2018 Toyota Camry: Giving the people what they want

Thursday , October 12, 2017 - 4:44 AM

Warren Brown

Special To The Washington Post.

The Toyota Camry has been sold worldwide since 1982. It was introduced in the U.S. market in 1987, and it has been manufactured here since 1988 by Toyota Motors Manufacturing in Georgetown, Kentucky.

It has been one of the best-selling automobiles in the United States since the late 1980s, continues to be a top-seller today and, based on samples of 2018 Camry models recently driven in Northern Virginia, it promises to be one of the country’s best-selling cars for many years to come.

Why? It is the magic of diversity - a Japanese-sponsored car designed and engineered by Japanese and Americans, manufactured by Americans and Japanese who have shown over the decades they understand the American motoring soul better than most of their competitors. The 2018 Camry proves they haven’t lost their touch.

Toyota is to be congratulated for psychologically outmaneuvering its rivals, particularly those in Detroit.

When I was a young automotive journalist knocking on corporate doors in the Motor City, I was trying to figure out why General Motors, Ford and what once was Chrysler Corp. steadily were losing so much market share to Toyota, which is now the world’s largest automotive retailer.

It just didn’t make sense to me. How could Detroit allow this to happen? In later years, seasoned by lots of U.S. and foreign travel, I began paying close attention to what I call the “Toyota Camry Philosophy.” It works like this and continues to be manifested in the 2018 Camry models:

- Give people cars that work well all the time. Customers don’t want to wonder if a car will start. They want to know that it will start and perform to expectations all the time.

- “Fit and finish” is more than a marketing cliche. It is a product promise. If it is good, it is likely that the whole product is good.

- Most car buyers don’t care about “prestige,” which too often is a marketing term used to justify extravagant cost for over-the-top engineering and design. Look around any highway in any country. You won’t find that many Lamborghinis. You will find Toyota Camrys almost everywhere.

The 2018 Camry cars are lower, sleeker - better looking, in fact - than their predecessors. Clearly, someone at Toyota has taken seriously the criticism that previous Camry styling was dull.

The new styling is not dull. It is attractive inside and out. But it is not stupid. It is not Toyota pretending to be something other than Toyota; nor is it the Camry puffing up its grille or price tag to be something other than a good, middle-income car that any gainfully employed person can enjoy and be proud of.

It is a front-wheel-drive car made available in five trim levels: L, LE, SE, XSE, and XLE. Hint: Get the popularly equipped SE trim with the Toyota Safety Sense package, which gives you blind-side monitoring, lane-departure warning and other capabilities.

You have a choice of two gasoline engines - a 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder model and a 3.5-liter, 301-horsepower V-6. You get more oomph with the V-6, which also delivers 267 pound-feet of torque. You save more fuel with the four-cylinder engine (184 pound-feet of torque).

Both engines use regular-grade gasoline. A gasoline-electric hybrid model is available - a net 208 horsepower with about 52 miles per gallon on the highway. The four-cylinder engine will give you 30 mpg on the highway, and the V-6 will give you smoother going and more pep at about 26 mpg in highway driving.

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Nuts & Bolts

2018 Toyota Camry

Bottom line: I jumped in and out of all of the 2018 models at the Toyota ride-and-drive event in Mount Vernon, Va. I liked them all but would recommend the SE with Toyota Safety Sense.

Ride, acceleration and handling: You won’t be disappointed - good enough in all respects for motorists who take traffic laws seriously. Handling (in the SE) was surprisingly good on curves.

Body style/layout: The Camry is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive sedan.

Head-turning quotient: The 2018 Camry probably is the best-looking Camry ever. But it is not so different that it will turn off traditional Camry lovers.

Engines/transmission: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter V-6 are available. Also available is a gasoline-electric hybrid. The gasoline-only models get an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity ranges from 14.1 cubic feet to 15.1 cubic feet depending on trim level. Same goes for fuel tank: 14.5 gallons to 16 gallons depending on trim level. Regular-grade fuel is fine.

Real-world mileage in the Camry SE: We (assistant Victoria Manglapus and myself) averaged about 30 miles per gallon.

Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; stability and traction control; pre-collision safety system; blind-spot monitoring; lane-departure warning; and side and head air bags.

Pricing: Base prices for the gasoline models range from $23,495 to $34,950. Hybrid models range from $27,000 to $32,250. Dealers are willing to bargain.

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