As a driver – you know, someone who actually enjoys the act of driving — you have to hand it to Toyota. At the North American Auto Show in Detroit where the latest Camry made its global debut, they brought out President Akio Toyoda – plus two NASCAR drivers – to talk about how the car actually drives.
Why is this so notable? Simply because the theme at this year’s show was all autonomy, all the time. It was to the point where many people in the press room agreed with me when I said that if I hear the words “autonomy”, “connected” or “cloud” one more time, it would be too soon.
Then here comes Toyota, introducing the latest version of its sedan-for-the-masses, the Camry, with NASCAR drivers – and yes, the new NASCAR racer, too – in tow. It was one of the busiest pressers of the day, and rightfully so when you consider just how important the car is to the brand. Over 380,000 cars sold in the US and just under 16,000 in Canada last year will have that effect.
And by the looks of things, this next gen Camry will continue the pace. If not more so, thanks to the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that will underpin many future cars. For the Camry, that means a new engine, transmission and platform.
It also looks the part; yes, it’s still quite obviously a Camry, but new features like two different grille styles (one for SE and XSE models, one for LE and XLE models), with the former getting a more aggressive front splitter, as well as 19 inch black-finish wheels. This is a stock Camry unlike any you’ve ever seen before.
TNGA is more than just an underbody change – it’s a completely new strategy to the way the company designed, engineers and packages its vehicles; it’s also led to the car being both extended and having its roof lowered, for a more planted stance as well as better body control thanks to a lower centre of gravity. What does this mean in real terms? It means the car will be more fun to drive, safer and more fuel efficient and also enables designers to have even more freedom to develop bolder styling for Toyota models. The standard LED taillights also do their part to make the Camry appear wider from the rear. Don’t think that the lower roof means a more confining interior; a lower beltline and adjusted A-pillar and wing mirrors mean the view out is even better than previous.
A little more in-keeping with traditional Camrys are the available powertrains: two gas engines – a 4 and a 6-cylinders – as well as a new generation of Toyota’s hybrid system. Toyota claims the latter is more exciting to drive thanks to the addition of a sport mode that uses electric power as kind of a boost under harder acceleration, and provides a faster-acting continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT).
While the driver concentrates on the driving, the passengers will get the chance to take in the 2018 Camry’s next party trick: a standard 8-inch infotainment display or optional premium JBL system that adds a 9” display screen, 9-speaker audio that can partially de-compress the audio you get from your MP3s or satellite radio. Both front occupants get newly designed, more ergonomic seats and all occupants will get to experience a cabin full of new materials and colours, including a striking brick red option. Again; it’s unlike any production Camry you’ve ever seen.
As far as the gas engines go: the four-cylinder gets faster fuel combustion as well as more power thanks to a longer stroke and higher compression ratio. The V6 gets new D-4S fuel injection and both engines are paired with all-new 8-speed automatic that provides direct lock-up in gears 2-8.
For 2018, the Camry also gets standard Toyota Safety Sense features, which provide a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert and auto high beams. The car can’t drive itself, but you can be darn sure it’s going to give the driver all the help he can get.
Look for the 2018 Camry to make its Canadian debut at the Canadian International Auto Show from February 17-26 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.