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2018 Toyota Camry: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2017

The 2018 Toyota Camry is so different from the car it replaces it almost deserves a new name. It's better to drive, much better to look at and has a high-end interior that returns Toyota to the top of the class it used to rule. It also has new engines that boast class-leading power and fuel economy. If the last few Camry models have underwhelmed, the new one overachieves.

Frankly, for those who have previously dismissed the Camry for its conservativeness and boring driving experience, it now has a clean slate and is worth checking out. And for those who liked the Camry just the way it was, the new one may indeed be too much of a departure -- but we also think its sharper handling, more composed ride and other range of improvements equal a car that should ultimately be better for most. And at the very least, its interior space, reliability and resale value should continue to impress.

Really, if the Camry isn't the class leader, it's awfully close and should be considered by anyone looking for a midsize sedan. It has a broad appeal that should only bolster its perennial best-selling popularity.

 What's New for 2018?

The Toyota Camry is all-new for 2018 and, indeed, is probably newer and more different than it's ever been.

 What We Like

Impressive driving dynamics; superior power and fuel economy; luxurious cabin; user-friendly tech interface; standard safety tech; unique LE and SE "flavors"

 What We Don't

V6 lacks the athletic feel of 4-cylinder model

 How Much?

$23,500-$35,000

 Fuel Economy

The base Camry engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot for a midsize sedan, and it goes up to 206 hp and 186 lb-ft with the XSE trim. Front-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission are standard. Fuel economy estimates are 28 miles per gallon in the city, 39 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving (the base L model gets 2 mpg better). 

A 3.5-liter V6 engine is available on the XLE and XSE trim levels. It produces 301 hp and 267 lb-ft. The XSE returns 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined, with the XLE returning 1 mpg better on the highway. It runs on 87 octane.

There's also a Camry Hybrid reviewed separately.

 Standard Features & Options

Think of there being two different flavors of 2018 Toyota Camry: the more traditional L, LE and XLE trims and the sportier SE and XSE trims.

The base L ($24,400) comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic bi-LED headlights, a backup camera, highway-speed adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning, manual height-adjustable front seats, power driver lumbar adjustment, Bluetooth, one USB port, a 7-in Entune 3 touchscreen interface, a Scout GPS navigation smartphone app and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The LE ($24,900) adds 17-in alloy wheels, an 8-way power driver's seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and an alarm system.

The SE ($26,100) has different styling, altered suspension and steering tuning, front sport seats and a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel. In terms of feature content, it adds 18-in wheels, single-zone automatic climate control and SofTex vinyl upholstery.

Both the LE and SE can be equipped with a sunroof, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems (packaged together), the Convenience package (passive keyless entry and push-button start, an auto-dimming mirror and a universal garage opener) and the Audio package (an 8-in touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, HD Radio, satellite radio, remote vehicle controls, Safety Connect emergency services and on-board Wi-Fi).

The XSE ($29,900) effectively upgrades the SE, while the XLE ($29,400) upgrades the LE. Both add full-speed adaptive cruise control, the blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, three vehicle setting modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), an electronic parking brake, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an 8-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, rear adjustable headrests, an upgraded backup camera and instrument display, the Convenience package content and three USB ports. The XSE has 19-in wheels, while the XLE has 18-in wheels plus a leather-wrapped version of the LE's steering wheel.

The V6 engine is available only on the XSE and XLE and brings with it a panoramic sunroof, a color head-up display, wireless smartphone charging, the Audio package content and a 9-speaker JBL sound system with Clari-FI digital music enhancement. All of these items are available on the 4-cylinder XSE and XLE. A factory navigation system integrated into the Entune 3 touchscreen is an option on the V6 trim levels.

 Safety

Every 2018 Camry comes standard with stability control, antilock brakes, front and rear side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, front-knee airbags, a backup camera, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and steering assist and automatic highbeams. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are available. Safety Connect emergency communications are standard on the V6-powered XSE and XLE and optional on all but the base L.

 Behind the Wheel

The 2018 Camry feels like a totally different car behind the wheel, showcasing a degree of poise, precision and composure that this nameplate has never approached before. Though it still has its LE and SE trim lines, which differ in steering and suspension tuning, their dynamic differences are less than before, with both maintaining a fairly comparable balance between comfort and handling precision. Some may lament the loss of the old Camry LE's looser steering and pillowy ride, but we think the majority of buyers in the midsize segment will like this change to a more modern car feel, while still appreciating the ability to choose which variation they like better.

In terms of engine choice, the base 4-cylinder is a knockout, delivering excellent power and response along with class-leading fuel economy. Its lighter weight also allows for a more natural steering feel. As such, the 4-cylinder actually feels like the better car to drive despite the obvious appeal of getting 301 hp from the V6.

Literally sitting behind the wheel feels different for 2018 as well, as a lower seating position with a more thoughtful placement of the wheel, shifter and other controls results in a more driver-oriented cabin. You sit in the Camry now rather than on it. Everything else inside is better, too, as the quality of materials has been elevated greatly to create a more stylish design. The materials look and feel richer and are softer to touch, and the stitched leatherlike material on the dash lends a luxurious look to every trim level. Indeed, there isn't that much of a difference between the LE and XLE beyond leather seats and extra features.

Space is good as always, and although some will notice that the lower roof has chewed into headroom, it should still be a good fit for most. The XSE and XLE trims now have adjustable headrests, which should make installing a child seat easier, though this feature is typically standard on competitors.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 Honda Accord -- The Camry's eternal nemesis looks pretty stale now and is set to be replaced for 2018 as well, but there's no denying its reliability, resale value, generous space and well-rounded nature.

2018 Ford Fusion -- The current Fusion raised the bar for style and driving dynamics in the midsize sedan segment so high that it's still relevant despite having been on sale for several years. Updates to its in-car technology make it more relevant.

2017 Mazda6 -- Oddly, the new Camry reminds us more of the Mazda 6 than the previous Camry. That's saying something, as the 6's handling and driving experience in general are thought to be the sportiest and most driver-focused in the segment.

Used Toyota Avalon -- Much of the new Camry's refined styling and more luxurious interior was previewed in the current Avalon. Prices are higher for Toyota's larger sedan, so considering a used one is recommended.

 Autotrader's Advice

We would stick with the 4-cylinder engine -- its class-leading power and fuel economy make the V6 a little hard to justify. We also think it benefits handling. Otherwise, drive the LE and SE variations to see which you prefer behind the wheel. Differences are subtle, but you still may like one more than the other. Each also comes with enough feature content that jumping up to their X versions probably isn't necessary.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota Camry: New Car Review - Autotrader