Our first test drive of the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry took place in the cool summer climate of Portland, Oregon amid the scenic and romantic wine country back roads you might see in one of its brochures.
A fitting backdrop it was for a car that’s been redesigned from the ground up to be more emotionally stirring with its bolder and more artistic forms, its powerful and refined new powertrains, and the host of comfort and convenience features to make the drive more enjoyable.
Based on an all-new platform architecture called TNGA, the 2018 Camry is slightly longer, lower and wider than before. It’s facial features are more pronounced regardless of which trim grade you choose, all of which feature their own unique grille and headlight themes.
You’ll notice broad shoulders and hips in the design front to rear and some artful detailing in places the previous Camry made due with plain surfacing. There’s even a two tone paint scheme available now on the top trim grades to really amp it up.
Inside, the cabin got a thorough makeover to bring it in line with the wilder exterior. High quality materials and trims come down to even the entry levels including the LE and SE we spent most of our time with.
The cloth seating surfaces, textures and colors are very appealing and have a premium feel unexpected here. With more space and creature comforts than before the cabin offers a step up from rental grade without question. When you go all the way up to top trims you can even choose a bright red leather theme, a first for Camry.
Technology offerings abound with a standard 7-inch color touchscreen audio system with the Entune suite of apps. They list navigation as standard but it does require your phone and your data plan to actually have that functionality. Only the top end systems have native navigation systems to go along with JBL audio quality.
Powering the 2018 Camry SE we tested was the backbone of the sedan lineup at least according to sales. A new version of the 2.5 liter four cylinder engine now features both port and direct fuel-injection for a healthy 203 horsepower.
Mated to a new 8-speed automatic transmission, it revs free and happy on the back roads here and has much more spirit and refinement than any Camry remembered. Increased fuel economy is also promised with up to 39 mpg highway.
The 3.5 liter V6 gets a bump in power to 301 and also gains the 8-speed automatic transmission, the Camry Hybrid receiving several refinements in its powertrain as well with a now class topping 53 mpg rating.
Handling may well be the big story here however. The new chassis with its multi-link double wishbone rear suspension and tighter body structure has more feel and balance than any Camry before it. On the windy curves and mountain hills it was dare we say fun to drive.
There’s communication in the steering, reflexes in its suspension, and poise in its behavior when thrown around aggressively. It’s still softly tuned so it wont offend anyone’s proper senses, but now you can feel less isolated from reality and even engage once in a while.
With pricing starting at $23,495 for the L trim, the 2018 Toyota Camry will likely continue to stay at the top of sales charts with its new found appeal. It has all the sensibility of the old one but now offers some extra flavors for those who normally pass on vanilla.