Blue Sky -- It's the dawning of a new era for Camry and Camry Hybrid, introduced in eighth-generation form at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
Since it made its U.S. debut in 1983, the Camry has been the bedrock of Toyota’s product lineup. More than 10 million have been purchased here over those three decades, and it’s been the nation’s best-selling car the past 15 years and counting.
It’s working. Big time. No need to mess with success, right?
Toyota unveiled the eighth generation of its venerable sedan at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday. And while full details won’t be shared until closer to the sales date in late summer, it’s clear from the first look that this Camry is unlike any we’ve seen before.
“It delivers on everything Camry owners have come to expect from America’s best-selling car, and adds to it jaw-dropping design, more advanced technology, cutting-edge safety systems and stirring performance that raises it to an unparalleled level of excitement within its segment,” said Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations.
As expected, Toyota executives used words like “practical,” “dependable,” “value” and “quality” to describe the new Camry. But they didn’t stop there, expanding their vocabulary with such descriptors as “exciting,” “emotional,” “sporty,” “fun,” “soul stirring” and “a true driver’s car.”
Again, this is the Camry they were talking about here. Let’s roll the highlights to begin to understand why.
Light Your Fire -- Note the creative use of LED taillights, just one of many design elements that aim to "stir people's souls," says Chief Designer Masato Katsumata.
What You Can’t See
It’s tempting to jump immediately to this traditionally sedate sedan’s bold new exterior. But it’s what lies beneath that makes such a dramatic departure from the past possible. That's because the new Camry will be the first North American-made vehicle to fully incorporate Toyota New Global Architecture — a fundamentally different way to design, develop and manufacture Toyota vehicles going forward.
Among TNGA’s telltale signs are a lower roof and hood, a lower center of gravity and a wider stance. These will help give the new Camry a more firm ride and more responsive handling. And they’ll allow the driver’s seating position to be lower and nearer the center of the car for enhanced steering feedback.
Further, the Camry’s shiny new TNGA platform will employ more ultra-high-tensile steel and a new molding technology to deliver much greater structural rigidity. That will also contribute to the car’s more capable and composed driving dynamics.
This new foundation will be fitted with several TNGA-engineered components. Most notable is a choice of three new more powerful yet also more efficient engines: a 3.5-liter V6, a 2.5-liter I4 Dynamic Force Engine and the next-generation Toyota Hybrid System. The gasoline powerplants will be mated with a new 8-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission. The hybrid gets a Continuously Variable Transmission that features a new Sport Mode that simulates a 6-speed sequential gearbox.
Also noteworthy is an innovative double wishbone rear suspension that aims to deliver ride and steering quality on par with premium luxury vehicles. And a new four-point engine mounting system promises to reduce unwanted noise, vibration and harshness.
Two Worlds -- For the driver, gauges and controls angle in to create the feeling of a connected cockpit. For the front passenger, simple clean lines promote a sense of openness and freedom.
What You Can See
While the new Camry’s TNGA platform will eventually be shared with other models in Toyota’s lineup, its sensuous skin will be entirely its own. Chief Designer Masato Katsumata said his team sought to create a midsize sedan “that stirs people’s souls.” Evidence abounds in several key design elements, such as a two-piece sport mesh grille, a sleeker profile, more steeply angled A-pillars, a more aggressive stance, unique character lines in the sheet metal, LED taillights and a newly designed Camry logo that serves as a kind of exclamation point.
Inside, you’ll find a cabin that exudes a higher level of craftsmanship — from exquisite stitching on the seating surfaces to the use of high grade soft touch and premium materials throughout. The driver settles into a cockpit-type environment within easy view and reach of gauges and controls while the front passenger is treated to a sense of openness and freedom.
The new Camry’s instrument panel incorporates three interlinked displays that can be controlled through smartphone-like touch screen icons. And, in addition to improved JBL premium audio systems, this vehicle will introduce the new Toyota Entune 3.0 multimedia system that, among other features, will provide navigation on all models.
And when it comes to safety, a wide array of technologies will come standard on all Camrys, including Toyota Safety Sense P – a multi-feature advanced active safety suite – as well as Toyota’s Star Safety System, 10 airbags and a backup camera.
High Touch -- The new Camry's interior exudes a higher level of craftsmanship -- from exquisite stitching on the seating surfaces to the use of high grade soft touch and premium materials throughout.
What Hasn’t Changed
As with the current Camry, the next generation will be offered in four grades: the entry-level LE, the premium XLE and the sporty SE and XSE, which will look and feel dramatically different.
Oh, and the units sold here will continue to be assembled by thousands of proud American workers at Camry’s home: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky in Georgetown, Ky.
Carter perhaps summed it up best.
“The all-new 2018 Camry is, without a doubt, the most captivating mid-size sedan we’ve ever produced.”
By Dan Miller