-usual information screen between the speedo and tach were not the most intuitive to use and are lit a bit too dimly for my old eyes. The large multifunction touch screen features the first use of the third generation of Toyota’s Entune apps suite. The center stack puts controls and information displays in convenient reach of the driver and the USB, auxiliary and power ports are at the base of the center stack where we can get at them easily.

Seating is updated front and rear, with the passenger seat now available with as many power settings as the driver’s seat. The tactile qualities of everything we touch and the level of quietness make us think of a near-luxury brand. Trunk is a decent 15.1 cubic feet, and that is only compromised a little with the available hybrid powertrain that has extra batteries under the seat. Three decent-size folks can sit abreast in the rear.

The three powertrains – a 4-cylinder, V6 and hybrid – all get updated with this new Camry and all get more sophistication, bump-up in power and a new 8-speed, direct-shift automatic transmission for the 4- and 6-cylinder models. Unlike other manufacturers Toyota decided not to go the turbocharging route with smaller displacements to achieve better performance and mileage, rather they’ve increased horsepower and torque in part by way of a new dual injection, that is, direct injection augmented with port injection. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder in our test vehicle boasts 206 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The 3.5-liter V6 now makes 301 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque.

The power of our 6-cylinder test car is a plenty as it motivates this relatively lithe, 3,600-pound car. We’re easily able to get up to speed on our tight, cloverleaf freeway entrance. On full-throttle we don’t feel like we’re abusing the car and the new 8-speed automatic transmission manages our rpms just fine regardless of our inputs. It has a nice, sophisticated sound on full throttle, though not quite as sweet as the Germans. The EPA estimates we’ll get around 22 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 26 combined using regular fuel. We made a road trip to Chicago, 3 ½ hours away, so most of our miles were on the highway at considerably extra-legal speeds keeping up with I-94 traffic. We managed close to 30 mpg for the week.

In terms of safety, all Camrys come fully equipped with Toyota’s Safety Sense P™ which bundles high-tech features like Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Automatic High Beams. All models also get Toyota’s Star Safety System ™ that includes stability control, traction control, EBD, brake assist, backup camera, ABS and Smart Stop Technology ™. Select models also get Blind Spot Monitor and Cross Traffic Alert.

Our high-end Camry XSE with 6-cylinder engine shows a base price of $29,000. For that we get 19-inch black-finish alloy wheels, leather, the 7-inch multi-function screen, smart key, the dual exhaust referenced above and lots of upscale trim. We have a variety of options on this one including head-up display, panoramic sunroof, premium audio and some driver assistance technology. Bottom line on our sticker shows $35,333.

Toyota’s new car warranty covers the whole Camry for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Not the best coverage but Toyota continue their reputation for dependability and durability.

Look for reviews on all the other Camry models here on The Auto Channel by me and many of my colleagues. In this highly competitive market segment Camry continues to stay at or near the lead in most respects. Our nice, long road trip had us appreciating the high-end Camry. The HVAC was easy to balance and adjust. The quietness makes for a relaxing ride. The well-bolstered (for a common sedan) driver’s seat seemed extra firm and my pretty wife was so comfortable she dozed much of the way.

That trip involved a series of snow squalls through which we passed, making for intermittently slick pavement. Though we did not have all-wheel drive (not available on any Camry) we felt decently planted and were never surprised by any loss of traction, and that happened often. But the car somehow kept me in the game and going mostly straight. That involved some subtleties of feel I can’t quite articulate.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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