NAIAS 2017: Is the 2018 Toyota Camry's 'Emotionally-Charged Design' a Sales Winner?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
naias 2017 is the 2018 toyota camrys 8216 emotionally charged design a sales

Toyota is hoping to inject some vigor and flair into the best-selling car in America. With the midsize-car market shrinking thanks to affordable gas and a generational shift toward crossovers, the Camry has lost ground for the second consecutive year. While it is undeniably clear that something needs to be done to recapture buyers’ attention, the methodology behind Toyota’s response is more enthusiastic than sound.

The company says the 2018 Camry has a new “emotionally-charged design,” but the mood its designers tapped into must have been bitter sadness. It is an almost unfortunately futuristic modeling of a car. Following some of the Prius’ head-scratching styling cues, the Camry’s new look stands to be extremely polarizing.

Its face is exaggerated and slightly hostile, though the merkinized grille seems to be covering up a damaged — or perhaps missing — piece of bumper. Thankfully, appearances aren’t everything.

While Toyota could have lifted the Camry and made it crossover adjacent, it ended up taking things in the opposite direction. The midsize is now about an inch lower across the board. Thanks to the Toyota New Global Architecture, the Camry now possesses a lower hood height, roof line, hip point, and shoulder line, resulting in a lower center of gravity.

The automaker praises the TNGA platform as “a structural reform movement for the entire company that will result in cars that are more dynamic, athletic, and fun to drive.” Toyota also believes that “drivers will notice the dramatic improvements within the first few seconds of driving.”

That’s a pretty bold statement coming from steady-as-she-goes Toyota.

2018 Camrys will be available with a 3.5-liter V6 and a substantially improved 2.5-liter inline-four. Toyota says the updated base 2.5-liter will have superior power and torque ratings compared to its predecessor, thanks to higher-compression, intelligent variable valve-timing, and a 40-percent improvement on thermal regulation. Expect a significant increase in fuel economy. Both motors come paired with a new 8-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission.

Next-generation Toyota Camry Hybrids make use of the same inline-four motor mated to the THS II hybrid-electric system and a CVT that can mimic a six-speed DTC — the SE model even comes with paddle shifters.

Controversial looks notwithstanding, the next Camry should offer a better drive and more comfortable ride. Toyota is also stepping up the model’s standard safety with ten airbags, range-dynamic cruise control, pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning with assisted steering.

Coming in four trim levels, the SE and XSE models have stylistic differences from the LE and XLE that you could spot from orbit. The sport variants swap the limited’s already massive grille and begin tacking on lower bumper accents, a diffuser, mesh, and just about anything else that will stick to the front of that thing. SE and XSE trims also have larger wheels, unique rocker panels, different rear bumpers, and smoke-tinted taillights.

Toyota claims the interior will be spacious, with all of the important gauges angled toward the driver. Some models will include a trio of connected displays, including a 10-inch HUD, seven-inch multimedia display, and an eight-inch screen for navigation, climate,and audio controls.

While the Camry remains the best-selling car in America and the fourth-best-selling vehicle overall, its sales still slid by over 9.5 percent last year. Re-branding Toyota’s highest-volume car as a source of excitement is a gamble. While attempting to add to the Camry’s appeal, Toyota runs the risk of alienating previous devotees.

[Images: Toyota]

Join the conversation
2 of 106 comments
  • 05lgt 05lgt on Jan 10, 2017

    3.5 V6, lower CG and belt line, 8 speed, DW suspension improved interior room... looks OK in SE to me... Ping! on radar.

  • Hifi Hifi on Jan 12, 2017

    It'll continue to sell fine. They made it bland in all the right ways.

  • Oberkanone Installing immobilizer is the answer. It's not hard. It's not expensive.
  • MrIcky Out of the possible Jeep recalls to bring up on this site, I'm surprised it's this one and not round 2 of the clutch recall.
  • Dukeisduke I saw a well-preserved Mark VII LSC on the road not too long ago, and I had to do a double-take. They still have a presence. Back when these were new, a cousin of mine owned an LSC with the BMW turbo diesel.
  • Dukeisduke I imagine that stud was added during the design process for something, and someone further along the process forgot to delete it after it became unnecessary.
  • Analoggrotto Knew about it all along but only now did the risk analysis tilt against leaving it there.