The latter part of this decade has seen an evolution in the traditional 4-door sedan. Vehicles like the Kia Stinger, Dodge Charger R/T, and now the 2018 Toyota Camry are fighting back in the turf war against the crossover vehicle. And the sedan’s weapon of choice: horsepower.
It’s getting more and more difficult to find a 4-door sedan that doesn’t have a sport mode somewhere in its interior, and -the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE is no different. It’s been redesigned and given an attitude adjustment. The sedan that used to be associated with doing well at being above average is now shown in TV ads running across a desert highway and putting smiles on driver’s faces. But is it a marketing gimmick, or does the Camry have ability to be an exciting driver’s car while offering space for the whole family?
INTERIOR – I first saw the new interior of the Camry at the Houston Auto Show exactly one year ago. The red interior caught my eye, and I stared long after getting what would typically be my visual fill. The model tested in this review was sporting a midnight black interior, which wasn’t as exciting to look at but very comfortable to sit in.
Dual climate control, electric seats, and adjustable lumbar support made driving the 2018 Camry XSE a real joy. A panoramic sunroof made an elegant impression on all passengers sharing a ride, and the ergonomics of the Camry’s interior were excellent. The gear lever was perfectly positioned at arm’s reach and liquid smooth to change gear. No fancy, unnecessary, Tetris-style shift pattern – just straight up and down like the glory days.
The 8-inch touchscreen display is user-friendly, thanks to clearly marked buttons along both its sides that give the driver shortcuts to different menu screens. The leather-wrapped steering wheel offers plenty of tools at the driver’s fingertips, like audio, phone, voice command and cruise control.
EXTERIOR – The name of the color on this Camry XSE is called Blue Streak. The black roof accent is a $500 option, and worth every penny. I never thought I would get double-take, head turns and stares driving a Toyota Camry. The two-tone paint gives the Camry a dapper look – like a Toyota dressed in a Lexus three-piece suit.
Since the XSE is the performance trim the Camry gets dual pipes with quad chrome exhaust tips. However, it won’t intimidate when it’s idling, or scream past you on the highway. The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE is a family car first, hot rod second.
A gloss black front grille with mesh inserts is one of the styling cues that tells people this Camry has some power behind its smoked tint LED headlamps. A set of 19-inch black alloy wheels complete the overall look of the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE. It tells the world that it’s no longer just a family sedan driven by strip mall accountants and Walgreen pharmacists. The car looks great. It’s upscale, modern, and confident.
SAFETY – The model tested came equipped with the optional Driver Assist Package, a $1,050 option that includes a Bird’s Eye View Camera that allows you to see a 360-degree display of the vehicle. This can be very useful if one’s driveway is crowded with bicycles, skateboards, pets, or small children.
Other new safety features include automated high-beams. The Toyota Camry knows when it is too dark, scans the road in front, and will switch on its high-beams to improve visibility. Then, it will switch them off if it sees oncoming traffic, or any large structure, so it doesn’t blind other motorists in the night.
Cool tech, but I don’t feel it’s necessary. It promotes the idea that we, as the driving public, are so distracted behind the wheel that we forget to switch on our high-beams at night. Or don’t switch them off for oncoming traffic, which is more believable, but we have a universal system that takes care of that – we flash our lights back at them.
Pre-collision warning, pedestrian detection and dynamic cruise control are all standard safety features on the 2018 Toyota Camry.
SPECS AND PERFORMANCE – Powering the Camry XSE is a 3.5 liter V6 putting out 301 horsepower, controlled by an 8-speed automatic. The drivetrain allows the Camry to accelerate from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds, and all the way to a limited top speed of 135 mph (don’t ask how I know).
The suspension is sport-tuned on the XSE to handle the added power. Independent front and rear suspension, with stabilizer bars front and back, sport shock absorbers and sport springs. It may have a sporty suspension but it is very forgiving when you’re just running errands around town, and a good balance between fun and comfort.
The 2018 Camry XSE is a V6, so gas mileage in the city is 22 mpg, 32 mpg on the highway, for an estimated average of 26 mpg. During my week with the Camry – and a fair amount of exuberant driving – I averaged 25 mpg, which isn’t. It holds 16 gallons, so a full tank gets you about 330 miles of range.
The 2018 Toyota Camry has 10 different trim levels, from base to hybrid and the XSE. Pricing ranges from $23K all the way into the high $30s. The model tested for this review had an MSRP of $38,325.
FINAL THOUGHTS – I was very impressed with the Camry XSE. It’s surprisingly quick, looks better in person while staying true to the comfort that is associated with its history as a family sedan.
At high speed, the Camry felt stable and reminded me of a traditional heavy sedan that floats over the miles, but with the added peace of mind that it can handle a turn if needed. Point the wheel and the Camry responses with agility and grace.
I didn’t go broke keeping fuel in its tank. The trunk could rival a New York City studio apartment, and you get a lot of safety features for your money. Toyota managed to find a good balance between what excites the heart and claims the mind in the new 2018 Camry.