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2018 Toyota Camry — Road Test logo 10/02/2018

a car parked on the side of a building

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The 2018 Toyota Camry is not only pushing the popular sedan into new territory, it’s essentially changing what it stands for. Text and Images: Amit Benjamin

That’s the 2018 Toyota Camry isn’t it? Looks great!

You can say that again. It is, by my reckoning, now the best-looking car in the segment. The Nissan Maxima is way overdesigned, the Honda Accord looks, well, boring, and I’m not a fan of the styling of either the Kia or the Hyundai equivalents; they are too derivative for my liking.

The Camry’s front meanwhile looks mean, the sides are nice and swoopy, and the rear (in our tester’s Grande guise, at least) even has a diffuser, although I would question its usefulness. To assert the car’s sportiness there are four exhaust tips too, even if the noise they make isn’t exactly exciting. Surprisingly though, the base 2.5-litre version has a meaner looking front fascia with a lower grille that spans the entire width of the car and gives it a bigger visual wallop.

  How does it drive?

The V6 Grande drives very, very well for what it is. The steering is nice and meaty; it’s got none of that disconnected, vacant front-wheel drive feeling. The engine is the proven 3.5-litre V6 good for 298 horsepower here and even though it doesn’t feel urgent, there is plenty of go. The 305 horsepower Chevrolet Impala is peppier, however.

It’s got three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport (!) but the dynamic behavior does not change discernibly, no matter which setting you’re in. The new eight-speed auto is smooth and is a welcome change in the segment, with almost everyone else opting for a dreadful CVT.

The new Camry rides superbly well too. In fact, you could even call this a cut-price Lexus. Which it probably is because it will likely form the underpinnings of the next-generation ES — you should be able to experience one as soon as it’s launched via the Uber/Careem app.

  Is the cabin improved? What about the kit?

The interior is a vast improvement over the current car in many ways. The fit and finish, of course, is top notch, but it seems a lot more effort has gone into making it all look and feel nice and pleasant. The central console is suitably premium with an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen and gloss black buttons and switches that do not look like they were picked out of the bargain basement. Rear accommodation is more than adequate for six-foot passengers and there are two USB ports out back for iPhone users, I suspect.

You get a reversing camera, blind-spot indicator parking sensors, electronic parking brake with auto-hold function, a powered rear sun shade, sun roof, a six-speaker audio system and wireless charging… So it’s reasonably equipped but there are cars that have more tech at this price point. However, and I thought I’d never say this, the new Camry is rather agreeable to be in. It surpassed my every expectation.

  Anything else I need to know?

Yes – prices for the 2.5-litre base version start at AED91,000, with our top-end V6 Grande version going for a relatively chunkier AED122,500, so it is competitively priced. I can’t comment on the 2.5-litre version just yet, because I haven’t driven it.

Should I buy one then?

Admittedly, I am thoroughly impressed by the 2018 Toyota Camry. It drives well, rides superbly, it’s spacious, economical (over my week of testing it scored a fantastic 8.0 litres per 100km on average) and there is genuine effort expended in its styling, both inside and out. And since this is a Toyota it will hold its value and scoff at half-a-million kilometres. But the biggest reason I like the new Camry isn’t because of any of those things. This is the first Camry, that along with being practical, is actually likeable. And that is its biggest achievement.

Motoring journalists often use the Camry as a whipping boy when it comes to describing boring cars. It’s time to find a new punchline.

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