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2018 Toyota Camry First Test Review: Big Improvement but is it Enough?

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/13/2017 Motor Trend Staff
2018-Toyota-Camry-2-5-XLE-steering-wheel-01.jpg

The Toyota Camry is still the one to beat in the midsize car segment. Sales through October of this year already total 308,759. The only other sedan close to that level is the Honda Accord at 277,542 for the first 10 months.

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So with everyone in the field gunning for the all-new 2018 Camry, we were anxious to get some of our own test numbers to see if the king has pedigree worthy of retaining the crown for the foreseeable future.

The Camry XSE still boasts a V-6 under the hood in a segment where others are dropping the larger displacement engine for turbocharged four-cylinders that often generate greater power than the engines they replaced.

Related Video: 2018 Toyota Camry Quick Drive (Provided by Consumer Reports)

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That is the route Honda took with the Accord, replacing its 3.5-liter V-6 with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder derived from the Civic Type R producing 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. It can be paired with a 10-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission.

The Camry's 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It should be enough to take the checkered flag, but our testing found the V-6 got the Camry from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and the 2018 Accord 2.0T Touring got to the line in 5.7 seconds—but only when the turbo-four is mated to the 10-speed automatic. When we tested the Accord with the six-speed manual, it took 6.2 seconds.

a car parked on the side of a road© Motor Trend Staff

What about the Camry XLE with a naturally aspirated 203-hp 2.5-liter I-4? It needed 7.6 seconds to complete the 0-60-mph dash.

Let's stretch the run to see the power of the V-6 kick in. The Camry XSE did the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds—but so did the Accord with the turbo-four and 10-speed. Hmmmm.

a car parked on the side of a road© Motor Trend Staff

On the plus side, the Camry XSE beat the 2017 Sonata and Kia Optima turbo-fours in 0-60 and the quarter mile

The 2017 Chevy Malibu with a turbo-four and nine-speed beats the Camry's XSE by going 0-60 mph in a quicker 5.7 seconds, but the cars tie in the quarter mile.

The 2017 Ford Fusion Sport EcoBoost with a twin-turbo V-6 smokes the pack in both tests.

But the reality is the Camry buyer is rarely a track rat or first to engage the neighboring car to race at the next light.

The Camry buyer does care about safety, and the 3,665-pound XSE has decent but not class-leading stopping power. It came to a halt from 60 mph in 123 feet while the 3,492-pound XLE needed one less foot to come to a full stop. That compares with the lighter 3,286-pound Accord 2.0T Sport, which stopped in an impressive 109 feet, and the 3,424-pound Touring, which needed 116 feet.

a car parked on the side of a road© Motor Trend Staff

Overall, we found the Camry relatively quiet on the road, with a few refinement lapses: the engine note at idle is a louder and less pleasing than others in the class. The chassis performed well on all surfaces, handling exceeded expectations on a winding course, helped by the car's weight loss. But we were at a loss to discern any difference in Sport mode.

The Camry looks expensive from a distance, but some issues cheapen the experience. The doors open so wide it is a stretch to grab them from inside the car. And they make a tinny sound when you close them, a surprising oversight. It is more pronounced in the LE hybrid we tested. But overall, the hybrid's 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated toan electric motor suits the personality of the Camry better, said features editor Christian Seabaugh.

Another distracting sound is the hydraulics when you set or release the parking brake.

a car parked in a parking lot© Motor Trend Staff

Technical editor Frank Markus took one look at our XSE tester with bordello red leather seats and wondered whether the car was writing sportiness checks it couldn't pay out on.

Yes and no. Yes, it is the sportiest Camry we have seen, and we applaud Toyota for the big improvement. And yes, hundreds of thousands of loyal buyers will be pleased. And if they never test drive the new Accord, they will never know what they might be missing. Sadly, the answer might be "no" when you look at the broader field.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE front three quarter in motion 07© Motor Trend Staff 2018 Toyota Camry XSE front three quarter in motion 07

Read more about the 2018 Camry here:

2018 Toyota Camry XLE2018 Toyota Camry XSE (V6)2018 Toyota Camry LE Hybrid
BASE PRICE $29,345$35,845$28,695
PRICE AS TESTED $33,865$38,230$31,600
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE2.5L/203-hp/184-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-43.5L/301-hp/267-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-62.5L/176-hp/163-lb-ft plus 118-hp/149-lb-ft front electric motor; 208 hp combined
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic8-speed automaticCont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,492 lb (59/41%)3,665 lb (60/40%)3,584 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 111.2 in111.2 in111.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 192.1 x 72.4 x 56.9 in192.7 x 72.4 x 56.9 in192.1 x 72.4 x 56.9 in
0-60 MPH 7.6 sec5.8 sec7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.9 sec @ 90.2 mph14.3 sec @ 99.6 mph15.6 sec @ 92.6 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft123 ft125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.81 g (avg)0.82 g (avg)0.75 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.3 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)26.7 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)27.8 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 28/39/32 mpg22/32/26 mpg51/53/52 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 120/86 kW-hrs/100 miles153/105 kW-hrs/100 miles66/64 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.60 lb/mile0.76 lb/mile0.37 lb/mile

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