The Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid are well established as the nation’s best-selling midsize sedan. Traditionally, they are also well established as a pretty dull appliance-like car. The Camry, for much of its existence, has been aimed at people who care more about comfort, reliability and price than they do about looks and driving dynamics.
The 2018 Camry, however, sheds its toaster-inspired skin for a little more excitement. It is still a roomy mid-size sedan with ample seating for five and enough trim levels to please just about anyone. But the 2018 Camry and Camry Hybrid are lower, wider, roomier and more stable on the road. Powertrains are more powerful, rides more refined and looks are much sharper. And in the case of the hybrids efficiency is much better too.
The new Camry Hybrid offers up Prius-like fuel efficiency in a much larger car. The entry level hybrid model gets an EPA rating of 52 mpg combined (51 city/53 highway), while the other two hybrid trim levels are rated at 46 mpg combined (44 city/47 highway). The SE and XLE trim levels are heavier than the LE, thanks to larger tires and wheels and a lot more standard equipment as well as their heftier 1.6 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery packs.
The Toyota Hybrid is the first car to use the new Toyota New Global Architecture (powertrain, chassis and suspension). The powerful Toyota Hybrid II system incorporates an efficiency-tuned version of the new four-banger found in the non-hybrid Camry and uses a continuously variable transmission programmed to mimic the shift patterns of a six-speed automatic to get power to the wheels.
The 2018 Camry Hybrid is available in three trim levels:
- The LE Hybrid starts at $28,685
- The SE Hybrid has a starting price of $30,385.
- The top of the range XLE Hybrid begins at $33,135.
The entry-level Camry LE Hybrid and the top-of-line XLE Hybrid share the same design, while the sportier SE Hybrid has a more aggressive grill flanked by large air intakes. Wheels, tires, lighting systems, equipment levels, interior materials and rear end styling further separate the three trim levels.
All 2018 Camrys get Toyota’s Safety Sense package: pre-collision warnings, seat-belt tensioning, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beam adjusting and radar-based dynamic cruise control. Hybrids also get automatic following and braking over the full range of speed as part of the cruise control system as standard trim.
The LE and SE hybrids get blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert as an option. The XLE Hybrid has the system as standard equipment along with the addition of emergency braking for rear cross traffic. Toyota’s “proximity notification system” that generates an audible signal to alert pedestrians when the car is stopped or running in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 15 mph and when in reverse is standard in all trims.
All 2018 Camry hybrid models use the new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, turned to deliver 176 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. The gas engine works in parallel with Toyota’s two-motor electric drive system, the same system that was launched in the 2016 Prius.
In electric drive only mode output is 118 horsepower and 149 lb-ft of torque. When the gas engine and electric drive are working in tandem, total power delivery juts up to 208 horsepower.
The LE Hybrid uses an advanced lithium-ion battery pack while the SE and XLE hybrids use nickel-metal hydride batteries.
A console mounted switch enables selection among “EV,” “Eco,” “Normal” and “Sport” modes. The modes alter shift patterns, accelerator response and regenerative braking levels. The “Eco” mode also adjusts climate control performance to further conserve energy.
The Camry’s appearance is greatly improved for 2018. Gone is the bland appliance of a car and in its place is a vehicle that is sporty and eye-catching. The standard grille is almost too much but it grows on you, and I really like the look of the three-part grille arrangement on the sportier SE model.
The 2018 Camry’s interior is a very nice place to be. It’s striking, with wood and metal trim and sweeping lines. Dials and switches look great and there is a great balance with functionality. Soft-touch materials are used throughout the cabin, and they really are soft. The center console has lots of much appreciated storage room and a clean appearance.
The LE Hybrid is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights and LED taillights, 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, cloth upholstery, wood interior trim, 60/40 fold-down rear seats, rear-view camera, power exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control system, backup camera, a 4.2-inch driver information display, a single USB port and Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 audio system. The Entune system includes a 7-inch color touch screen.
The SE Hybrid adds 18-inch black alloy wheels, sport-tuned shock absorbers, the sport grille, color-keyed rocker panels and rear spoiler, tire pressure monitoring, “SofTex” upholstery and metal mesh interior trim.
The XLE Hybrid adds LED headlights, a metallic front grille, heated exterior mirrors with blind spot warning and turn signal indicators, chrome alloy wheels, rear seating area vents for the climate system, a 7-inch driver info screen, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink, blind sport monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and braking, leather seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and a 10-inch color head-up display.
Toyota offers a several other option for the 2018 Camry hybrid, including upgraded infotainment systems, a power moonroof and wireless Qi smartphone charging.
All 2018 Camrys have ample 15.1 cubic-foot trunks. For the Camry Hybrid, that’s a nice 16 percent improvement over the 2017 model. This new found space come thanks to the new Global Architecture which allowed the hybrid batteries to be placed beneath the rear seats as opposed to being in the cargo space behind them.
The Camry offers a very comfortable ride whether your commuting or heading out for a long road trip. The seats are supportive and very comfortable and a new double wishbone rear suspension with redesigned shock absorbers keep things toned down in the cabin. And new levels of interior sound-dampening cut out almost all road noise (especially in all-electric mode).
On the road, Toyota’s hybrid Camry stands out for the smooth transitions from gas to electric power. Both acceleration and braking felt much smoother and refined than previous models. Some of this comes thanks to the decision to program the CVT to mimic a six-speed automatic which helps temper the whine CVTs often deliver.
I really like this hybrid powertrain, it is peppy and smooth and I’d readily take it over the standard 2.5-liter four, in fact, the gas-electric hybrids consistently turn in better lap times than the V6 models. Regenerative braking is much improved in 2018 as well, it’s smooth and there’s far less of that initial grabbiness that can make driving a hybrid exhausting. Overall, the new Camry Hybrid’s driving performance matches its more exciting new looks perfectly.