New 8th-generation Toyota Camry: One for all
The Toyota Camry, arguably the world's most popular mid-size sedan, gets restyled, redesigned and re-engineered.
When it comes to family cars, Japanese automaker Toyota is amongst the first names that come to mind. It's been manufacturing vehicles since the 1930s. Whether you like the brand or not, there is no denying that because of the functionality and reliability of its products, it has become an almost unrivalled global leader. And a lot has to do with cars like the popular mid-size Camry.
Having said that, both car and brand have been criticised, one for being bland and the other for its fleet associations. But things are about to change with this all-new 8th-generation Toyota Camry. By reviving the Grande nameplate with a V6 under the hood and introducing the Sport variant with an aero-body kit, they may have created something special. Let's have a closer look.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The Camry has grown with the generations and the 2018 model is almost full-size judging by its 4,905mm length and 1,840mm width. The chief difference is in the way it's been styled - it's a whole lot sportier now. The decidedly distinctive front fascia wears the pointy snout quite naturally. It is characterised by an 'X' motif detailing that draws inspiration from the spindle grille seen on cars from its luxury cousin, Lexus. Busy is the word, with the overpopulation of lines seen in the grille, intakes and lamps; all converging towards the central logo - but it works visually. The profile isn't too different from the model it replaces, but "it got its sport on", as some would say, by lowering the roof to 1,445mm for a sleeker profile. It also benefits from sporty dual-tone 18-inch alloys and, more importantly, the dual-tone paint scheme seen best in a red body and a black roof combination.
The Sport model gets a tuner car vibe, thanks to the lip spoiler in a contrasting colour and a slit that flanks the 80's-styled, LED-lit smoke-tinted rear lamps. Somehow the aesthetic or aerodynamic implications of that faux duct aren't understood but it adds character to the ensemble. Completing the rear look are quad tail pipes - odd for a Camry - that flank the "wannabe" diffuser.
Once you get over the fact that it is taxi fleet staple and you stop viewing the after-market-looking parts in isolation, you notice that it all comes together quite well. It's sporty, yet elegant and arguably the best-looking Camry yet - at least in its Grande Sport trim.
Accompanying the migration of its exterior to a sporty attire is the transition of the interiors towards the luxury dimension. The sport seats grab attention, especially when specified in the brightest red known to man. The seats look good too, thanks to a sculpted look, extra vertical trims and contrast stitching. We could easily shimmy onto the seats which are completed by a good driving posture that can be modified by the 6-way driver power adjustments on the driver's side - and 4-way ones on the passenger's. The perforations keep sweat away.
Most of the usual scratchy plastic has been replaced by softer surfaces and the rest have been shrouded by the new interior architecture with its asymmetrical centre stack. The main facet of the console gets an 8- inch touch screen - average size for the class - with a combination of physical buttons and knobs that are lined on either side of the screen. The leather-bound steering wheel may have been relegated to a typical tool visually, but is great to steer as we found out. It comes with oodles of functionality, though there are minor concerns about button placement. The updated instrumentation, with its 7-inch display sitting between analogue clocks with silver bezels, does a good job of relaying vehicle info and telematics.
The new Camry does it right in terms of stowage spaces, offering a large central cubby, glove box and a pair of cup holders. The wireless charging is usually a non-option with the Sport, but you get the space to cradle your phone. In the rear, there are tons of legroom and headroom for adults of all sizes. Broader folks may find themselves in shoulder-rubbing situations, but also in general comfort, thanks to a pair of air-vents, and by being connected thanks to USB ports. All things said, it's a much nicer interior than before.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
A total of 300 horsepower is what you get with this new 3.5-litre V6-298hp for those who have an itch for specifics. That's a lot for a front-wheel drive family sedan. Those who have fallen in love with V6 power in the Aurion will love this too. Getting off the line on a heavy right foot will get the front wheels chirpy while you're pushed back into the seat momentarily. Even overtaking is a breeze, thanks to over 350Nm of readily-available torque. Speed aside, it's the smooth revving nature that makes the drive enjoyable. It never feels like the parts are going to fly off as you push the needle towards the red line. The last of these naturally-aspirated engines like this one are sure to be missed.
While you can clock speedy numbers, the well-isolated cabin - devoid of noise and vibration - give it a refined, almost Lexus-like, which is yet another selling point. Frankly, I was never a fan of ride quality in older Camrys. But by simply reworking the MacPherson strut setup and a double wishbone system, they have sorted this out. It now floats with a composure over uneven surfaces regardless of speed - which would have otherwise reversed my digestive process. A lot of that smoothness has to do with the 8-speed auto that allows seamless transitioning between rations. If you feel the need to get into the action, tug on the paddles behind the wheel or use the shifter that offers a positive shift action, even though it's just an automatic. The taller top-end ratios also help it achieve rather commendable economy figures. We've easily recorded 10L/100km or less on our intermittent checks, which begs the question "Why would you need the 4-cylinder model?" Then again, the 2.5-litre engine has the same Dual VVT-i and D-4S fuel injection technology and was built to serve the masses at the lowest possible running costs. So it's bound to be cheaper to run.
The new Camry's sporty intentions are omnipresent, but how does it drive? The steering wheel is sufficiently weighted but doesn't deliver the connected drive like that of a BMW. Body roll takes effect but only at sharp turns. Otherwise, the 235-section Bridgestone grip nicely - more so than you'd expect from a mid-size family sedan.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
A never-failing air-conditioner is what you get in this Camry as with all Toyotas in the past. The dual-zone feature will keep your partner comfortable too, who might be of another thermal profile. But the calibration could have been better - it's too cold, almost always.
Thanks to generous visibility out of the windows all around and good brakes, you are covered for safety and that, in some way, justifies the lack of blind spot and lane departure alerts. Plus, Toyota has made sure to cover bases with the inclusion of EBD, brake assist, cruise control, hill start assist, airbags, ISOFIX points and fog lamps. With parking sensors and rear view camera with guided lines to assist you, matters of parking are made safe and easy too.
Yes, people are ditching 3-box sedans for more capacious crossovers and SUVs, but the 428 litres of boot space is enough to haul your luggage with ease. It's even got a full-size spare alloy under the floor. The rear seats split in a 60:40 and fold down - just in case shopping at DSS gets the better of you! The fonts and graphics Toyota use on their multimedia system aren't elegant or cutting edge, but are legible. The screen itself is decently sensitive and the menus are easy to navigate. All models come with a 6-speaker audio system, with half as many ways to run your playlists.
With this new generation, the Toyota Camry has turned from purchase of obligation to purchase of style, power and comfort. The V6-powered Grande Sport model will help cure the "taxi cab" stigma long associated with the model. Even if that doesn't click, you have to respect it for its remarkable reliability and residual value.
Sales of the Toyota Camry have surpassed 19 million units worldwide, many of which have crossed 1 million km in mileage.
Body type: 5-seater; 4-door, mid-size performance sedan
Engine: Front-engine; 3.5 V6; front-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Peak output: 298bhp@6,600 rpm, 356Nm@4,700rpm
0 to 100km/h: sub-7.0 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h (drag limited; estimated)
Price: Starting at Dh91,000; Dh122,500 as tested
AT A GLANCE
Good - Sporty exteriors; good power; remarkable fuel economy; refinement and space; reliability and residual value
Bad - It hasn't completely abandoned its 80s' dated appeal
Author's rating - 8.5/10