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2018 Toyota Camry: Redesigning an Icon

If you’re looking for information on a newer Toyota Camry, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Toyota Camry Review

Tasked with penning the lines for the eighth-generation 2018 Toyota Camry, Calty Design’s studio chief designer Ian Cartabiano could sum up the assignment in one word: scary. Why? Sold in more than 100 countries, the Camry has been the best-selling car in America for 15 years. In fact, it’s the top-selling car in many of the markets in which it’s sold. The pressure was on for the design team to create a look that would maintain that 15-year sales momentum.

Despite a resume listing a who’s who of Toyota products Cartabiano helped design, including the Highlander, Avalon, Sienna, Scion tC, the current Camry, the Lexus LF-LC concept and the all-new C-HR, his emotions roller-coastered from apprehension to unbridled excitement when tapped to head up the team for redesigning the iconic Camry. "It’s a tricky proposition," the design chief recently told Autotrader, "changing something even to a minimal extent for such a big car."

 Pack a Bag

Calty Design Research is Toyota’s North American design lab. Cartabiano is among the 95 or so design specialists employed there. When it came time to design the 2018 Toyota Camry, he received the nod to oversee the teams creating the exterior, as well as the interior, styling. The catch, however, was that the work wasn’t to be done in Calty’s Newport Beach, Calif. studio, but in Japan. Toyota wanted a strong American voice within the global design team, and Cartabiano provided that voice. He would spend nearly two years there bringing the styling to life. See the 2018 Toyota Camry models for sale near you

 Orders From Headquarters

The rather polarizing lines of Toyota’s all-new C-HR crossover notwithstanding, Toyota isn’t known for taking chances. "Don’t rock the boat" could pass for its core philosophy. That holds true for virtually every aspect of the company, including design. But things — at least some things — could be changing.

Not too long ago, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda made the sweeping pronouncement, "No more boring cars!" The idea wasn’t to just build reliable cars, but to make them aspirational. Toyota and Camry chief engineer Masato Kasumata insisted that the looks of the next Camry had to make people want it just from seeing it. From the very beginning and the earliest drawings, "sensual" was a keyword driving the design team. Eventually, "sexy" replaced "sensual" when insiders talked about what they wanted the Camry to be. "That was very different for Toyota," Cartabiano quipped.

This underlying attitude that the days of playing it safe were over pushed the designers to incorporate styling ques they would’ve never considered before. The quad exhaust on the XSE began as a dual exhaust on one side before Cartabiano stuck another dual exhaust on the other side of the clay model as a what-if exercise. Executives reviewing the model liked it. The design chief liked the idea of a blacked-out roof and included it in some of the earliest drawings. With each new set of drawings, support for a blacked-out roof option grew until the designers pushed the idea over the goal line by covering the roof of the clay model with black tape. The black top wound up on the XSE as well.

 Good Bones

No one at Toyota speaks about the 2018 Camry without mentioning the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). Cartabiano credits TNGA with providing the good bones needed to pen a Camry that’s simply sleeker than previous generations. To sell the lower-center-of-gravity idea, designers dropped the shoulders closer to the wheels and lowered the beltline, too. They lowered the hood and front graphics roughly an inch, compressing them over the front wheels. They also lowered the roof line an inch and elongated it. The end result is a lower, more hunkered-down profile.

"Inside and out, this car is emotional," Cartabiano said. "Toyota is making a bold push to make its cars more exciting. The engineers rose to the challenge to make it drive like it was drawn."

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Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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