2018 Toyota Camry XLE V6
3.5-liter V6, DOHC (301 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
22 city / 33 highway / 26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
27.4 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $35,295 (USD)
As Tested: $37,808
Prices include $895 freight charge.
It happened again. A neighbor, a casual acquaintance at best, messaged me on Facebook, asking for a used car recommendation. As usual, I suspect they were trying to get me to literally point them to a specific car for sale, but I’ve been roped into enough third-party late-night Craigslist-and-Cars.com binges to bite this time.
“Just buy the best Camry you can afford,” was my reply. I’ve given the same advice before to plenty of other non-enthusiasts, those for whom a car is merely an appliance. While I can easily rattle dozens of interesting choices to someone properly invested in driving enjoyment, I’d rather avoid the repercussions of recommending a 10-year-old M3 to a suburban mom who wants nothing more than a hassle-free commute.
Toyota pulled the cover off of the newest Camry in Detroit last year, and the rakish new styling has been flooding the streets ever since. Tim tested the four-cylinder model a few weeks back, but he wished for a bit more power. Fortunately, the gods of horsepower and displacement smiled upon me, and delivered upon my driveway this 2018 Toyota Camry XLE with the big V6.
Does the redesign tick the default box for enthusiasts, too?
No matter how grounded to the ground it may be, the new Camry is not a sports sedan. I’m sorry, Toyota. Nobody’s cross-shopping an M3 with a Camry. But that’s okay. What the V6-powered Camry is is a surprisingly rapid family sedan that will not punish you on the commute. And if that commute is between cities, like those days I spent on the road as a traveling salesman, you will appreciate the way this innocuous cruiser sneakily reaches triple digit speeds without arousing the local constabulary.
Not that I’d know anything about that.
In the Brownstone finish and XLE trim of my test subject, this car is basically invisible. Again, the default choice. The wide lower grille-by-Gillette — seriously, it’s almost the width of the car! — thankfully is finished in matte black, again not drawing attention. I don’t love the cacophony of ridges and slashes that define the hood, but in darker colors the effect is muted.
Another detail that bothered me ever since first seeing the car in the flesh is the funky ridge on the C-pillar that extends the upper surface of the trunk, giving a faux-hatchback look. The Camry hasn’t been available as a Liftback since 1986. Toyota, you aren’t fooling anyone. On the sportier XSE trim, that crease is where the two-tone black roof meets the body-color pillar, making the appearance of a hatch even more pronounced.
Overall, though, the new Camry is destined — no matter the color — to blend into traffic.
The interior in my test car was rather dour, with a sea of black only occasionally punctuated with matte silver trim, a touch of wood(ish) above the glove box, and bright rings around the gauges. The body-color accent stitching on the diamond-quilted seats isn’t enough to brighten the somber mood inside.
Those dull-looking seats were heaven-sent after a couple of days spent with the in-laws, which necessitated two-plus hours in the saddle each way. The long, supportive lower seat bolsters, in particular, were especially welcome when sitting in an unexpected traffic jam. I emerged from the Camry refreshed, which generally never happens on that drive.
The kids similarly had no complaints about their rear seat accommodations. The growing tweens never put an errant knee into my kidney, and had plenty of room to stretch out and lose themselves in their various electronic devices. They dozed off silently before the batteries died.
I’ll register one annoyance — maybe it rises to the level of a complaint, but I’m not certain — but this new Camry shares an unfortunate trait with other Toyotas I’ve driven recently: a rather tinny sound when the door is slammed. Whether it’s a legitimate quality concern, I don’t know, but it does lend an air of cheapness that isn’t reflected in the rest of the car.
After venturing off the interstate and onto a favorite two-lane, the big Camry’s composure impressed. While I wasn’t hustling like I might with something more suited to apex hunting, the demure sedan with the big engine exhibited little body roll when cornering with gusto.
Indeed, the 2018 Toyota Camry is a surprisingly good driver. It’s big, roomy, powerful, and does everything quite well. There’s a reason over 350,000 of these roll off showroom floors year after year — quiet, simple competence goes a long way to building a winner.
[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]