The Lexusification of the 2018 Toyota Camry XLE V6

Few cars have spent so much time at or near the top of North American automotive sales charts. When I recently drove one of these, I realized Toyota hasn’t rested on its laurels. I enjoyed the increasing Lexusification of the 2018 Camry XLE V6.

First impressions

The new Camry, in both conventional and hybrid form, benefits from the Toyota New Global Architecture.  This is, in Toyota’s words: “a state of the art approach to platform and powertrain design that helps deliver superior handling, more dynamic performance, and sharper styling.”

The Celestial Silver Metallic model I tested certainly hit all these marks. This is still a large, comfortable sedan, but the upscale style notes bring it up towards premium territory.

Solid but subtle lines sweep up from the logo on the grill all the way up the hood. The bottom end of the grill sticks out from the car, serving as a mini front wing reminiscent of more obvious ones on race cars. The short rear deck ad dual exhausts completes the look. The overall effect is one of increasing sportiness and upscale refinement.

Interior

Leather heated seats, a leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel and leather-wrapped shift knob greet the driver.

image courtesy Toyota

My particular greeting could have been more hospitable. Even leaning the seat back, I couldn’t keep my head from making contact with the ceiling. This is odd. I distinctly recall quickly getting comfortable in many Toyotas, even a Yaris I reviewed several years ago. I’ll blame this on the panoramic glass moonroof, a headroom-robbing contraption IMHO. Some version of moonroof seems to ship standard on many cars today. It’s an option sales staff should automatically remove when tall buyers (like me) enter the showroom.

Accent lighting strips on the doors and dash added interest to the largely black interior features. (If you want more interest, try the colour scheme in the Toyota-supplied photos in this review.) Otherwise, it’s a straightforward example of Toyota’s tight fit and finish.

Rear seats are also roomy, though the downward-sloping roof robs occupants of some headroom. They at least get heater ducts mounted between the front seat backs.

Hockey bag test

This is a cavernous two-hockey-bag trunk. Sticks go through the 40-60 split-folding rear seat.

In-cabin technology

Toyota supplements the rear camera with a 360-degree “birds-eye view” around the Camry. It turns on when you gently approach a tight parking spot, going forwards or backwards. Proximity sensors sound and flash on the screen to let you know how close you are to the vehicle or barrier at the border of your spot.

When not helping the driver avoid dinging the body, the 8-inch touchscreen display delivers all the features you want, but not if you’re looking for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Toyota’s Entune Audio offering, complete with Entune smartphone app, delivers traffic, weather, a free subscription to NPR One and other goodies. Entune is standard on all models.

image courtesy Toyota

Toyota supplements the standard charging options with a wireless charging platform just ahead of the shift lever.

image courtesy Toyota

Toyota’s instrument cluster screen enables various vehicle configuration settings, including the positioning of the Camry’s heads-up display. This feature, increasingly common in more economical vehicles, projected my speed, direction, dynamic cruise control speed and distance, current track and other information on the windshield inches above the dash.

Driving

If you want to define the Camry by one specific feature, it must be the buttery smooth ride.

A 3.5-litre 301 hp V6 engine drives the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. (On other trim levels, Toyota offers a 203 hp 2.5-litre four.) Sufficient power works with the chassis, suspension and tires to create the impression of a limousine ride. Throw in one of the smoothest dynamic radar cruise control systems I’ve ever tried and I’ll bet you’ll find yourself more relaxed after even a harried morning bumper-to-bumper highway commute.

Sure, there’s all that power from the 3.5L V6. A drive mode selection feature offers Sport mode on top of Normal and Eco.

image courtesy Toyota

But the Camry is in its element when pampering its occupants during a comfortable cruise.

That Lexusification I mentioned appears in large details and small. Among the latter, the electronic parking brake follows the transmission’s lead. Put the Camry into Park and the brake activates. Switch to Drive and the brake deactivates. More vehicles ought to automate this common-sense behaviour.

Vehicle stability control, a traction control system and hill-start assist control serve as table stakes in the Camry’s segment. The XLE also ships with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and lane departure alert with steering assist.

Conclusions

The base 2018 Camry will set you back $26,590 MSRP. My XLE, as tested, goes for $42,532 MSRP.

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