The phrase ‘new Toyota Camry‘ wouldn’t typically elicit much enthusiasm, but the company has pulled out a lot of stops to make the eighth-generation model a big step forward.
The corporation’s head Akio Toyoda has demanded that all Toyota product moving forwards has at least a hint of driving dynamism, and here it’s coupled to a more upmarket cabin and a comparatively daring exterior.
The other big news is that this time around, the Camry will be imported from Japan rather than made in Australia. It’ll arrive in November, the month after the outgoing Melbourne factory shuts for the final time.
The body is constructed from more high-tensile steel with superior laser welding which, alongside the stiffer new architecture, cuts weight and improves rigidity.
The body is also a little lower – the bonnet drops by 40mm, the roof by 25mm – while the deeper-pressed panels with distinct character lines, longer roof line, angled rear pillars and longer wheelbase give the car edgier proportions and a more eye-catching look.
There are also two themes, with bread-and-butter models getting one type of grille, while the ‘sportier’ models get stiffer springs and firmer dampers, an edgier nose design, a body kit and wheels of up to 19 inches in diameter.
Smaller touches include standard LED headlights and tail lights and even a new font for the ‘Camry’ logo, which apparently makes a lot of subconscious difference…
It’s no performance car, but the overall look is less vanilla and ‘safe’, and more premium and aggressive. Graded on a curve, of course.
The Camry is the third application of Toyota’s new TNGA architecture, after the Prius hatch and C-HR crossover. The new underpinnings are a modular ‘kit’ that can be shared across multiple bodies to save costs.
This iteration, called GA-K (Toyota loves acronyms) lowers the car’s centre of gravity, has 30 per cent superior torsional rigidity, and supports significantly more noise-cancelling insulation to better suppress noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
The suspension comprises a familiar MacPherson strut setup at the front, but the rear is now a double-wishbone setup with new shocks that theoretically improves road-holding. The ‘sports’ versions are a little stiffer and have better body control.
The clumsy old foot-operated parking brake also makes way for a new electric unit, with a separate anti-creeping brake hold system.
There’s also a rejigged electric-assisted power steering system. All versions still sport front-wheel drive only.
DRIVEN: 2018 Toyota Camry review
Opening the range is the familiar 2.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine from the current car.
Next is a reworked version of the parallel hybrid system, pairing a 131kW 2.5-litre engine that runs both Otto and Atkinson cycles at different times, matched to a CVT with integrated electric motor with 88kW/202Nm.
Combined output climbs to a maximum of 155kW, while claimed combined-cycle fuel use is 4.5L/100km (down 0.7L/100km).
The motor is fed by a familiar nickel-metal hydride battery pack rather than lithium-ion, though it’s mounted within the TNGA setup better to free up boot space and allow the back seats to both fold down. There’s also a new Power Control Unit.
The pure EV mode works below 40km/h only, and there’s unfortunately no PHEV in the pipeline.
Sports versions also get paddle shifters. In time, Toyota Australia believes the Camry Hybrid will become its top-seller.
The performance version – which will come to Australia – is a new 3.5-litre V6 petrol with 225kW at 6600rpm and 360Nm at 4700rpm, matched to a new eight-speed automatic transmission with direct lock-up from second through eighth, and a sequential manual shift mode.
Standard is a sports mode that adjusts the throttle mapping, transmission shifting and steering resistance.
The fascia is now more driver-oriented, while there’s more seat and steering wheel adjustment, and a lower hip point. The seats themselves have also been re-engineered.
There’s a lot more soft-touch materials and contrasting elements such as brighter leather options, plus wood and metal highlights depending on grade. The old Toyota cruise control stalk has been binned too, in favour of wheel buttons.
There are LED lights throughout the cabin, including coloured ambient arrays on higher grades.
Infotainment comes on 7.0-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreens depending on spec, showing new software (though there’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto).
The driver gets a basic 4.2-inch digital trip computer on base grades or a new 7.0-inch TFT display on pricier versions, which also come with a 10-inch head-up display and Qi-compatible wireless charging pad.
All versions get a reversing camera, adaptive all-speed cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. Higher grades also get lane-departure alert, automatic high beam for the LEDs and blind-spot monitoring.
The Toyota Camry is the world’s biggest-selling mid-sized car. It sells 30,000 a month in the US and China. Australia, which averages about 2000 a month, is the world’s number four market, and produces cars for number three: Saudi Arabia.
Toyota has sold 920,000 Camrys in Australia over 34 years, including 45,000 hybrids.
Toyota admits that the push upmarket, and the fact it won’t be selling the car at super-sharp factory deals to keep local production numbers high, means the new Camry will have a “dramatic” drop in sales, though it’ll remain number-one in its segment.
The 2018 Toyota Camry arrives in Australia this November. Keep an eye out for our review from the global launch.