A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Toyota Camry
Remember back in January of 2017 when the new Toyota Camry was introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit?
Toyota Motor Company chairman Akio Toyoda proclaimed the latest version of their most popular product in the USA as "sexy." Some of us looked at each other and wondered "how?" Well…
One of the big storylines of the 2018 model year has been how the Toyota Camry became the only sedan to buck the trend towards SUVs and crossovers. It shows that this "sexy" midsized sedan can still attract both loyal and conquest customers – along with fleet and commercial sales – to its charms.
Earlier this year, I worked with a 2018 Camry in the XSE trim and the powerful V6. Talk about sexy! It's a sporty midsized sedan that shows what a Camry can be when given some bravura and whey protein. This time around, I got a double dose of sustainability and luxury – the Hybrid XLE, to be exact!
The primary reason for getting the Camry Hybrid XLE will appear in another article on here shortly. This car was tasked to take me to the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois. While I work on a few related articles regarding this annual event for us media members of MAMA, I better tell you all about the newest Camry in its luxuriously gasoline-electric glory.
By the way, do you like the color? It is called Blue Crush Metallic. It looks fabulous. Ehem…I better talk about the Camry…
Upon the first gaze of the 2018 Camry, it seemed that the risk Toyota took in the design of this car has paid off. The front end is more three-dimensional with an open T-shaped upper grille and a choice of two lower grille treatments. For this Hybrid XLE models, a set of wide horizontal lines of the lower grille dominate the space below the "T."
The side profile features a more natural look, with various lines, curves, and textures. The roofline is lower than before, with more rakish front and rear window angles. The window area actually is larger, as are the doors over previous generations. The rear end is complimented with new slimmer taillight units.
That same theme of total change continues in the cabin. Drivers are greeted with a wider instrument binnacle, a triangle-shaped center stack, and a deep center console with more storage than before. The shifter is now in a slimmer, straight up-and-down housing, instead of the staggered shift pattern Toyotas are known for. Most models get the standard 4.2-inch information screen in between the speedometer and tachometer dials. The XLE gets the new 7-inch TFT information screen with superior graphics and information.
Seating in my Hybrid XLE tester is a departure from Camrys of the past. The front seats have a shape that integrates comfort and support. The tester's Macadamia leather upholstery was perfect to the touch and had a very luxurious feel. Although a bit more bolstering for the seats would make them perfect. Rear seat room was fine for many bodies to sit behind each other. Trunk space is spacious, even with 15.1 cubic feet measured behind the rear seats. The rear seats fold down for longer cargo.
The infotainment system is driven by the third generation of Toyota's Entune suite. This new version of Entune is quicker overall with better access to apps from your phone via their app. For navigation, the Scout GPS app is integrated between your smartphone via Entune onto the car's screen. You may have to input your destination for directions, but the overall integration is good. The in-car infotainment system will play back your music files via USB or Bluetooth, offer HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite broadcasts. JBL positioned nine speakers throughout the Camry XLE's cabin with Clari-Fi sound processing.
The sexy Camry has three drivelines to choose from. The improved 3.5-liter V6 on XSE and XLE is strong, with 301 horsepower on tap and a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Toyota also massaged it’s standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, raising the power level to 203 horsepower. It, too, is connected to the new 8-speed automatic. The Hybrid driveline underneath this XLE tester’s hood was updated with the same four-cylinder engine coupled to an electric motor for a net power rating of 208 horsepower. This driveline is connected to an electronic continuously variable transmission, driving down to the front wheels.
The Hybrid driveline in the Camry is considered one of the best in the business. It shows in superb throttle response and a more flexible shift mechanism in the CVT. On-ramp and passing maneuvers are good and it cruises smoothly. Fuel economy is exceptional, as I averaged 44.6 MPG during my time with the Camry Hybrid – including the drive to the MAMA Fall Rally from the Twin Cities.
Smooth is also the word for the driving dynamics of the Camry Hybrid XLE. The ride quality is on the firm side but has some suppleness to it. You can see it in the handling, where the cornering and agility are tempered, but tame. Steering is also pretty good, with some sharper maneuvering from the wheel to put it into place. Driving in Normal and Eco mode exposes a bit of play on-center. That is easily fixed by putting the Camry Hybrid XLE in Sport mode, where the steering feel is heavier and more controlled. Also, Sport mode offers transmission shifts that are more aggressive, using higher revs without penalty to overall engine performance – something you never thought was possible with Hybrid drivelines.
Brakes are also pretty good, with a soft pedal feel. They also offer great stops in normal and panic situations. All Camry models come with the standard Toyota Safety Sense-P package, which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. On the Hybrid XLE model, the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is enhanced to a full-range system. Plus, the Hybrid XLE also offers Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking.
Let's talk about price for a moment. Since my Hybrid XLE tester was a 2018 model, the sticker on it came to $37,138. The reason why I mention this is because the 2019 models are already in showrooms as we speak. The 2019 Camry lineup starts from $23,845 for a basic L model. A 2019 version of my tester is stickered at $37,763.
If you want one in this beautiful Blue Crush Metallic, it is not offered for 2019. Sorry, folks. However, a slightly lighter shade is available called Blue Streak Metallic. It is one of ten colors available across nine trim levels for the 2019 Camry.
No matter which Camry you choose, you will find that it has its own sense of sexiness. Clearly, this is the best Camry ever created by Toyota. It also exhibits massive improvements in performance, technology, comfort, and overall design that has taken this extremely popular sedan out of its doldrums.
If you choose the Camry Hybrid, make sure you choose one that satisfies you over every mile. That way, you can enjoy the luxury – and sustainability – for the long haul.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America
All photos by Randy Stern