2018 Toyota Camry XSE
February 14 2018, Peter Bleakney - Driving.ca - Sprint Marketing
Just like the stereotypical dowdy-cum-sultry librarian, the 2018 Toyota Camry has tossed its horn-rimmed classes, let down its hair and donned a come-hither frock. She might want to sue her plastic surgeon, though, for operating while under the influence of … acid? Nonetheless, the perennially conservative Camry has undergone a remarkable transformation. And to put a point on it, Toyota states – with tongue firmly planted in cheek – the Camry is no longer available in beige.
Should we be thrilled, relieved, or very, very afraid?
While you can get into the new, base Camry L trim for $26,590, this well-equipped, four-cylinder XSE tester rings in at $34,890. In XSE trim, this is the most outgoing variant with 19-inch wheels, an angrier face, sculpted rocker panels, a rear diffuser and faux vents in the rear bumper. It’s also sporting two-tone paint, a $795 option, which lends an extra degree of nasty. Better get those books back on time, or this librarian is going to give you a good spanking.
She’s into red leather too, and it must be said this XSE’s interior is impressive. The outgoing Camry’s dash, being somewhat of a convoluted hodgepodge, has been swept aside for a bold and flowing design with a large, triangular centre stack, fine metallic detailing, a stitched dash panel and sensible ergonomics. The seats are very comfy and the red leather that covers the dash, seats and armrests in this XSE looks top-shelf. It makes me wonder what Lexus is going to do to improve on things. However, the little climate control readout below the main screen is well past its sell-by date.
It only takes a few minutes behind the wheel to realize Toyota has not abandoned the traditional Camry virtues with this 2018 remake. The sedan is welcoming, smooth-riding and user friendly. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, now up 25 ponies to 203 horsepower, mates to a new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a torque-converter lock-up in gears two through eight. While this drivetrain lacks the turbo urge of the new Honda Accord, it’s adequate for the day to day drive. If you want a real turn of speed, the 2018 Camry is available with a silken, 310-horsepower 3.5L V6.
What does surprise is the composed demeanour this XSE exhibits when the road turns serpentine. It corners flat and level, and has no objections to being pushed far beyond what the 2017 Camry would tolerate. Most of this newfound dynamic goodness can be attributed to the fresh Toyota New Global Architecture platform.
The structure is stiffer, lighter and gives the Camry a lower centre of gravity. The car is also 20 millimetres wider. Factor in the XSE’s “sport-tuned suspension” and you have a Camry with a fair degree of athleticism. The steering is well weighted and responsive, too, although we can’t get ahead of ourselves here. It’s no sport sedan.
The light, airy cabin has good outward visibility thanks to a the sculpted beltline and slim A-pillars. Rear-seat passengers enjoy plenty of headroom, legroom and heater ducts. No available heat for the rear perrches or heated steering wheel, though – this is stuff the Hyundai Sonata offers.
The eight-inch touchscreen interface is easily negotiated, but here, Toyota bucks the industry trend of supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in favour of its own EnTune App Suite Connect. Once the app is downloaded, there’s a whack of stuff (on your own data dime, of course) – traffic, weather, Yelp, stocks, sports, NPR One, Scout GPS (with a three-year subscription) and more. You’ll find three charging points up front and a clever, slide-out inductive charging tray/phone holder. There’s a nice and big cubby between the seats, too.
Kudos to Toyota for baking a lot of standard safety kit into this Camry. Even the base car gets full LED headlights and Toyota Safety Sense P that includes adaptive radar cruise control, automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high beams and lane-keep assist. This XSE adds blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking.
Considering most of my week in this family hauler consisted of short jaunts around town in winter weather, its fuel economy of 8.7 L/100 kilometres was heartwarming. My only wish is for the steering wheel to be hand-warming.
The 2018 Camry might look like it’s hanging out with an all new crowd, but the faithful need not be scared off. Beneath all these creases, scoops and crevices beats the heart of Toyota’s steadfast mid-size family sedan where comfort, reliability and user friendliness rule. It’s just a lot more pleasant to drive. My wife loved this 2018 Camry XSE and, I kid you not, she’s a librarian.