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2018 Toyota Camry Road Test Review

2018 Toyota Camry Road Test

 It’s All About Reputation

Sedans have never been my thing but they are for millions of people across the planet. Years ago, sedans were blah, meh, one dimensional, boring, considered the go-to car for grandma and grandpa. Today, sedans have risen to top of mind for people everywhere. They come in all shapes, sizes and varieties; actually having morphed into a very cool-to-own and be-seen-in vehicle.

Back in the 80s when RTM hit the scene, the Toyota Camry was a small, inexpensive looking little car. However, it did have a reputation for being solid and safe, the go-to car for first-time buyers or the affordable little ride for retiring parents. It was always the first car family members recommended for new buyers because of that reputation. However, I was always perplexed about how a car could earn such a great reputation for being one of the safest on the road, and one of the most affordable, but to the eye, look so cheap. No digs to Toyota as most small sedans twenty and thirty years ago pretty much all looked this way.

Nonetheless, Toyota always seemed to rise above other brands when it came to reputation for endurance, withstanding the most miles, the least amount of breakdowns, best built engines. So why then, I wondered, does a car with such a good reputation on the inside have to have a design on the outside that looks so inexpensive, a cringe-worthy question I often posed to automakers at auto shows. I mean c'mon, even I knew how to make myself look wealthy on a Walmart budget!

Like all things in our fast moving world of tech today, we live and learn quickly, or are left behind. Automakers are no different. Over the years, Toyota has stepped up its game with an embarrassment of riches for even for its smallest of vehicles, with design, engineering and technology feats appealing to all demographic audiences, young and old. This became surprisingly apparent during a recent Lyft ride where I became a passenger, getting a back seat perspective on the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry.

After a recent surgery, and a little loopy from mild anesthesia, a Lyft driver picked me up in his new dark gray 2018 Toyota Camry. When I entered the vehicle’s rear seat, the first question I asked was, ‘is this a luxury car?’ wondering to myself why a guy with a luxury vehicle would be driving for Lyft. The driver, a 60-something ‘very handsome’ man, turned around to look at me to ensure I was belted in, then said, “No, it’s the new 2018 Toyota Camry.” He had made some minor modifications to it (tinted windows, new wheels) but my first experience in it was from the rear seat and man was I impressed. It truly felt like the inside of a luxury vehicle. I felt chauffeured!

Turns out we were both car nuts so what should have been a 30 minute drive home took two hours as he took the most circuitous route possible so we could talk cars (and planes). Geez Louise, it was almost like a date! Now I wish it was! He was so interesting and car-connected. In some ways though, it turned out to be an unexpected mini interview about him owning the newly designed Camry and what he had to say about it, what inspired his decision to buy it, what he liked about the new design. And lots of back and forth on how far Toyota styling has advanced. Getting 'man-on-the-street' ownership feedback on the 2018 Toyota Camry was almost as good as testing it for myself.

Kin loved the 2018 Camry and it showed. The inside was sparkly clean and smelled delicious. The windows were tinted in all the right places; exactly where the sun glares at sunrise and sunset. This guy knew his stuff and it was obvious he loved his Camry. One could even tell by the cool manner in which he drove it, carefully, deliberately, proudly, even a little bit of a show off attitude. Other than his few personal modifications though, he didn’t need to do much else on the inside. Toyota took care of that.

The comfort level of the seats and rear suspension on harsh LA roads was excellent, no back or hip pain for the long ride home. The overall interior package appeared quite elegant for its mid-size class. Through the haze of fading anesthesia, I recall thinking, ‘finally, an affordable sedan that looked as good on the outside with luxurious styling as it performed on the inside (engine speaking).’ It certainly had a far more expensive air about it than the price Kin said he paid for it. Reverse sticker shock!

Two weeks later, we arranged for delivery of the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry to test drive here at RTM. I recall thinking that I couldn’t be more surprised than the day Kin the Lyft guy picked me up in his. But I needed to drive it myself to make sure it performed from the front seat as well as it did from the back. The same dusky gray showed up and it sure looked pretty sparkling in the sun while being driven down the long and winding driveway to our door. I felt proud driving this vehicle, an emotional appeal that most buyers seek when buying. After all, who wants to be seen in a car that looks like an old jalopy? Our homes can be a mess as most people don’t see where we live but our cars? C’mon! That’s where the world sees us and what we drive represents who we are… or who we want to be seen as. It’s about reputation and respect! For most people, a car is an extension of our personality and feeling the love is power.

Feeling proud or sexy or cool when driving a car isn’t something we can say about every car or truck we test here at RTM. Some cars embarrass the hell out of us. Wearing a Mickey Mouse mask while driving would be less embarrassing. But, the 2018 Camry, wow, with pride and love we drove and drove and drove, showing off every mile with style. It was an attention-getter, smooth as silk, comfortable and classy from every angle, ease of handling, which by our standards, is always the barometer by which we gauge interest from a ‘people’s choice’ perspective.

At every stop or parking lot, lots of looky-loos stopped by to walk around our test model and peek inside, tons of curious and head-scratcher questions, 'Is that a Toyota?" I replied proudly, "Yes, the new 2018 Toyota Camry!" "Wow" was the most common response. Most walked away with that smile of content on their face and nod of the head, you know, that look when we see something we like and make a mental note to Google it later!

We called Toyota, asking ‘What’s up with this new elegant design?’ Here’s what they had to say. “With an exhilarating design, refined interior, stirring driving performance, cutting-edge safety and technology, and class-leading fuel efficiency, the all-new Camry retains its excellent value while raising its level of fun and excitement to new heights,” said Bill Fay, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations.  “It is, quite simply, the best Camry ever and the benchmark in the mid-size sedan segment.”

What we found astonishing about his comments was that our review was written before speaking with Toyota or reading any of their releases. So, as this review illustrates, we felt exactly what Toyota designers and engineers intended us to feel. Driver satisfaction. Emotional appeal. Living up to its reputation. We felt it through and through.

The only embarrassment acceptable when driving around on the open road and in the face of your peers is the embarrassment of riches that the new 2018 Toyota Camry now offers. No more junkers for the mid-size class owners. Drivers can feel confident and proud of a design that appears quite elegant, truly reflecting on the outside Toyota’s long-standing reputation for having one of the most durable vehicles on the road on the inside.

Although we’ve tested many sedans, hundreds over the past 30 years, the 2018 Toyota Camry really stood out in its class in design and technology with a widespread appeal to the masses. It satisfied a desire to drive a vehicle that was household income affordable and practical for everyday use while at the same time satisfying the need to look good and feel proud behind the wheel of the same car. One does not always get both when buying a new car, it's usually one or the other. So needless to say, I felt proud to answer questions asked by the looky-loos... not always the case as some test models are walk-aways, not walk-arounds. But not the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry.

Sedans have never been my thing, but safe to say now that the 2018 Camry has converted my perception with a brand new outlook.

Now for the Nuts & Bolts: Here’s what Toyota had to say…

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in America for the past 15 years, is the result of its total evolution, from a proven, dependable and safe car to one that adds a more exciting and emotional character, thanks to its newfound performance and style.
 
Design Backstory 

The Camry development team aimed for a styling design concept that achieves strong harmony between refinement and a sensual athletic image, creating a new approach to the market. The result is a new signature design language that takes the car into a beautiful and futuristic new direction.

There were three primary design goals when penning 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.

A Tale of Two Camry's
           
An Exterior with Unexpected Attitude
The new Camry’s face 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. For the hybrid model, the emblem is tinged a distinct blue hue. This fashionable trifecta of grille, hood, and emblem blends flawlessly into the A-pillar, and produces a stance that is undoubtedly more aggressive than that of any predecessor.

The 2018 Camry has a sleeker profile than before. By lowering the hip points of the occupants (0.8-inches in the front and 1.2-inches at the rear), and therefore their seating positions, the design team was able to reduce the car’s overall vehicle height by approximately one inch and incorporate a lower roofline, without sacrificing interior space. This invited the designers to pursue a wind-cutting shape and improve aerodynamics. Striking character lines around and along the body augment the aggressive front and rear fenders, giving the reimagined Camry a sportiness that it’s never had.

2018 All new 2018 Toyota Camry - Rear ViewLike the front, the rear features an athletic motif that melds flowing lines and complex shapes to form a sculpted landscape. Looking closely at the C-pillar’s detail reveals a multitude of surfaces that reflect light from all angles. A distinct crease extends from the slim multicolor taillights down to the bumper, effectively “pushing” the wheels outward in appearance to create a wide posture akin to that of a premium sports sedan. The exclamation point here is provided by a newly designed “C A M R Y” badge that gives the car an upscale identity.

Designers sought to make the new Camry sport grades instantly recognizable and appear different from the other models from as far as 200 yards away.
 
Building on the Camry’s undisputed reputation as an extremely smooth and quiet car in its class, Toyota engineers incorporated a variety of new noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) countermeasures that were previously found exclusively on luxury models. These include sound absorbing/insulation through the fitment of a hood insulator and upper and lower fender separator. The passenger compartment is further insulated from the engine and road noise using foam/vibration dampening materials throughout the vehicle along with a thicker dash silencer mat across the entire interior firewall section. Wind noise has been suppressed through a newly-designed rain gutter molding and a reduction in the step at the bottom of the windshield.
  
Striking and Comfortable Cabin
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. A key visual element of this driver-focused design concept is a sweeping yet elegant new character line that flows down from the instrument cluster and bisects the center console waterfall. The design of the entire front console strikes a smooth connection between the ease of use of all controls/systems and a handsome and modern sculptural look that is pleasing to the eye.
 
More Power With Class-leading MPG 
Three new powertrains are available on the new 2018 Camry: They include an all-new 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder D-4S gasoline engine and a new 3.5-liter V6 with D-4S Fuel Injection, both of which are paired to a new eight-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission (8AT); and a next-generation Toyota Hybrid System (THS II).
 
The V-6’s VVT-iW variable valve timing system has been engineered to ensure high torque production at all engine speeds. It utilizes the Atkinson cycle to enhance fuel economy without sacrificing performance or engine start ability at extremely low temperatures as well as in wide-open throttle (WOT) engine operation. Fuel efficiency is further enhanced by decreasing pumping losses from the delayed closing of the intake valves.
 
Other impressive features engineered into this 8-speed automatic transmission include new control logic, for more precise matching of engine torque, and smoother transitions when downshifting.

Toyota Hybrid System 
The 2018 Camry Hybrid is available in three grades, LE, SE, and XLE.  In addition to its enhanced handling and driving performance, the hybrid version of the new Camry achieves outstanding fuel efficiency with a best-in-class EPA-estimated mpg of 51 city/ 53 highway/52 combined on the LE grade, an impressive 30 percent increase for combined mpg, and 44 city/47 highway/46 combined on the SE and XLE, reflecting an increase of 21 percent for combined mpg.

Dynamic performance is assured thanks to optimal control of the engine working in concert with the electric motor (MG2), while exemplary energy efficiency is achieved by using both electric motors (MG1 and MG2) for hybrid battery charging.

Driving characteristics and trunk room are improved through the implementation of the new TNGA packaging as it allows for the hybrid system’s battery pack to be moved from the trunk area to beneath the rear seat, positioning the battery weight at a lower center of gravity axis.

Toyota Safety That Makes Sense
Among the many  features on the 2018 Camry is the standard Toyota Safety Sense™ P (TSS-P) suite of safety systems and technologies that is helping to make gradual progress towards Toyota Motor Corporation’s ultimate goal of “zero casualties from accidents.”  This multi-feature advanced active safety suite bundles cutting edge active safety technologies including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA); and Automatic High Beams (AHB). Select models will also come with standard Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).  The available Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) also includes a new Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) system.

All 2018 Camry’s have 10 standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System™, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Braking System, and Smart Stop Technology®. All Camry’s also come equipped with a standard backup camera.
 
Ever Better Entune™ 3.0 Multimedia For Everyone
Camry drivers will be the first to enjoy enhanced connectivity and entertainment through the new Toyota Entune™ 3.0 multimedia system.  The new 2018 Camry will feature Entune 3.0 on all models, offering an enhanced set of connected vehicle technologies.  
 
The Entune™ 3.0 system will feature navigation and Entune™ 3.0 App Suite Connect for everyone.  All Camry four-cylinder and hybrid models will come standard with the Connected Navigation Scout® GPS Link with Moving Maps.  Camry V6 models will offer the new Dynamic
 
Navigation system, providing improved map accuracy.  The wireless map updates provide over-the-air map downloads of recently added roads and point-of-interest not contained in the existing head unit map.  

The new 2018 Camry also offers a JBL® premium audio system that features new advancements in sound quality.  Sound enhancements include Sound Staging, which positions speakers directly in front of the listener to help emulate a live concert venue; Low Frequency Sounds, made possible by an added 10.1-inch subwoofer; Clari-Fi, a technology that “un-compresses” music to help restore an audio track’s dynamic range; and nine speakers that are specifically tuned to the Camry’s cabin dimensions and materials.   
 
History of Camry
Introduced in Japan in 1982, the Camry was Toyota’s first mass-produced vehicle with a transverse engine layout. Its welcomed combination of affordability with superior packaging, quality and engineering was a revolutionary concept, allowing the Camry to distinguish itself from other, notably larger American sedans that were popular at the time. One could say it was a pioneer in establishing the Midsize-sedan segment. In the following years, the Camry became a sales success everywhere it was sold.

Value Pricing
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP for the new 2018 Toyota Camry gas models will range from $23,495 for the value-driven L grade 4-cylinder to $34,950 for the Premium XSE V6.  The MSRP for the Camry hybrid will range from $27,800 for the LE to $32,250 for the XLE.

The MSRP for the Camry does not include the delivery, processing, and handling (DPH) fee of $885. The DPH fee for vehicles distributed by Southeast Toyota (SET) and Gulf States Toyota (GST) may vary. For more info: Go to Toyota.

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