For the 2018 model year, Toyota decided to take the Camry to a whole new level. The company redesigned the car in a big way focusing on improving driving dynamics and upping the car’s level of drama. It gave the Camry a more expressive exterior, the Toyota New Generation Architecture, and new engines.
Toyota made the car sporty and much more fun to drive. This changed the car from being something that a lot of people bought but weren’t particularly thrilled to have in their garage, into a vehicle that people would actually aspire to own. Or so Toyota hoped. We hadn’t had the chance to drive the 2018 Camry yet and were thrilled to get the opportunity to take its top sporty trim, the XSE, out on the Autobahn Country Club racetrack in Joliet, IL.
Best Looking Camry Ever
There’s no denying it, not that the bar was especially high. The 2018 Camry is a strikingly handsome car and better-looking than every Camry that's come before it. In its segment – the midsize family sedan – it has one of the most alluring exteriors. Honda’s new Accord is rather handsome, and Hyundai’s Sonata isn’t ugly, but we think the Camry beats them in the looks department. It competes in terms of design with the Mazda6 and the Ford Fusion.
The interesting thing about the Camry is that different trim levels get different fascia. The models targeted to consumers without sporty inclinations get a look that’s reminiscent of the full-size Toyota Avalon. It features black accents and a seven slated, horizontally oriented grille. The XE and XSE models, which are targeted at drivers who want a little bit sportier car, get a front end that has a more interesting face that’s busier and features a grille vaguely shaped like one from Lexus.
Down the side, you see that the 2018 Camry looks lower and sleeker, and around the back, it features many horizontal elements that make the rear look wide. It also has an available quad exhaust system. While the four-pipe system might seem a little silly on a Camry, it is supposed to help the engine breath better and even increases horsepower in the four-cylinder model.
Updated Technology and Interior
As soon as you get in the 2018 Camry, it’s clear that this is an improved car. The previous Camry was obviously a well-built machine, but the 2018 model takes things to a new level with higher-quality materials and a more intuitive design. We didn’t get to spend a long time in the car, but from what we could tell, this is a vehicle that would be enjoyable hour after hour on the road.
The infotainment system has also been updated. Toyota has a kind of funky S-shaped dash and the design curves right around a large 7-inch screen (base models get a 4-inch screen). The screen houses Toyota’s latest version of its Entune infotainment system, which is quite good. It’s feature packed and very responsive. Unfortunately, it still lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Driving Enjoyment That’s Easy to Access
We didn’t get to take the Camry out on public roads, which is where most people will drive it. What we did get to do, however, was a lot more fun. We jumped in line with some serious high-performance cars at the Autobahn Country Club for some spirited lead-follow laps.
We were impressed with the Camry from turn one. It corners flat for a mainstream car, and steering is responsive and well-calibrated. Step on the gas coming out of a turn, and you feel the 3.5-liter V6 engine come to life. The V6 engine makes 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. If you get the quad exhaust, it makes 206 hp. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifted well around the track on our test drive. It provided downshifts when needed and delivered power evenly and predictably.
The Camry had no issue keeping up with the pack on the track, and turn after turn we felt like the car handled extremely well. The brakes were strong and progressive, too. There was good pedal feel and we didn’t notice much brake fade at all. This is the best driving Camry so far in the model’s long history, and we’re sure it would be just as enjoyable on public roads.
An Excellent Car in a Tough Segment
In our time around the track in the 2018 Camry, we determined one thing definitively: this is the best Camry in the model’s rich history. The new model retains what was so well loved about the old model (dependability, practicality, easy-to-use, and easy-to-drive) and then adds sportier driving dynamics, a more eye-catching exterior, and a better interior. It’s a very enjoyable car, and with a price tag starting at $23,495 it’s a real bargain, too.
The question is, will it be enough? Honda redesigned its Accord for 2018, and it’s fantastic. The Hyundai Sonata was updated and is a quality machine. The Mazda6 offers fantastic driving dynamics in an elegant, and practical package, and even the Ford Fusion, which feels a little tired compared to the other cars in its segment, is a serious contender. We place the Camry right up there with the new Honda Accord as the segment leaders, but the gap between the competition is narrow. It will be interesting to see if shoppers feel that Toyota did enough.