Test Drive Notes Library
- It’s a Camry. The Camry has long been revered by consumers for its balance of comfort, economy, easy of use, longevity, and reliability. We’ve often said to callers and customers “you can’t go wrong with a Camry.” So the new, redesigned Camry starts there, and then improves. The exterior is sharper looking, the interior is upgraded nicely, and mileage is meaningfully improved. Overall, it’s a better Camry.
- Looks. The Camry was criticized in the past for only a couple of things. One is it looked dowdy. The other is it was boring to drive. Toyota solved one of those problems. The new Camry has been de-dowdified. We’re not in love with the excessively prominent schnoz on the SE trims, but overall, it certainly looks more stylish and sporty. Handling is said to be sportier, and perhaps we noticed some improvement, but it could be a placebo effect, too. In any case, the Camry, even in its sportiest XSE V6 form, does not drive like a sports sedan. It drives like a comfortable, competent sedan. It certainly handles well, and by no means is the handling a problem.
- Interior. The interior is significantly upgraded. It’s practically Lexus-esque, at least in the top trim version we drove. It has comfortable, great looking leather seats, an easy to understand, but very modern dashboard and console. The touch screen is sleekly built in flush with the console, and doesn’t appear, like in some other cars, to be an afterthought. Everything you touch is soft and appears to be well made. As usual, it’s roomy for all passengers, front and rear, and has an open, airy feel. Consider the interior upgraded a couple of notches.
- Ride. As usual, the Camry provides a very comfortable ride. It’s relatively soft, well controlled, and absorbs bumps well. It’s great for highway cruising. Handling is predictable, though we noticed a little side to side wallow when we changed lanes abruptly. A sport mode changes the shift points, but does little to noticeably change the ride. We think the ride would be even better if we opted for the LE or XLE trim, without the large wheels and lower profile tires on the XSE. The car would probably be a little quieter, too.
- Standard Safety. Toyota deserves credit for delivering all Camrys with key safety technology as standard equipment. Toyota Safety Sense - P includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high-beams, and adaptive cruise control. Our XSE Premium V6 ($38,230) also included blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert. Those buying lesser trims will have to pay extra for those two items (except for the lowest “L” trim, on which you can’t get them at all, so skip that trim). Even with blind spot monitoring optional, Toyota has given all Camry buyers several key life-saving and car-saving technologies as standard equipment.
- Acceleration. Our test Camry came with a 301 hp 3.5 liter V6, which almost seems like overkill these days. We suspect most people will opt — as generations of Camry owners have — for the four cylinder, which has more than enough power at over 200 hp. The four-cylinder should make the front end feel lighter and improve handling, in addition to lowering the purchase price and providing superior fuel economy. The V6 is rated at 26 mpg overall (22 city, 32 highway). In our mostly city driving, we saw 21.7 mpg. The four cylinder Camry, on the other hand, gets a pretty amazing 32 mpg overall (28 city, 39 highway), according to the EPA. That’s a full 5 mpg better than the 2017 Camry, and very impressive for a full size car. If you really want to bear-hug those trees, opt for the Camry Hybrid, which now gets an EPA 52 mpg overall, and has reconfigured the batteries so they don’t take up trunk space. All gasoline Camrys now come with an eight speed automatic transmission, up from six speeds in 2017.
- Visibility. Out front and to the sides, the Camry’s visibility is very good. Thinner A-pillars make a big difference when navigating in cities, and making sharp turns into crosswalks. Visibility isn’t even that bad out back. Of course, we have to grade on a curve these days, as all rearward visibility is pretty lousy due to the rising belt line designs in vogue now. Still, you can get a general idea of what’s happening behind you by glancing in the rear view mirror. For parking, the XSE came with a 360 view backup camera — always a plus.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Lower. To improve styling, Toyota made the 2018 Camry a bit lower to the ground. Be sure to get in and out a few times and see how it feels. The seat itself is definitely lower than on your last Camry.
- Slow downshifts. While the 8-speed automatic is very smooth in normal driving, when you need to pass someone, or suddenly accelerate, we noticed a short lag before it downshifted and took off. We noticed it in both city and highway driving. Under normal acceleration, the transmission worked perfectly, but there is that short lag when you suddenly need to go fast NOW.
- Still not sporty. Toyota wants the Camry to be everything to everybody. So in each new generation, they try to eliminate any perceived shortcomings of the previous Camry. In 2018, they announced that the new Camry is finally...Sporty. It’s not. And it doesn’t have to be. It’s comfortable, it handles well, it gets great mileage, it’ll probably go 200,000 miles. But it’s not an Audi or BMW. Maybe not even a Honda Accord in terms of sportiness. Sorry, Toyota, you’ll have to live with being just about everything to just about everybody.
- Jolting automatic rear braking. Our XSE Premium came not only with rear cross traffic alert, which we highly recommend, but also with automatic braking in Reverse. So if you’re backing out your driveway, and it senses a car coming down the street towards your rear end, it’ll not only beep, but if you don’t stop, it’ll slam on the brakes. Theoretically, that’s a nice safety feature. But in reality, it was a little aggressive. You may find the rear auto braking works well for your particular circumstances. But we found it was overly anxious for city dwellers who have to “nose” in Reverse out of a driveway in order for traffic to see you and let you get out. We ended up turning it off, and just using the “beeping” to let us know when cross traffic was there. Turning it off lit up a warning symbol on the dashboard, which, had we owned the car, would have annoyed us and forced us to use the famous Car Talk Black Tape solution to cover it up.
- No Apple Car Play. Even on the highest end Camry, there’s no Apple Car Play or Android Auto.
- There’s not much to complain about. It’s an even better Camry.
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