In January 2017, Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda has issued a companywide decree for "no more boring cars." The all-new 2018 Camry is proof the company has taken the order serious, especially the sporty XSE version. It can be ordered with a 3.5-liter V6 that pumps out 301 horsepower and comes with a front end designed for the company-sponsored NASCAR race cars.
In fact, the mid-size Camry XSE looks so much like a Lexus — which is the luxury branded owned by Toyota — that a lot of people are going to have trouble telling them apart, at least at first glance.
All Lexus sedans boast more refined interiors with higher quality interiors. And they are available with more powerful engines. But the interior of the our test XSE was very nice and the V6 was plenty strong, especially in Sport mode. We suspect a lot of buyers will be perfectly happy with the less expensive Camry.
Before Toyoda's decree, Toyota had a well deserved reputation for making affordable and reliable vehicles that delivered a lot of value for the price — but which were, as he admitted, a little dull. The newest models are definately challenging that last part with sharper exterior styling, improved interiors, and better performance. While our test Camry was not a genuine sport sedan, it was faster and handled better than any previous Camry we've tested.
But Toyota is not expecting everyone to want an XSE. In fact, the company offers 10 versions of new Camry, beginng with the base SE, which starts at $23,495 and comes with a 203-horsepower 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine. They continue through three trim levels with V6 engines and three trim levels with hybrid powerplants.
Most buyers will probably choose a four-cylinder version of the new Camry. That would be consisent with the car's history as one of the most popular affordable family cars in the world. The value is certainly there. The 2018 Camry is roomy and more comfortable than every, with a striking dash that features an angular slab of black plastic to hold the dispaly screen and most of the controls.
All Camry's are also available with the company's Toyota Safety Sense active safety package that includes a pre-collision warning system with pedesrian detection, blind spot moniotring and more. It is included in the XSE trim level. In a week of driving, we found it to be very well tuned. While some safety systems overreact to just about everything, the TSS-P system simply kept us on our toes without proving overly annoying.
Our Camry also came with other options, including a large sunroof and upgraded stereo with a CD players, which is getting hard to find in cars these days.
Toyota's newfound focus on more exciting vehicles is welcome these days, and the 2018 Camry XSE V6 proves the results are more than cosmetic (although the cosmetics are spot on). Anyone looking for an affordable family car with a little pizzazz should check it out.
2018 Camry XSE
Base price: $35,835
Price as tested: About $38,000
Style: Midsize sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (301 hp, 267 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic Eco, Normal, Sport and manual shift modes
EPA fuel economy: 22/33
Length: 192.1 inches
Weight: 3,571 pounds
Final assembly point: Georgetown, Kentucky