Last Updated January 11, 2017
What changes make the 2018 Toyota Camry different?
Most everything but the name. America’s most popular car is new from the ground up for 2018, with curvaceous new styling, revised features, and updated engines. Camry remains a front-wheel-drive five-passenger midsize sedan. But it adopts a new understructure designed to introduce more engaging driving dynamics. The interior is revamped and all trim levels now come with a full suite of safety gear, including autonomous emergency braking. To the surprise of some observers, the engine lineup mirrors that of the 2012-2017 generation, retaining four- and six-cylinder choices, plus a gas-electric hybrid. Reports had speculated the V-6 would be dropped in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder.
Citing “emotionally charged” new styling and the improved platform, Toyota says it considers the ‘18 Camry an opportunity to re-energize the midsize-car segment. The still-massive class experienced a 9.5 percent sales decline in 2016 as buyers flocked to crossover SUVs. Calendar-year-2016 Camry sales dropped 9.5 percent, too, but it maintained its position as the segment’s sales leader, ahead of the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Ford Fusion.
Why should I buy a 2018?
To get the most up-to-date version of a car that has earned the loyalty of millions for its room, comfort, affordability, reliability, and resale value. To those attributes, Toyota aims to add styling that’ll catch the eye and road manners that’ll counteract a reputation for stodgy handling. Protective of Camry’s standing as America’s perennial best-selling car of any type, the automaker will maintain highly competitive pricing while delivering a contender for class-topping passenger accommodations, features, and fuel economy. An assessment of driving dynamics awaits our full road test, but we’re encouraged by strides designers made with the outgoing Camry. Buying an ’18 will insure you a sedan that won’t change significantly until its midcycle refresh, probably for model-year 2021. And it’ll help you keep pace with the redesigned 2018 version of Camry’s archrival, the Accord.
The ’18 Camry reprises a lineup that again ranges from fairly basic to leather-lined fancy. Notable new features include an eight-speed automatic transmission in place of a six-speed automatic for gas-engine-only models. Cabin materials quality is upgraded, outward visibility improves, and rear legroom – already generous – expands. The model range repeats gas-only versions in base LE and upscale XLE trim, as well as sportier SE and XSE grades. All come standard with a four-cylinder engine; the XLE and XSE are available with the V-6. The Hybrid returns in LE, SE, and XLE trim and again combines a gas four-cylinder with electric-motor assist.
Should I wait for the 2019 model instead?
Probably not. Coming off the full model-year 2018 redesign, the ’19 is hardly apt to change in any way worth waiting for. It is likely to suffer some model-year price inflation, however. And the shelf life of its styling and feature set will be shorter by a model year, pending the next facelift.
Is the 2018 styling different?
Yes. It’s racier, with the sharply defined curves and creases that mark Toyota’s aggressive new design language, as seen on the latest versions of its Prius liftback and RAV4 compact crossover. Bumper to bumper, the redesigned Camry is just a half inch longer than the outgoing version. But its wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – is longer by 1.9 inches. That gives the visual impression of a more athletic profile, as does the 1.6-inch lower hoodline and a nearly one-inch- shorter roofline with a pronounced fastback taper.
Larger new grilles convey some model personality: conservative horizontal bars for LE and XLE, blacked-out honeycomb flanked by big air intakes for the sportier SE and XSE. In back, all versions have a slanted crease that boomerangs from the taillamps into the rear fascia. The new body is nearly an inch wider overall, and these creases lend the rump an added impression of road-hugging width. On SE and XSE, the taillight lenses are smoked, the bumper integrates an aerodynamic “diffuser,” and the trunk wears a small spoiler. Unique to the XSE are black machine-finished 19-inch alloy wheels.
Fully redone for ’18, the interior is highlighted by separate driver and front-passenger zones that create the most cockpit-like Camry cabin ever. The feeling is reinforced by gauges that for the first time are angled toward the driver. Details on model-specific features were not released in time for this report, but new to Camry are interlinked displays that include a 10-inch color head-up windshield instrument projection, a seven-inch display within the main gauge cluster, and an eight-inch audio/navigation/climate-system central dashboard touchscreen.
The new understructure enables engineers to lower the seating positions nearly an inch in front and 1.2 inches in back. Toyota says that helps occupants feel one with the car yet enjoy better outward visibility than before, thanks to a more compact instrument panel, lower window “beltline,” and relocated roof pillars and mirrors. The longer wheelbase translates to more rear legroom (final specs were not available in time for this review). Upgrading cabin ambience are more soft-touch surfaces, stitched upholstery, and a mix of tones and hues.
Any mechanical changes?
Major ones, beginning with the new understructure. Called Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA, this modular platform will underpin a variety of Toyota cars and crossovers. Its more rigid yet lighter than Camry’s previous platform, and allows for a lower center of gravity. Combined with a re-engineered suspension, those attributes should improve road manners, a change vital in Toyota’s campaign to engage younger drivers and recast its image.
Retention of an engine roster that includes a V-6 not only throws some prognosticators a curve, but bucks a midsize-car trend toward all-four-cylinder lineups. Without releasing power ratings in time for this report, Toyota says all three 2018 Camry powertrains are more powerful than before, even if their general specs are familiar. Most Camry buyers will again choose the base four-cylinder, which again displaces 2.5-liters but is all new mechanically. The automaker says horsepower increases from the 178 of its predecessor, torque improves from 170 pound-feet, and fuel economy rises, as well.
Rivals such as the Buick regal, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Volkswagen Passat all offer turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The most powerful rival the outgoing Camry’s V-6 for horsepower and beat it for torque and gas mileage. But even though only about 10 percent of Camry buyers choose the six, Toyota has retained it for the ’18 Camry. (Part of the motivation is that the TNGA understructure is designed to accommodate other Toyotas for which a V-6 is virtually mandatory, including the midsize Highlander crossover and Sienna minivan.) And while the V-6 is again a 3.5-liter, it too is a new engine, with advances such as direct fuel injection. The outgoing V-6 had 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. The new one appears identical to the 3.5-liter six that has in fact be introduced on the latest iterations of the Highlander and Sienna. In those it has some 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque and is likely to furnish similar output in the ’18 Camry. Both the four- and six-cylinder engines mate to a new eight-speed automatic transmission designed, Toyota says, to execute shifts like a high-performance automated manual gearbox.
As before, the Camry Hybrid combines the 2.5-liter four cylinder with electric-motor power. It’s not a plug-in, recharging instead by recapturing energy otherwise lost during braking and coasting. It uses its motor almost exclusively to assist the gas engine with acceleration. The outgoing Hybrid had a net 200 horsepower; Toyota says the new one has more, though it still doesn’t list a net torque figure. The Hybrid again employs a continuously variable automatic transmission, but the automaker says this CVT features a new Sport Mode that allows the driver to simulate the quick shifts of a six-speed sequential shift transmission. The Hybrid SE model gets steering-wheel paddle shifters for added “gear” control. And the TNGA platform allows for relocation of the hybrid system’s battery pack, from the trunk to beneath the rear seat. That places its weight where it can benefit handling.
Does fuel economy improve?
EPA ratings for the ’18 Camry weren’t released in time for this review, but Toyota promises higher mileage across the board and says the Hybrid will furnish “Prius-like city/highway driving efficiency.” That suggests EPA ratings of around 54/50 mpg city/highway and would make the ’18 Camry Hybrid the most fuel-efficient car in the class, by far. For comparison, the 2017 Camry Hybrid was rated 42/38/40 mpg city/highway/combined.
For the gas-only ’18 Camrys, the 2017 EPA numbers to beat are 24/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined with the four-cylinder and 21/30/24 mpg for the V-6.
Does it have new features?
Yes, highlighted by advances in safety and connectivity. Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) is included on every model; it’s an enhanced version of a similar set of driver aids that was previously an option exclusive to XLE and XSE models. TSS-P includes radar-based adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction. Its most prominent component is autonomous emergency braking that can warn the driver, then slow or even stop the Camry to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. That capability should enable every 2018 Camry to achieve the coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Toyota also says most ’18 Camrys will also come with blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection.
Connectivity improves with the automaker’s latest Entune 3.0 multimedia system as standard on every four-cylinder and Hybrid Camry. It includes smartphone-based navigation projected on the dashboard screen via the Connect Navigation Scout GPS Link with Moving Maps. Entune 3.0 also delivers several smartphone-based technologies new to the car, including available remote engine start, vehicle unlocking and finder, fuel-level readout, and guest driver monitoring. It also offers available WiFi Connect, allowing up to five mobile devices to connect using 4G LTE. Camrys with the V-6 get similar capabilities, and more, via standard imbedded navigation. Also newly available is a bird’s-eye-view camera system.
Model-specific features weren’t released in time for this report, but expect 2018 Camry LEs to again include Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera. Look for SE versions to have a power driver seat, upgraded upholstery, and a tauter suspension. Expect XSE versions to build on that with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, wireless smartphone charging, and a power passenger seat. As before, the XLE models would forego the firmer suspension but add genuine leather upholstery. Toyota could make other convenience features, such as keyless access with pushbutton ignition, as standard on all trim levels as well. Hybrids would mirror their conventional counterparts in terms of standard equipment.
Are 2018 prices different?
They won’t be released until closer to the ’18 Camry’s on-sale date, but conventional practice suggests some increase. Toyota could get unconventional, however, seizing a competitive edge in a demand-weakened segment by holding the line on prices, an option underpinned by its claim of cost savings associated with the new TNGA platform.
Our 2018 Camry pricing estimates include Toyota’s destination fee, which in most areas of the U.S. was $835 on the ’17 model. With the four-cylinder engine, expect the LE to start around $24,000, the SE around $25,000, and XSE and XLE versions around $28,000-$29,000. Look for the V-6 to again add about $5,000 to an XSE or XLE.
Base-price range for 2018 Camry Hybrid is an estimated $28,000-$31,000, with the LE, SE, and XLE available with many of the same options as their gas-only siblings.
When will it come out?
Release date for the 2018 Camry is late summer 2017.