If you’ve been following along with us at The Engine Block, you know that we have our fingers right on the pulse of the sedan market. I mean, we have remarkable insight. Revolutionary intel, we say. Data that will certainly alter your purchasing patterns. The sedan is…
Wait for it…
There! In fairness, we did say that our intel was revolutionary and would change consumer purchasing habits, which is true. Anyway, once known for reliability and efficiency, without excessive flare or drastic change, the sedan served its purpose and for a long time. However, the world demands change these days, and other auto categories seem happy to supply it.
But if (by a snowball chance in hell) the sedan has any way to keep its head above water, swimming with the midsize trucks, SUVs, and crossovers, Toyota has one of the best chances to do so and accomplish the task with flair! Who would’ve known? When one of its mainstays, the Camry, found itself toeing the line of endangered species, the automaker knew it had to innovate or perish.
Sink or Swim
“After seven generations of Camry, our biggest challenge was to forget. This one isn’t a Camry. It’s a new car,” Toyota Vehicle Performance Leader Yoichi Mizuno told Motor Trend last year. But if there’s one value Toyota managed to hold onto, it’s the ability to relate to those in need of an affordable ride. Starting at $23,495, the 2018 Toyota Camry makes for a smart investment for those getting their first new vehicle. And until recently, that was enough to hook drivers to the badge for life. Now it needs to engage in trench warfare and explore the frontiers of the technological Wild West.
What’s Under the Hood?
The Toyota Camry features a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine. Comparable to previous years, the engine generates 206 hp and 186 lb-ft, which is plenty compared to the meager expectations of the modern sedan. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard as well. The next tier trim carries a 3.5-liter V-6 with Toyota’s direct- and port-injection system. But the model also ventures into the eco-conscious realm with a hybrid that now features the revised 2.5-liter I-4 and a lithium-ion battery in all but the base trim level.
Speaking of which, the hybrid system of the Camry has been overhauled and drastically improved. The SE and XLE trims (holding a NiMH battery) boast a 44/47 mpg city/highway, improving 4 and 10 mpg respectively. But the real hybrid hero is the LE trim level. This trim runs a little smaller in the tires and possesses a lighter lithium-ion battery. But thanks to these adjustments, it gets 51 mpg city and 53 mpg highway. That blows the 2017 hybrid model’s respective 42 mpg and 38 mpg out of the water. As reported by Car and Driver, this 52 mpg combined “matches the Prius Three’s and makes it America’s most fuel-efficient mid-size hybrid sedan.” Complacency be damned.
A Little Nip/Tuck
There have been some cosmetic shifts for the Camry as well. And to be frank, they were much needed. The now larger cabin has quilted leather seats and a moon roof for a more sophisticated aesthetic. It’s also got some tech toys, with an (optional) Entune 3.0 infotainment package, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, three USB ports, navigation, and a nine-speaker JBL stereo. The outside goes sleek with a sloping roofline, complementing its slightly wider stance, and adaptive LED headlights give it serious, yet futuristic spice.
An Old Standby
The Camry, as you have probably already assumed, carries with it the reputation of Toyota’s solid safety packaging. Here, the larger XLE trim leads the pack and includes lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, front automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert with automated braking. And every other trim features some variant of the Safety Sense package that Toyota offers.
It is this reliable safety, paired with thoughtful experimentation, that gives at least some hope to the sedan moving forward. Though hope is all it could be. Current car owners might just be foisting their wishful thinking onto younger demographics as they usher in newer, showier, machines. But in a world where the supposed future of autonomy is clouded by obvious bugs and dangers, the Camry gives what we know a fighting chance.