Every 2018 Camry—from the base L, to the mid-level LE and SE, and all the way up to the top-of-the-line XLE and XSE—comes standard with a 2.5-liter inline-four paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Armed with 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque (206 horsepower and 186 lb-ft in the quad-exhaust XSE model), the Camry’s all-new four-cylinder produces an additional 25 horsepower and 14 lb-ft of torque compared with its predecessor.
The new four-cylinder Camry is also considerably more economical than the previous-generation car, with EPA fuel-economy figures that climb by 4 mpg in the city (to 28 mpg), by 6 mpg on the highway (to 39), and by 5 mpg overall (to 32 mpg combined). We matched that combined figure over the course of 1188 miles. Even more impressive was the Camry SE’s 45-mpg showing on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy run, which is 1 mpg better than that of the Camry hybrid.
The four-cylinder’s straight-line performance was less rousing. Zero to 60 mph required 7.9 seconds, just 0.1 second ahead of the old car. Meanwhile, the new Camry’s slow-to-downshift automatic transmission contributed to a 50-to-70-mph passing time of 6.0 seconds, 0.4 second worse than the previous-generation Camry SE and 1.2 seconds behind the Mazda 6.
Like its predecessor, the 2018 Camry SE also is available with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain or a 3.5-liter V-6. The former option produces a combined 208 horsepower and managed to scootfrom zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds and from 50 to 70 mph in 5.1 seconds. We’ve yet to test a V-6 car, but we expect the 301-hp engine to get the Camry to 60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds.
It’s a Cruiser Not a Bruiser
Even though the 2018 Camry’s more engaging persona has transformed it into a competent driving companion, at heart it remains, well, a Camry. Despite a wheelbase that has been stretched 1.9 inches, overall passenger volume is down a smidge and rear legroom decreases by 0.9 inch. Still, only NBA-size passengers will notice the difference, as the Camry’s aft quarters remain plenty spacious. The supportive and well-padded rear bench has a 60/40 split-folding seatback (except on the base L). But the pass-through is relatively small, and it’s further compromised by the seatbacks’ inability to lie completely flat.
Up front, the driver is greeted with a dashboard that features clearly marked gauges, easy-to-reach controls, and rich materials. Cost cutting, however, is apparent on the center console and door panels, which feature harder plastics. Shutting this Camry SE’s doors resulted in a disappointingly hollow sound unbecoming of a vehicle with a starting price of $26,095. Other demerits include Toyota’s decision to equip the Camry SE with just one USB port (the $29,345 XLE and the $29,895 XSE both come with three), as well as a lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, which are unavailable on any Toyota.
Priced to Sell
Like the entry-level $24,390(8.6m) Camry L and the $24,895(8.8m) Camry LE, the Camry SE comes standard with LED headlights and taillights, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beams, and automated emergency braking.
The SE adds automatic climate control, cloth-and-faux-leather seats with power adjustability for the driver, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters. SE models also include their own special dash trim, 18-inch wheels, a tacky-looking exterior kit that features a decklid spoiler and fake vents below the taillights, and an odd striped pattern on the seat inserts that doesn’t give off an upscale vibe. We’d take a hard look at stepping up to the better-equipped XSE or XLE model, which substantially improves the perceived quality of the interior.
Our $28,220 test car featured the optional sunroof ($900) and the $1225 Convenience package, which includes a proximity key with push-button start, an automatically dimming rearview mirror, and a blind-spot monitoring system. An in-dash navigation system and dual-zone automatic climate control are available as part of a $3380 bundle that also includes the sunroof and the contents of the Convenience package.
Although family-sedan shoppers who prize driving engagement will be better served by a Honda Accord or a Mazda 6, choosing a Camry no longer means forsaking satisfying driving dynamics. Pinch us, we must be dreaming.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $28,220 (base price: $26,095)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-capable inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
Displacement: 152 cu in, 2487 cc
Power: 203 hp @ 6600 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 111.2 in
Length: 192.7 in
Width: 72.4 in Height: 56.9 in
Passenger volume: 100 cu ft
Trunk volume: 15 cu ft
Curb weight: 3409 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 7.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 20.5 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 32.0 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 4.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 6.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.2 sec @ 90 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 133 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 175 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 32 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 45 mpg
Highway range: 720 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY:
Combined/city/highway: 32/28/39 mpg