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2 dudes in a car rev up the new Toyota Camry

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

Sporty. That’s how Toyota (TM) wants you to think of the newly redesigned Camry, the automaker’s workhorse sedan. The 2018 Camry, rolling into dealerships now, “is a different breed from past models,” Toyota declares in a press release. “The new Camry is an extremely balanced machine with much more excitement and emotion than any model before it.”

That’s an indirect way of saying, “Yeah, we know, the old Camry was boring.” So will this new Camry seem boring too, once the Toyota marketing department turns its purple prose to its next new vehicle? The two dudes — Pras Subramanian and I — subjected the latest Camry to a thorough boring test, and you can check out our assessment in the video above.

Adaptive cruise control

One of the most notable things about the Camry has nothing to do with performance on the pavement, but with the future. Toyota has made adaptive or “smart” cruise control standard on all models, including the entry-level trim line, which starts at around $24,000. Adaptive cruise control, or ACC, uses sensors and software to slow down or speed up the car based on the distance to the car ahead, with no input from the driver once the maximum speed is set. The car does all the work.

This is the beginning of self-driving technology, and if Toyota is making it standard on a mass-market car like the Camry, competitors will have to do the same, making autonomous technology increasingly mainstream. The two dudes recently test-drove the Jaguar F-Pace crossover, which starts at $42,000, and at least one of us was aghast that ACC is only available as an option on the pricier trim lines. That’s very 2010, and it suggests racy Jaguar ought to spend at least a little bit of time studying the product catalogue of milquetoast Toyota.

The 2018 Camry includes a ton of other newfangled safety features, such as emergency braking if a car in front gets too close and a lane-departure sensor that can steer you back inside the lines if you drift outside them. During our drive, one of the dudes (lazy Pras) encountered such forced steering when he changed lanes without bothering to signal, a possible indicator that the driver has fallen asleep or lost focus. Drivers like Pras, who are simply too cool to signal, can turn the feature off, though other drivers may find it reassuring.

Car buyers don’t ordinarily respond to safety or technology enhancements with the same zeal they show for edgy cornering and horsepower boasts, so it’s logical for Toyota to play up performance. You’ll also hear a lot about how the Camry is built in Kentucky, making it as much an American product as a Detroit muscle car or a Ford or Chevy pickup. That’s to deflect criticism from President Trump, who has picked on Toyota, along with other automakers, for building some vehicles in Mexico. We think Toyota’s political problems are in the past, and we’re glad the boring Camry is as well.

Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com. Encrypted communication available.

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