2018 Toyota Camry Review
Isaac Bober’s first drive 2018 Toyota Camry Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: All-new eighth-generation Toyota Camry is now fully imported into Australia, looks new on the inside and out and gets a standard safety suite that’ll put many to shame.
2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SL (tested)
Price $40,990+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/electric motor – hybrid Power 131kW at 5700rpm (160kW combined) Torque 221Nm at 3600rpm Transmission CVT Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4885-4905mm (L); 1840mm (W); 1445mm (H); 2825mm (WB) Boot Space 524 litres Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 60L (50L hybrid) Thirst 4.2-4.5L/100km
FOR THE LAST 23 years, the Toyota Camry has dominated the medium car segment and Toyota is predicting it will continue to do so into 2018. But it’s not all back-slapping and high-fives in the office with Toyota Australia acknowledging there will be a drop off in volume.
This new eighth-generation Camry might be all-new from bumper to bumper and promise more in the way of performance, comfort and technology but it’s also now fully imported (via Japan) which can be a double-edged sword. Meaning, some won’t be bothered that it’s now imported totally from Japan, although the manufacturing loss is significant to Australia, but it also means the Camry will have to stand on its own two feet. There’ll be no cash incentives from the Government allowing for aggressive pricing. The Camry will have added battle of trying to woo buyers increasingly turning their backs on sedans in favour of SUVs.
What is the Toyota Camry?
Well, it’s the dominant medium-sized car on the Australian new car market and has been for the last 23 years. Toyota is expecting it to finish on top in 2017, making 24 years running, and is bullish of its ability to dominate again in 2018. And, on the face of it, the Japanese car maker which is transitioning its business here from a manufacturer to an importer, just like Holden (but without the unpredictability of losing its big-name product in 2021) and Ford, has reason to be confident.
The all-new Camry, says Toyota, is focussed on performance and technology, but I’d suggest safety should also be a key pillar. Across the range, the brand is offering its full safety suite. But the headline grabber is the fact the new Camry is the brand’s first sedan to be built off its Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) a platform we’ve experienced already in Australia under the tiny-tot C-HR.
The Camry gets an all-new design inside and out, and more room too thanks to a wheelbase that’s grown 50mm to 2825mm. Toyota claim the TNGA allowed for a 40mm lower bonnet height and thinner A-pillars for improved forward visibility, it also, Toyota claims, made for improved torsional rigidity (up 30%).
But there are other firsts for the new Camry, including direct fuel-injection engines, double-wishbone rear suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, drive mode select, LED head lamps, an electric parking brake, 10-inch head-up display an opening panoramic roof, active cruise control and a pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking.
At the local launch, held in Coffs Harbour, Toyota’s senior divisional manager sales and marketing Sean Hanley said: “All-new Camry builds on the car’s proven reputation for quality, durability, reliability, space, comfort and safety while injecting greater visual appeal and a fun driving experience with rapid acceleration and crisp handling”.
Prices are up and down across the board, see the table below, but you do need to consider the pricing in the context of current Camry pricing. Admittedly the brand had a commitment to local manufacturing and set aggressive targets to keep the workers working until October but it means that you can currently by a Camry, driveaway, for much less than the list price of a new one. That will change once the current supply of vehicles runs out, though.
2018 Toyota Camry Pricing:
- Ascent $27,690+ORC (+$1200)
- Ascent Sport $29,990+ORC (-$200)
- SX $33,290+ORC (-$200)
- SL $39,990+ORC (+$2550)
- Ascent $29,990+ORC (-$500)
- Ascent Sport $31,990+ORC (-$1200)
- SL $40,990+ORC (+$550)
- SX $37,290+ORC (-$6700)
- SL $43,990+ORC (-$6450)
Like the C-HR, the new Camry gets a five-year fixed-price servicing plan but still only gets a three-year warranty which is a long way off key competitors, like Hyundai.
What’s the interior like?
The Camry does indeed feel more premium than any other Camry that’s gone before, with a dashboard design that’s neatly laid out and swathed in soft touch plastics. The front seats are comfortable with the driver’s seat across all variants offering good adjustment.
The lower bonnet line (down by 25mm compared with the old car) and thinner A-pillars have made for improved forward vision, while vision right around, from the driver’s seat, remains good.
The wheelbase stretch of 50mm (to 2825mm) has clearly allowed for more room inside the Camry, with backseat passengers likely to notice extra legroom. But, depending on the size of your backseat passenger, they might also feel as if the 40mm lower roofline has reduced headroom in the back. And, depending on the variant, it has.
If you select a model with a panoramic roof then headroom is greatly reduced to the point where my head only cleared the roof by a couple of centimetres when sat in the fixed front passenger seat, of the variant I was testing, and in the back, too. See, while Toyota tried to keep its glass roof as thin as possible, it’s an opening roof and so requires a bulky mechanism. This means, that while headroom is technically unchanged from the last model to this one that’s only really true if you’ve got a variant without a space-robbing panoramic roof. That said, variants with electric adjust for both driver and front passenger will be able to lower the seats to free up more headroom.
Beyond the headroom gripe, the backseat is comfortable with enough room, in a pinch, to fit three adults across the back. There are ISOFIX mounts on the two outboard seats, storage pouches on the backs of the front seats, rear air vents across the range and twin USB outlets at the back of the centre console too. There’s also wireless charging in the front of the car (on SX and SL), a Camry first, which is switchable (meaning it can be turned on and off); I tested it out with my iPhone 8 (which is the first iPhone to offer wireless charging) and it worked each time, and I tried it out on a variety of cars in the range.
The new Camry is the first model to debut Toyota’s new infotainment unit and while it doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, Toyota claims it’s a feature-rich infotainment unit (which is a 7.0-inch unit on Ascent and 8.0-inches on other variants). Admittedly, my time to fiddle with the system was limited to only a few minutes but without any Toyota Link apps loaded that’s really all it took to plumb the depths of the system. Toyota claims improved voice recognition but I couldn’t test out that claim (the drive time with the Camry was only a few hours long) – I’ll offer a final assessment after spending some more time with the Camry.
The sat-nav was easy enough to use and seems a solid generational improvement on the sat-nav in Toyota’s of old, but I can’t help but think that, at this price point, Toyota really should have bit the bullet and made Apple and Android connectivity a priority for this new system. And that’s because, while the system is new, the graphics and design make it feel a generation old already. There’s a digital speedo across all variants while the SL gets a 10-inch colour head-up display.
The boot is well shaped and offers 493 litres of storage space on the Ascent, because it gets a full-sized spare, and 524 litres on other models which only get a space saver spare. And this is an odd one; see, there’s room for a full-size spare in the wheel well in the boot but Toyota said it won’t offer a full-size spare on anything other than the entry-level Ascent.
In the end, whether you choose an entry or a top-spec car, the new Camry will feel more premium than it ever has before with a sharper interior design and more functionality too. But, despite Toyota’s hard work, the new Camry’s interior doesn’t elevate it to the top of the medium-car pack; it’s good but it’s still not as good looking or premium feeling as anything from the Volkswagen Group (VW or Skoda) or either Mazda or Subaru. That said, if you’re trading up from one Camry to another, then this thing will feel like a million bucks.
What’s it like on the road?
As I mentioned, my drive time in the new Camry was limited to around three hours only and I had to share the driving with another motoring scribe – I drove the hybrid variant. I was also unfamiliar with the roads we drove across and so will temper my drive impression accordingly.
Being the first sedan to be built on the Toyota New Global Platform, said Toyota, allowed its engineers to tune the new Camry for improved ride and handling. “The new TNGA-inspired underpinnings deliver a lower centre of gravity which contributes to making Camry more agile with better overall performance during accelerating, braking and cornering,” it reads in the press guff.
Key changes are that TNGA allows for a lower centre of gravity and, in the hybrid, with the battery now moved from the boot to underneath the back seat, weight is concentrated towards the middle of the machine. The front and rear track is wider and the rear suspension is new…on paper it all reads like making the Camry a contender in the ride and handling stakes.
And, most of the time it does feel good. It’s comfortable and there’s decent body control through corners. But, after talking with other hacks at the launch, there’s clearly a lot of variation throughout the range, so I’m keen to get behind the wheel of the entire range and put them across PM’s own drive loop. See, when we started to lean on the Camry its around town comfort and control began to unravel exhibiting, on the hybrid variant we tested, bump steer which is that sensation you get when turning into a corner, hitting a series of bumps and the vehicle will change its angle on the road.
The suspension ran out of travel across bumps and ruts that my seat of the pants measure suggested other vehicles in this segment wouldn’t have, and the steering felt slow. And that’s despite Toyota’s engineers tweaking the motor-driven power assist. And, as the speed increased and the corners became more demanding, the Camry revealed that it prefers to jog than sprint.
So, what about the performance of the hybrid. Well, despite turning the car off when it was already on it’s a decent, lusty engine/electric motor combination. The Camry Hybrid runs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 131kW at 5700rpm (or a combined 160kW with the electric motor in play) and 221Nm of torque. This is mated to a CVT and consumes anywhere between 4.2-4.5L/100km depending on the variant (claimed combined).
While I’ve never really understood the point of Toyota’s hybrids in this country which tend to only have a pure EV range of around 2km. There’s no denying the usefulness of a silent start if you leave for work early in the morning and don’t want to wake up the entire household when you leave. Toyota does offer plug-in hybrids which are altogether more sensible, but not Australia. It should. Moving on.
The throttle pedal feels quite soft and does take a little while to get used to and the same goes for the brake which is the direct opposite and grabs almost immediately thanks to regenerative braking. The CVT does a good job and responds well to the throttle with none of the stretchy droning associated with CVTs of old.
In the end, it’s a good car with decent body control but the lack of local input into the ride and handling tune has, I feel, hurt the Camry which doesn’t feel as composed as its predecessors have.
What about safety features?
Well, just after the press conference finished, ANCAP announced a five-star rating for the new Camry. See, Toyota has gone all out to make sure the Camry, no matter the variant, gets plenty of safety equipment. As standard, there’s Pre-Collision Safety System (Autonomous Emergency Braking), Lane Departure Alert with steering assist, seven SRS airbags, vehicle stability control, traction control, ABS anti-skid brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist, Hill-start Assist Control, Brake Hold and Trailer Sway Control. As you walk through the grade, things like auto high beam, all-speed cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert and rain-sensing wipers appear.
The safety suite is too complicated, for instance, you can turn on lane departure warning which will beep at you when you wander out of the lane, but unknowingly the steering assist component can be switched off… this happened on the vehicle I was testing and while the system beeped, I wandered into the other lane expecting some steering assistance to pull me back into line. It wasn’t obvious as to whether this feature was on or off, either.
We’ll have a more complete breakdown of the all the Camry’s safety features once we’ve spent more time with it.
So, what do we think?
The new Camry is clearly an improvement over the old model but is the best car in the segment now? No, not quite. That said, if you’re looking for a comfortable, feature-packed vehicle that looks the best it ever has on the inside and out then the new Camry should be on your shopping list.