2018 Toyota Camry SL V6 Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Toyota Camry SL V6 review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The V6-toting Camry SL is swathed in leather and all the active safety bits and bobs you could imagine. It looks good, is comfortable and not terrible to drive.
2018 Toyota Camry SL V6
Price $43,990+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.5-litre V6 Power 224kW at 6600rpm Torque 362Nm at 4700rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4905mm (L); 1840mm (W); 1445mm (H); 2825mm (WB) Weight 1625-1630kg Boot Space 524 litres Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 8.7L/100km claimed combined
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THE ALL-NEW from bumper to bumper Toyota Camry arrived here in late November 2017 and while we’ve sampled the hybrid variant since our launch review, we had yet to try out the top-spec V6-powered SL. Now we have.
The new Camry is facing the same changing landscape as the new ZB Commodore. Neither one is built here anymore and SUVs are continuing to dominate automotive sales. Both brands are expecting their sales to slump, although Toyota still believes the Camry will continue as the country’s best-selling mid-size car; a position it’s held for 23 years.
What is the Toyota Camry?
This is the first sedan to be built on the Toyota New Global Platform following in the wheel tracks of the Prius and C-HR, along with the soon to launch Corolla and Rav4. Toyota claims its TNGA architecture allows for a lower centre of gravity in its vehicles, greater torsional rigidity (improved by 30%) and thus improved dynamism.
The Camry gets an all-new design inside and out, and more room too thanks to a wheelbase that’s grown 50mm to 2825mm. The bonnet line is lower and the A-pillars are thinner for improved forward visibility. Indeed, Toyota says this new Camry is the biggest generational change since the Camry debuted in 1983.
Our test car, was the Camry SL V6. The V6 in the Camry is a ‘newly-developed’ 3.5-litre V6 that replaces the Camry’s old 3.5L V6. It’s got more power than the old engine and is more fuel efficient, and it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This is the vehicle that goes head-to-head with the Holden Calais-V we reviewed earlier in the week. Stay tuned for a head-to-head on those two vehicles.
The SL V6 lists at $43,990+ORC which is a $6450 price difference compared to the old car. In terms of key features, the SL adds to the SX with stuff like blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, 18-inch alloys, bodykit, panoramic glass roof, leather interior, powered adjustment for steering wheel, 10-inch head-up display, powered driver and passenger seat, ventilated (but not heated) front seats, rain-sensing wipers and more. It is impressively kitted out.
But the Camry’s achilies heel, like other Toyotas, is the fact it’s only offered with a three-year, 100,000km warranty, although a five-year fixed-price service plan helps offset that somewhat with the five scheduled services costing $195.
What’s the interior like?
As we’ve noted in other reviews, the interior of the Camry feels pretty special compared to its predecessor. There’s a greater use of soft touch, and quality plastics with typical Toyota fit and finish. The dashboard sweeps across the car and while it lacks some of the design flourish of the Commodore Calais-V with its wraparound dashboard, but it looks and feels modern enough to pass muster.
The Camry SL V6 has a leather swathed cabin and, on our tester, it was a beige coloured leather that I’m positive won’t stand up to family use. Indeed, the leather was already starting to show black scuff marks in the back where journalists have obviously been fitting child seats. That said, the materials used, like the leather and carpet feel solid, just maybe don’t go with beige.
The dashboard is largely dominated by, on our SL V6, an 8.0-inch infotainment screen which debuts Toyota’s latest-generation system. Other models feature a 7.0-inch unit. Toyota really did miss a trick to include Apple and Android phone mirroring, instead you’ve got to rely on Bluetooth for phone calls, and either Bluetooth or USB tethering for media streaming.
There’s native sat-nav included but the system’s not as good as using Google Maps on your phone; and the voice control functionality isn’t the best system we’ve sampled. The graphics aren’t amazing and beyond the sat-nav, media connectivity and some basic vehicle functionality there isn’t a whole lot going on…this might be the latest generation system but it still feels a generation behind the competition. Sure, you can load and use the Toyota Link app to unlock additional functionality but beyond that the system is simple.
There is wireless phone charging for compatible phones in the Camry and it’s switchable, which is good. I used it to charge my iPhone8 through a rugged case and it worked every time.
The front seats are comfortable and not the broad, featureless seats Toyota used to fit in the Camry. They’re not as supportive as those in the Calais-V, but they’re not too bad. Where I struggled was headroom. With a panoramic sunroof fitted I constantly brushed my head across the ceiling as climbed in and every time I shifted in the seat I’d bump the roof. Indeed, I only had a hand’s width of room above my head and the roof. Taller drivers would struggle for sure.
There’s eight-way adjustment for the front seats but you can’t get them low enough to avoid touching the roof. The steering wheel is also power adjustable but it doesn’t raise any higher or move in and out more than variants with manual adjust steering. The steering doesn’t raise high enough and while you’ll get used to it, I never felt totally comfortable with it; always wanting an extra inch of height adjustment.
Over into the back seats and there’s a decent amount of room but the fit and finish on the leather trimming isn’t as good as the Calais-V. There’s plenty of legroom but, like the front seat, the sunroof robs rear seat headroom. The door openings aren’t particularly big and while my kids didn’t have any issues getting in and out of the backseat, I found that I needed to duck my head each time I climbed in and out. And the doors are very light, which is great for kids to open and close them, but they feel and sound tinny when you shut them.
There are ISOFIX connections for the two outboard seats and top tether anchors across the parcel shelf. The two outboard seats are comfortable and well-shaped but the middle seat is a perch and so, like the new Commodore, this is really only a four seater. At the back of the centre console are two USB outlets and directional air vents for those in the back seat.
The back seats are 60:40 split fold and you can lower them via levers in the boot. The boot offers 524 litres of storage and more when you lower the back seats but the space isn’t conducive to loading bigger items; the back seats don’t fold flat and the gap they leave is narrower than the boot width which is awkward. The entry-level Camry gets a full-size spare but it’s the only with all other variants getting a space saver spare.
What’s it like on the road?
Toyota have made a lot of noise about the V6 in the Camry and so they should. It’s a lusty if unsophisticated feeling donk. The 3.5-litre V6 isn’t the same unit as the last Camry V6 (2006) and it offers 224kW at 6600rpm and 362Nm of torque at 4700rpm. This is mated to an eight-speed automatic and the combination drinks down a claimed combined 8.7L/100km although in our week with the thing we averaged a little higher than that at 10.7L/100km. And with a 60L tank range isn’t amazing.
Around town the Camry SL V6 is comfortable if it’s not hurried. There’s plenty of torque to rest on and if you’re not asking the transmission to work too hard then it all feels quite smooth. Some of the shine is knocked off, in my opinion, by the noises some of the controls make; like, for instance, when you take your foot off the brake it clunks and the same with the throttle pedal. Take off ‘too quickly’ and you’ll get wheelspin as the thing clumsily tries to cope with the 362Nm of torque being poured into the front wheels. And you’ll get that wheelspin in the wet or dry.
Move away from town and ask the transmission to work harder, like, when you’re on a twisty road and it doesn’t feel at all like an eight-speed transmission; it comes off feeling more like a clumsy six-speed auto. It’ll thump back into a gear and jolt the car when it’s trying to shift from, say, eight to third…and that happened to me every time. Driven gently the transmission is smooth and keen to plump for top gear quickly to ensure optimum fuel efficiency, but it becomes clumsy when rushed.
Shifting into manual mode and using the paddles makes it a little better but this is a Camry and no matter what Toyota says about the dynamic prowess of its new chassis, the Camry is not a corner carver. It’s fine up to about 6/10th…any more than that and it struggles.
Out on the Practical Motoring road loop and the suspension feels set-up to offer comfort first with a softer ride than you get in the Calais-V and with none of that car’s mid-corner dynamic composure. The damping feels underdone with the car quick to slam into its bump stops before taking one or two too many oscillations before settling again. It’s a ride set-up that Americans would love but that doesn’t necessarily suit Australian roads.
Across well-graded dirt the Camry’s composure is okay if the speed is low. Again, as the speed rises the suspension struggles to cope with bigger hits or constant ripples in the surface. And if one of the wheels becomes light you’ll get wheelspin.
The steering is light and feel free and it feels slow, too. But it suits the nature of the vehicle. Despite all its oomph, its big wheels and trick bodykit, the SL V6 is designed for crushing highways not twisting back roads, and that’s okay.
What about safety?
The new Camry gets a five-star ANCAP rating across the range, in part, thanks to Toyota making its basic active safety suite standard on all variants, this includes 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. The SL we’re testing adds rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
In addition, there seven airbags, traction and stability controls, ISOFIX mounts on the outboard back seats, immobilizer and alarm, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
So, what do we think?
It’s nice to see a thumping V6 in a Camry but overall the package comes off feeling clumsy with the front end, suspension and transmission struggling to contain that grunt when pushed. The ride is composed and comfortable around town but quickly falls apart as the speed rises. And while there’s plenty of creature comforts, the Camry doesn’t sparkle as bright as some of its key competitors.