For years, the Toyota Camry was a fine but rather milquetoast vehicle that shared many common traits with a kitchen appliance. It was competent and reliable, but it was never as enjoyable to drive as models like the Honda Accord or Mazda 6. It was simply a means of transportation, but that was enough to make it the best-selling car in the US year after year. Things seemed to have changed with the 2018 model.

Our test car is the top-tier XSE trim, the sporty sister model to the Camry XLE we drove last year. The XSE trades some luxury features for a bit of flavor, giving the Camry far more life than it’s had in years. The sharp front fascia, the two-tone paint and bright red interior all give this car a bit of extra jazz. Add in the 301 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and you get a surprisingly quick and enjoyable five-seat family hauler.

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The 2018 Toyota Camry and the 2018 Honda Accord are neck-and-neck for best in segment. Both are excellent. I enjoyed my night in the Camry for several reasons, but the power, design and interior caught my attention the most. It’s an impressive car that excels in all areas.

Toyota is aggressively taking risks with the Camry’s styling. It’s clearly a sedan that’s meant to stand out. I like the looks of the Accord a little more — it’s subtler while the Camry comes out a bit more severe — but they’re sharp in their own ways. This Camry is done up with 19-inch black wheels and smoked LED lights, which add to the attitude.

I like the red and black interior in the Camry XSE we tested. It’s laid out smartly, the infotainment is solid and the view is surprisingly good for a big car. I felt confident dashing in and out of lanes during busy morning traffic. Speaking of that, the V6 is excellent. With 301 horsepower you’ve got everything you need to take off from lights briskly. The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth. I even started tapping through downshifts with the paddles for fun. It’s a well-calibrated powertrain.

The basics measure up well, too. The trunk is big. The seats are comfortable. It’s fun to punch through the driving modes. You’ll notice the Sport setting. Eco does feel slower (and more efficient). Normal feels pretty normal.

I’d recommend the Camry. Benchmark it against an Accord and see which one you like the most and you won’t be wrong. Mazda, Chevy and Ford all have strong entries in this segment, but I’d pick the Honda or the Toyota ahead of them.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: The Toyota Camry isn’t the sexiest or most exciting car, but that’s not really what this segment is about. Still, I found this model to be quite fetching, especially in white with black accents. The inside of the car is also sleek and attractive. Our tester had a red interior, which really makes the leather stand out and draw your attention away from the black plastic on top of the dash.

It’s also comfortable to drive. It’s quiet, and its suspension soaks up bumps in the road. It also has a decent amount of scoot. When I took it out of Eco mode and put it into Sport, I found the Camry eager to chase traffic down the highway. I made good use of adaptive cruise control in my morning commute, though.

The tech here is a mixed bag. I love having a nice, clear head-up display with lots of useful information on it. I had trouble connecting to the infotainment system via Bluetooth, but once I did get it set up, it did the things I needed — stream podcasts and take phone calls — just fine. I had a little bit of trouble fumbling through the menus, but I could probably get used to it given more time behind the wheel. At least I didn’t encounter some of the glitches we noticed the last time we had a Camry in the office.

Managing Editor Greg Rasa: I spent a week in a different XSE V6 than my colleagues, this one in vivid Ruby Flare Pearl, then spent a second week in a silver Hybrid XLE. (Both are shown in the gallery above.)

We’ve been telling you for a while now that the 2018 redesign is not your grandpa’s Camry. The V6 drivetrain is smooth and responsive. The interior is stylish. The exterior is downright good-looking from several angles. Just maybe not up front.

It was interesting to benchmark the well-equipped, $38,230 XLE V6 against the similarly equipped $37,245 Hybrid XLE. The Hybrid’s total output is 208 horsepower against the V6’s 301 hp, with a max of 163 pound-feet of torque against the V6’s 267 lb-ft. And the Hybrid gets a CVT instead of the eight-speed. So sure, it’s slower and less eager than the V6. But for a family car, it’s not glacial (0-to-60 in 7.4 seconds vs. the V6’s 5.8), and if you weren’t jumping straight into it from the V6, you wouldn’t be too disappointed.

The V6’s tachometer is replaced by the Hybrid’s charge vs. discharge meter and other mileage readouts to aid your frugal driving habits. Both cars have a clear, sharp head-up display, with the Hybrid’s able to convey some of the energy-management info.

The exteriors have slightly different gills and spoilers. And the grilles are different. Can’t say I liked one over the other. Both have roomy trunks. (The hybrid battery — in this trim it’s nickel hydride — is under the rear seat.) The cars also carry an array of driver-assist features, though lane-keeping seemed to work better over the same stretches of highway in the Hybrid tester than in the V6, which sometimes couldn’t detect the center line.

Both have several driving modes, with the Hybrid adding an EV setting that holds the powertrain in pure electric below about 17 mph, when the ICE invariably kicks in. However, if you stay out of EV mode, feather the accelerator and drive strategically, it’s easy to run electric-only at speeds well past 40 mph.

But driving style for the week was nowhere close to frugal, and the Hybrid returned an indicated mileage of 37.1 mpg, far less than its EPA ratings of 44 city, 47 highway, 46 combined. (The Hybrid in LE trim has a lithium-ion battery and is the mileage champ of the Camry lineup, with EPA ratings of 51 mpg city, 53 highway, 52 combined.) But I blame myself, not the car, and it’s still far better than the 20.7 mpg racked up in the V6. Both models have their strengths, and both are easy to like.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: While I wasn’t quite as smitten with the new Camry as I was with the new Accord, like Greg, I think it’s so close that the difference comes down to details. The Accord is far better looking both inside and out, but the Camry is offered in a wider variety of colors and trims. The Accord’s turbo-four offers plenty of off-the-line torque, but there’s no beating the Camry’s more powerful naturally-aspirated V6. It’s one of the best around. Then again, you can get the Accord with a manual transmission.

Inside, both cars feel about the same when it comes to fit and finish. Once again, I prefer clean styling in the Accord, but the Camry’s interior looks good, too (especially in this color). The Camry’s infotainment system is still subpar, but it seemed to work fine connecting to Bluetooth. At least both systems are back to using buttons.

Again, it’s a wash when it comes to ride, handling and comfort. They both tackle a corner with more grace than expected, though don’t expect German sport-sedan levels of performance. On straight roads, both the Camry and Accord relax into nice, comfortable and quiet cruisers. Like Greg said, drive both and see which one fits. Too many good options is far from a bad thing.

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