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2018 Toyota Camry XLE V6 Drivers' Notes | Breaking the mold

Reese Counts

The 2018 Toyota Camry is all new, and it seems to mark an all-new direction for America's best-selling car. For years, there was a huge disconnect between how critics and car shoppers viewed the car. Buying a Camry was safe. The car was reliable, reasonably affordable and would have decent resale value. It was also a totally underwhelming vehicle to drive and live with. It was soft, full of cheap plastic and handled like an small boat in a storm.

That's not the case with the new model. Toyota and Lexus both have been vocal about improving their images in the eyes of enthusiasts. The new Camry shows a car can possess all the traits Toyota owners expect while improving the overall product. It's no longer a distant runner behind the competition from Honda, Mazda, Ford and Hyundai.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I came away quite impressed with the new Camry, especially with the V6. Mainly I was impressed that it can actually be enjoyable to drive with a bit of vigor. Throw it into sport mode, and the steering hits a sweet spot of weight and even some decent feedback that pulls you into the driving experience. It doesn't feel quite as precise as some competitors, and in normal mode it feels a tad light and numb, but it's still a good helm overall. The body stays pretty flat for a midsize family car, too. And with the V6, you've always got plenty of grunt, and the delivery is very smooth. Toyota could do a little more work smoothing the V6 out.

I rather like the way the interior looks. It's not like anything else you'll see on the market, especially the wavy dash trim on the passenger's side, but it works and it's put together with the usual Toyota quality, save the stiff, cheap-feeling leatherette. I do have some gripes with the ergonomics, though. The front seats feel too firm, and the lower cushion needs another inch or so of length for long-legged drivers. The infotainment isn't especially user-friendly either, with lots of menus to sort through. Toyota also needs to give up on its Entune app for infotainment integration and adopt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But overall, the Camry is a strong competitor in the midsize sedan segment, and it finally has a bit of soul, too.

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Associate Editor Reese Counts: What a wonderful powertrain. It seems like every automaker is moving toward forced induction, so driving a car with a smooth naturally-aspirated V6 is supremely refreshing. The Camry's 301 horsepower comes just shy of redline, so it really pulls all the way to the top. The eight-speed automatic is smooth and quick and doesn't feel like it's tuned to eek out every last bit of fuel economy like some other Toyota automatics ( Tacoma, I'm looking at you).

The thing is, the Camry has really never had a huge problem in the powertrain department. It's the rest of the car — styling, interior quality, driving dynamics, etc. — that fell short compared to the competition. Things are mostly different here. I'm still not a fan of the Camry's styling, but the interior no longer feels like an experiment in plastics engineering. Yes, the infotainment system feels a generation behind, but it's reasonably responsive and generally easy to use. The seats are comfortable, though headroom seems limited.

On the road, the Camry continues to surprise. It's quiet, comfortable and composed. Some extra sound deadening means there's a good degree of isolation from road and wind noise. The XLE may have 18-inch wheels, but a decent amount of sidewall means the ride isn't too compromised. Unlike Joel, I feel the steering is completely devoid of a pulse. That's fine. This isn't a sport sedan. It is a very competent family sedan. I still prefer the Accord or the Mazda6, but the differences are fine and should come down to individual taste.

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2018 Toyota Camry XLE V6 Drivers' Notes | Breaking the mold originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 07 Dec 2017 09:00:00 EST.