Toyota is upping the ante in the midsize sedan battlefield – but is its new weapon arriving a little too late?
The Toyota Camry has long been the midsize king-of-the-hill, despite the fact that “We’ve been criticized for being conservative in our styling,” concedes the maker’s U.S. head of automotive operations, Bob Carter. With the eighth-generation Camry, Toyota set out to develop something that was more than a rolling “refrigerator.”
“The all-new 2018 Camry is, without a doubt, the most captivating midsize sedan we’ve ever produced,” said Carter, as he introduced the new model at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
And, barring some unexpected stutter when it comes to Toyota’s traditional reputation for quality, reliability and dependability – “QRD” in industry lingo – it should remain the U.S. market’s best-selling passenger car, said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst with IHS Automotive. But what’s far from certain if it will remain the best-selling model in the Toyota line-up, as American motorists continue the rapid migration from passenger cars to SUVs and other light trucks.
(Toyota goes back to drawing board for next-gem Camry. For more, Click Here.)
Toyota certainly isn’t ready to write off the Camry. Spurred by global CEO Akio Toyoda’s desire to put more “passion” into the brand, the 2018 Camry adopts a more angular and athletic appearance previewing what the automaker calls its “new signature design language.”
“In order to create something that stirs people’s soul, we’ve laid out the concept of a new sedan that provides fun and excitement behind the wheel,” said Masato Katsumata, the Chief Engineer of the new Camry. “In developing the next-generation Toyota Camry, we were able to start with a clean slate, which allowed us to create a true driver’s car.”
There were three design goals, according to Katsumata: a lower center of gravity enhanced by a wider stance, a more emotionally styled cabin, and an overall more “sporty and upscale image, both inside and out.” Toyota calls that new design language the “Keen Look.”
There’s a new, two-piece grille, while the hood sits nearly two inches lower than the current Camry. The rear features a more athletic look, with complex surfaces coming together at the C-pillar. There’s a distinct crease that runs from the multi-color taillamps to the bumper, helping make the wheels appear to be pushed outward.
The new Camry sits lower inside, as well, the hip point of occupants dropping by at least one inch, front and back.
Camry has often been accused of having a rather appliance-like interior, as well, and the goal was to de-emphasize the reliance on bland plastic trim to give the cabin a more upscale and futuristic appearance. One key visual detail is a character line that sweeps down the instrument cluster, bisecting the center console. There are more soft-touch materials in the Gen-8 Camry, and a broader palette of tones and hues, Toyota explains.
The cabin also features an updated infotainment system with a new interface meant to be easier to operate and more visually striking. Information is relayed to the driver through a seven-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster, an eight-inch screen atop that center console, and a 10-inch Head-Up Display, or HUD.
All new Camry models will get the latest Toyota multimedia system, Entune 3.0.
Under the skin, the 2018 Camry builds off the same basic platform, dubbed the Toyota New Global Architecture, first introduced on the Gen-4 Prius hybrid. Anchoring the Camry, the wheelbase grows two inches compared to the last version of the midsize sedan.
As with the Prius, Toyota claims the new platform and other updates to the Camry will result in a much more sporty ride for the new sedan, another point of contention with prior generations. Meanwhile, a new four-point engine mounting system is said to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
(Click Here for more about Toyota’s plans for its car line-up.)
Three new powertrains are being introduced for the latest Toyota Camry:
- A 3.5-liter V-6;
- A 2.5-liter inline-four; and
- A newly updated Toyota Hybrid System.
Toyota claims the 2.5-liter four, which will be paired to a new eight-speed automatic, has the highest level of thermal efficiency of any gas engine in the industry, at 40 percent.
While specific details have yet to be released, Toyota hints there will be “all gain with no mpg pain” once mileage numbers are released closer to the 2018 Camry’s on-sale data later this year.
The new Camry will get an updated version of the Toyota Safety Sense P advanced driver assistance system – this time as standard gear on all trim levels. That package includes a pre-collision warning system with pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitor, and other features. All 2018 models will also have 10 standard airbags.
While not Toyota best-seller globally, the Camry has long been its top model in the U.S. – and the number on American passenger car. But with the ongoing shift from passenger cars to light trucks, auto operations chief Carter told TheDetroitBureau.com there’s a good chance the RAV4 could soon overtake Camry among Toyota product lines.
“That trend,” from cars to trucks, “is going to accelerate into the future,” he said. Nonetheless, “My goal is Camry will always be the number one-selling sedan in North America.”
(Still number one. But can Corolla maintain its lead as it marks its 50th anniversary? Click Here for more.)
The 2018 Toyota Camry will reach U.S. showrooms by late this coming summer.