2018 Toyota Camry First Impression

Toyota pulled the wraps off the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show. Though sedan sales have lost ground to crossovers in recent years, any manufacturer would be thrilled to offer a vehicle in its lineup that could emulate the Camry's perennially robust sales performance. So, yes, the debut of new Camry is a big deal.

With that said, the Camry has a reputation of being plain vanilla (we'll only point out that vanilla is far and away the most popular flavor of ice cream). The 2018 model apparently aims to reverse that perception. Take the styling, for instance, for which two distinct themes have been established based on trim level. The SE and XSE trim levels represent what is easily the boldest Camry yet, with a hint of rear fender bulge, well-considered proportions and a confident face. Entry-level LE and XLE models are more subdued, save for an imposing grille. Sure, the new Camry's various creases on the hood and the flanks are a bit fussy, but the new car's attitude is undeniable.

Beyond the striking new styling, Toyota promises that the new car is significantly more driver-focused, offering superior driving dynamics. Engineers point to its lower roof and seating position, both of which drop an inch compared to the current model to help lower its center of gravity. A 1.5-inch-lower hoodline is said to improve outward visibility in the bargain, so it won't feel as if you're sitting in bathtub.

Built on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) modular vehicle platform system, the new Camry is loosely related to the current Prius and the CH-R crossover. This move gains production efficiencies for the automaker while bestowing the 2018 Camry with a stiffer structure and a double-wishbone rear suspension layout in place of the current model's strut-type configuration. Though we don't expect the Camry's ride quality to improve as dramatically as it did when the Prius moved to the TNGA architecture, the new rear suspension certainly won't hurt.

The biggest dimensional difference between the current Camry and the 2018 model is a 2-inch increase in wheelbase, which stretches to a hair more than 111 inches. This has liberated more interior volume and helps improve ride quality, according to the manufacturer. Overall length barely changes, so it's not as though the new Camry has morphed into the Queen Mary.

New engines are part of the deal, too. The base 2018 Camry carries an all-new 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder that will deliver improved fuel economy and, we estimate, approximately 200 horsepower. An optional 3.5-liter V6 borrowed from the Highlander will generate nearly 300 hp. Both engines are mated exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Hybrid models employ a slightly revised version of the new four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission. As in the current Prius, the 2018 Camry Hybrid's battery pack now resides beneath the backseat. Fuel economy figures for all three variants have yet to be announced, though the automaker's president, Akio Toyoda, says they will be "class-leading."

There's a lot that Toyota hasn't said about the 2018 Camry. We'll have all the details on the car before it reaches dealers late this summer.