Saturday First Drive – 2018 Toyota Camry

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                    All Dressed UP!  

 By Ron Amadon

 ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The order came down from on high at Toyota headquarters. Stop building boring cars!

 Designers heeded that call when they produced the eighth generation Camry, edging far out on a limb to achieve their goal – a car that could be instantly distinguished from 200 yards away. They sure did that!

 It has long been a decorum dictum in the auto industry that if you have a best seller, which the Camry has been for 15 years, you don’t mess with it. But mess with it they did sparking a controversy over all those lines and creases, finishing with what they call an “exterior with an unexpected attitude.”

 About the new design Toyota said, “…the new Camry offers traditional owners who have come to love the model’s civility and reliability, an opportunity to shed their inhibitions and take a drive on the wild side.”

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 “From the beginning, the development team wanted to expand the appeal of the Camry,” said Chief Engineer Masato Katsumata: “We wanted to make an impact with current owners, to shake things up and leave a lasting impression with current and new owners.”

 Some like that new sporty new attitude while others believe Toyota has fallen out of the tree. Count me among those who like it – very much.

 Nowhere is it written that all mid-sized sedans have to look alike. I have in the past, and almost always will, applaud those who think outside the box.

 And here is another reason the design should click. The changing face of the potential Camry buyer. Probably driving a Corolla now, and not as conservative as the past Camry crowd. They want something sporty and exciting as they move up the Toyota ladder. And there is nothing in this new design, even in the entry level “L” model, which screams econobox.

 Confidently, let me predict that the “Keen Look” design philosophy will be enough to keep them coming into Toyota showrooms while attracting new buyers seeking a sedan that offers high quality, exacting build quality, and long life.

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 So what are we dealing with here once past the cosmetics?

 A totally new car riding on TNGA or Toyota’s New Global Architecture platform, new engines, a driver centric dash panel, and a bigger trunk among other items. About the only thing that is carried over, a representative told me, is the word “Toyota” on the exterior.

 Non-hybrid models are offered with a choice of two engines. A 2.5-liter 4 with 203 horsepower at 6,600 rpm in the LE, SE, XLE, models. And 184 lb-ft of torque at 6,600 rpm

 Opt for the XSE and get 3 more horsepower and two more lb-ft of torque.

 Or the 3.5-liter 6 with 301 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. The test car I drove had the six and was quick to get up to speed on a parkway in cahoots with the responsive and standard eight speed automatic.

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 The gas sipper is the base L model with 29 city, 41 highway for a combined 34 mpg. The six in XSE trim is rated at 22 city, 32 highway for a combined 26 mpg. They run on 87 octane regular.

 All models come with a package called “Safety Sense-P” with pre-collision and pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beam dimming. A package on the test Camry brought ten airbags and blind spot monitor.  

 The XSE that I drove had among other items, LED headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights with auto on/off, LED taillights, plus color-keyed heated outside mirrors with turn signal.

 Also 19-inch alloy wheels, P235/40R19 tires, and believe it or not on a Camry, dual exhaust with quad chrome tips. A long panoramic glass roof will keep all passengers in touch with current sky conditions.

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 The new “S-curve” center console is cantered a bit toward the driver making for easy reach to the controls while providing more space for the front seat passenger. Look to the center dash and what do you see but KNOBS, boys and girls!!!

 Knobs control the audio system and ventilation. While that is not as big a deal as Taylor Swift’s new single, they are most welcome around the 8 inch touchscreen. It was almost like Toyota said of those incomprehensible touch screens found elsewhere, “Look What You Made Me Do.”  

 It should be known that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered on any Camry models.

 The leather trimmed front seats with 8 way power adjustment were comfortable and even tall operators should be comfy in the new interior. An outside feels like temperature of 100 plus means I did not turn on the seat heaters. Taller passengers to the rear will discover ample leg room, but some hairs might come in contact with the roof. The walk in freezer like A/C kept the interior perfectly comfortable.

 On a short test drive, the Camry was generally quiet with just a bit of noise as the tires encountered the expansion strips of a concrete highway. Handling seemed to be improved over the earlier models while not sacrificing the ride. More on this will have to await a trip to West Virginia where straight roads are as rare as a still with neon lights.

 The base L model starts at $23,495, with the base XSE six-cylinder starting at $34,950. With a few options such as Paint Protection Film, the first drive model totaled out at $36,523 with delivery.  

 Now the Camry will do battle with the Honda Accord that was also redesigned for 2018. Even with a short introductory drive it was clear that the Camry will be a strong competitor.

 Production began June 28 at the plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.

  

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