By on September 21, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry SE white - Image: ToyotaYour excitement knows just cause. Upon reporting that the 2018 Toyota Camry would feature the American midsize segment’s most powerful base engine, the masses descended. We could see the hair standing up on the back of your neck through the series of tubes that is the internet.

In the 2018 Toyota Camry L, LE, SE, and XLE trims, the Camry’s new 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, at 6,600 and 5,000 rpm, respectively. In the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE, however, the Dynamic Force 2.5-liter produces — wait for it — 206 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, gains of three ponies and two lb-ft.

So what do those major power gains, up from 178 horses and 170 lb-ft in the 2017 Camry, get the owner of the new 2018 Toyota Camry?

Fuel economy, that’s what.

In a 0-60 mph test of the new 2018 Camry in 203-horsepower SE trim, the 25-horsepower increase netted a decrease of one-tenth of a second. The four-cylinder Camry, despite offering only seven fewer bhp than my in-laws’ famed 2004 Camry V6, did not become a quick car. Car And Driver says nought to highway speed takes 7.9 seconds, more than half-a-second off the pace of that still-vibrant 2004 Camry we’ve reviewed here before. (Specs say the 2018 Camry 2.5 SE weighs 40 pounds more than the equivalent 2017.)2018 Toyota Camry SE white rear - Image: ToyotaMore importantly, Car And Driver says the 50-70 mph test, the test that reflects the kind of power usage you require in real life, is four-tenths of a second worse in the 2018 Camry than in the 2017 Camry, dropping to 6.0 seconds because of what C/D says calls a “slow-to-downshift” eight-speed automatic. That’s substantially more sluggish than the Mazda 6.

What’s the big deal? To be honest, there isn’t one. When it comes to four-cylinder expectations, the 2018 Camry won’t prove underwhelming. Better yet, C/D’s fuel economy testing revealed a four-cylinder 2018 Camry SE that achieved 45 miles per gallon on a 75-mph highway test and matched the EPA’s 32-mpg combined rating over the course of nearly 1,200 miles.

Camry customers, of which there are bijillions, won’t mind the fact that all of that extra horsepower doesn’t make the new Camry any quicker (or slower). But they’ll be thrilled by the fact that the car is sufficiently powerful and stunningly efficient.

[Image: Toyota]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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37 Comments on “That Powerful New Four-Cylinder 2018 Toyota Camry? It’s Not That Quick...”

  • avatar

    I agree that the Camry’s core audience is not likely to notice the reduction in passing speed, and they are certainly going to notice that stunning highway fuel economy, and very good around-town numbers.

  • avatar

    Camry owners choose their cars the same way I choose refrigerators and washing machines. I dont need a Sub Zero when a Kenmore works fine. Camry buyers want a machine that will work for years without any issues. The concept of buying a car that is fun to drive doesnt influence their choice of which car to buy at all.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Looks like an E-Class with a boy racer makeover.

  • avatar

    The last time I drove a 4 cyl Camry it was up hwy 108 to Sonora. On a moderately steep incline I couldn’t get it to go faster than 80 mph. I was trying to pass a Altima who would only go the speed limit, well until I tried to get in front of him. That wouldn’t stop me from buying one if the price & gas milage was worth it. On the other hand that short trunk opening is going to be a problem.

  • avatar

    I’d give the 8-speed transmission the credit for the mpg increase over the supposedly more powerful engine. Like this review, many owner reviews also note the ‘lazy to shift’ transmission, which is too bad, as Toyota for many years gave buyers on many of its models some very nice equally spaced gears, which were handy when downshifting.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure I fully agree, depends on the power band. Those top numbers are lofty in the rev range, but if the power is over a broad curve, extra HP will add to extra motivation. We know that other makers do automatic transmission programming voodoo to squeeze as much MPG out of a vehicle, so I don’t fully disagree with you on the benefits of the 8-gear auto and the programming it has been given.

    • 0 avatar

      The engine’s quite a bit more thermally efficient, though.

      Really, I’d say it’s both – the transmission probably keeps the engine closer to that 40% thermal efficiency sweet spot and hangs onto it longer, and that 40% thermal efficiency sweet spot exists and is larger, instead of… probably 36% or so for the old engine.

  • avatar

    Ironically when someone in a Camry goes flying passed me (even though I’m commonly 5 to 10 over the limit) 9 times out of 10 its a 4 cyl Camry. Apparently those who buy the V6 models aren’t in quite the same hurry.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s not what you drive, it’s how you drive it.”

    • 0 avatar

      I have noticed this strange phenomenon as well. Most of the excessive speeders I see seem to drive something like a Corolla, a Prius, or an Altima. The Corollas and Altimas, I can plausibly ascribe to young people with no money who still feel invincible. The Priuses, I cannot explain away in quite the same fashion.

      • 0 avatar

        For me its largely Mazda/Nissans that’re in a rush, CamCorollas just tend to back into things based on their notorious back bumper dents.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve seen a Corolla speed? That’s incredible. Here in the heartland they only move at about 2/3 the speed of traffic. It’s like a law of physics or something.

      • 0 avatar

        The speeding Priuses are driven by 20s-30s women who drive them just like they did their Corollas and Sentras in the past. At least, the ones who tailgate me and pass on the right, squeezing between me and the bus I just passed before I can pull to the right, are in that age range. They’re saving the environment – in a hurry!

  • avatar

    The magazine ad for the new Camry emphasizes that the car is no longer available in beige.

    • 0 avatar

      That adds Toyota to my list of car makers with shameful pasts:
      1. Buick “Not your Grandpas Buick!”
      2. Mazda “I cant believe its a Mazda!!”
      3. Toyota “No longer available in beige”.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        I hate those ad campaigns, in which some “marketing Massengill” craps all over an automaker’s fine previous products.

        1. “Not your Grampa’s Buick!” It sure isn’t. Grampa had a boattail Riviera with a 455 that was really, really nice.
        2. “I can’t believe it’s a Mazda!” I can’t either – the company that made the RX-2, the REPU, all those RX-7s, and the Miata, and won Le Mans now makes my mother-in-law’s CX-5!
        3. “No longer available in beige.” Those beige 1990s Camrys and Corollas were known to be the most reliable cars known to man. We’re so ashamed to have manufactured them!

        Bonus: “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile!” Right again…Dad had a RWD Cutlass Supreme. That Achieva is definitely not the same.

        • 0 avatar

          Its absurd, just imagine if other non-car brands mocking their own history.

          “McDonalds! Now with 90% less creepy clowns!”

          “Wal-Mart! Now with even less lead poisoning!”

          “I cant believe this is a Disney film!!”

          “This isnt your Dads ancient Nintendo system!”

      • 0 avatar

        Those beat GM’s unofficial slogan: “Still running *badly* long after a beemer hits the junkyard”.

        That’s because of GM’s OTHER unofficial slogan: “Parts so cheap and easy to install, even a grease monkey can do it (more or less).”

  • avatar

    I’m more worried about the V6. I don’t think anyone has hooked it up to testing equipment yet but from watching some amateur acceleration videos it doesn’t appear any faster to 80mph than the previous V6 and the 3.5L revs with all the urgency of an Olds 307.

  • avatar

    Still, what incredible performance we have right now.

    A 90’s Mustang 5.Oh! V8 with an automatic probably got the same 0-60 as an automatic Camry with a 4 cylinder and 32mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, a ’95 GT C&D tested with the 5-speed Borg-Warner ran 0-60 in 6.1, and the quarter at 93 mph in 14.9 seconds, so no, not exactly…I would doubt the autobox GT would take over a half-second more.

      The skinny on the new Camry is despite tiny weight increases and hp increases of over 10% with both engines, they’re no faster than the old ones…says the new V6 model with 301 hp should go 0-60 in under 6 seconds…that’s nice, because the old one did it in under 6 seconds.

      I realize that they’re not sports sedans, but I would expect that with power increases that large and a couple extra ratios in the box, you’d see some improvement. I would expect to see larger improvements in 0-60 and quarter-mile than they got JUST going from the 6-speed to the 8-speed, with no changes to the engines.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, you’d be wrong in your assumptions. I guess someone with “Ford” in their user name is going to have some bias

        The automatic slowed it slowed it down quite a bit, most of the time only manuals were tested in the car magazines

        1993 Mustang GT automatic
        0-60 in 7.9
        1/4 mile in 15.9

        A ’91 manual did it in 7.2

        • 0 avatar

          Nice cherry picking of data – and I have ZERO dog in this hunt.

          Bar was set at a 1990 Mustang GT in your original post. That generation Mustang was sold from 1987 to 1993. From your own source:

          1987 Mustang GT: 0-60 6.3 / 1/4 15.0
          1988 Mustang GT: 0-60 6.3 / 1/4 15.0
          1989 Mustang GT: 0-60 6.1 / 1/4 14.6
          1990 Mustang LX 5.0: 0-60 6.3 / 1/4 14.7
          1991 Mustang GT: 0-60 7.2 1/4 15.6
          1992 Mustang GT: 0-60 6.1 / 1/4 14.6
          1993 Mustang GT: 0-60 7.9 / 1/4 15.9
          1993 Mustang Cobra: 0-60 5.9 / 1/4 15.9

          So of that generation model, using your own source, you cherry picked the one outlier test to try and prove your point.

          On and by the way, one last point on how much your 7.9 second is a statistical outlier. The 1988 0-60 test that hit 6.3 seconds? Ya, that was an automatic transmission car. Again, from your source, but you ignored that. So for all we know the 7.9 second time was a wet track – because it is almost a full 2 seconds slower than almost every other test, and 7/10 of a second slower than the next closest test.

          The Mustang GT was one of the first cars in the late malaise era to provide true performance numbers to the masses.

          For a little perspective on how fast 6.1 seconds to 60 was in 1989 – from your same source – the Ferrari Testarossa reached 60 in 4.9 seconds and did the 1/4 mile in 13.1.

          • 0 avatar

            Bar was set for AUTOMATIC. I was very specific.

            Show me data for an automatic, not a manual.

            Everyone of those other stats is for a manual transmission.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, also noticed there was an ’87 and an ’88 automatic that did 0-60 in 6.3 and the quarter in 15 flat.

          Also a ’99 convertible that did 6.1 and the quarter in 14.4.

          And my username is that of a tractor…a farm tractor. Yeah, it’s a Ford tractor, but…come on.

          RWD cars with lots of torque, like those 90s Mustangs, generally did pretty good with automatics.

          • 0 avatar

            I said a new 4 cylinder Camry with an automatic did about the same as a 90’s Mustang automatic with a V8, and I have the data to prove it.

            So what exactly are you arguing about?

            For the record, I actually am a Ford Mustang fan and former owner.

          • 0 avatar

            …Everyone of those other stats is for a manual transmission…

            Wrong, and go back and read very carefully.

            …On and by the way, one last point on how much your 7.9 second is a statistical outlier. The 1988 0-60 test that hit 6.3 seconds? Ya, that was an automatic transmission car…

  • avatar

    Toyota is hocking this off w/blazing Queen tracks while your hair lifts from static electricity as you thrill to the acceleration and end up late to meetings from the sheer joy of driving.

    So it better be a sport sedan because the younglings get mad at ‘inauthentic advertising’ and they can hold those opinions for a long time. Or so I’m told by the talking heads.

  • avatar

    I drove one last week as a dealer loaner car (2018 SE). It’s okay, but I wouldn’t call it a boy racer, even though the flappy paddles would suggest it.

  • avatar

    This at least shots down the argument that some persist on spreading to explain low Mazda 6 sales. It is not uncompetitive in speed for the vast majority of the target market.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not impossible the people shopping he Zoom Zoom brand is more demanding of speed, than their Camry shopping brethren…..

      Nothing against Mazda 6. I think they are perfectly well powered. The 6 isn’t too far off the pace of an E34 525 (some ways off the cream of that I6, though….). Which was about as good a daily driven 5 as any 5 has ever been.

      You really do need a manual to get the most out of the Mazda, though. As you did for the 525. And as it should be.

  • avatar

    “That Fuel Efficient New Four-Cylinder 2018 Honda Accord? It’s A Lot Quicker Than You’d Think!”

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    As a near 60 year old who drove Malaise Era vehicles such as an 81 Mercury Cougar, a 78 Mercury Monarch, and an early Ford Escort it is mindboggling to me how powerful (and efficient) cars are now. I have fond memories of me flooring my “Cougar” before a base of a mountain (or really any steep incline) to get as much momentum as possible before the car ran out of steam. I would then need to shift down as the car almost came to a dead stop as it limped forward. Back then this Camery would have seemed like the child of a Ferrari and a rocket ship.

  • avatar

    I can’t believe I’m saying this in a year that is not 1992, but these new Camrys are impressive. Sportier styling and ampler power than you’d expect in a Toyota, and even more fuel economy than you’d expect in a Toyota. The hybrid is especially impressive, and may qualify as the first Toyota I’ve ever actually kinda wanted.

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