2018 Toyota Camry XLE V6 Review - The Default Choice for a Reason

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2018 Toyota Camry XLE V6

3.5-liter V6, DOHC (301 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
22 city / 33 highway / 26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
27.4 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $35,295 (USD)
As Tested: $37,808
Prices include $895 freight charge.

It happened again. A neighbor, a casual acquaintance at best, messaged me on Facebook, asking for a used car recommendation. As usual, I suspect they were trying to get me to literally point them to a specific car for sale, but I’ve been roped into enough third-party late-night Craigslist-and-Cars.com binges to bite this time.

“Just buy the best Camry you can afford,” was my reply. I’ve given the same advice before to plenty of other non-enthusiasts, those for whom a car is merely an appliance. While I can easily rattle dozens of interesting choices to someone properly invested in driving enjoyment, I’d rather avoid the repercussions of recommending a 10-year-old M3 to a suburban mom who wants nothing more than a hassle-free commute.

Toyota pulled the cover off of the newest Camry in Detroit last year, and the rakish new styling has been flooding the streets ever since. Tim tested the four-cylinder model a few weeks back, but he wished for a bit more power. Fortunately, the gods of horsepower and displacement smiled upon me, and delivered upon my driveway this 2018 Toyota Camry XLE with the big V6.

Does the redesign tick the default box for enthusiasts, too?

No matter how grounded to the ground it may be, the new Camry is not a sports sedan. I’m sorry, Toyota. Nobody’s cross-shopping an M3 with a Camry. But that’s okay. What the V6-powered Camry is is a surprisingly rapid family sedan that will not punish you on the commute. And if that commute is between cities, like those days I spent on the road as a traveling salesman, you will appreciate the way this innocuous cruiser sneakily reaches triple digit speeds without arousing the local constabulary.

Not that I’d know anything about that.

In the Brownstone finish and XLE trim of my test subject, this car is basically invisible. Again, the default choice. The wide lower grille-by-Gillette — seriously, it’s almost the width of the car! — thankfully is finished in matte black, again not drawing attention. I don’t love the cacophony of ridges and slashes that define the hood, but in darker colors the effect is muted.

Another detail that bothered me ever since first seeing the car in the flesh is the funky ridge on the C-pillar that extends the upper surface of the trunk, giving a faux-hatchback look. The Camry hasn’t been available as a Liftback since 1986. Toyota, you aren’t fooling anyone. On the sportier XSE trim, that crease is where the two-tone black roof meets the body-color pillar, making the appearance of a hatch even more pronounced.

[Get new and used Toyota Camry pricing here!]

Overall, though, the new Camry is destined — no matter the color — to blend into traffic.

The interior in my test car was rather dour, with a sea of black only occasionally punctuated with matte silver trim, a touch of wood(ish) above the glove box, and bright rings around the gauges. The body-color accent stitching on the diamond-quilted seats isn’t enough to brighten the somber mood inside.

Those dull-looking seats were heaven-sent after a couple of days spent with the in-laws, which necessitated two-plus hours in the saddle each way. The long, supportive lower seat bolsters, in particular, were especially welcome when sitting in an unexpected traffic jam. I emerged from the Camry refreshed, which generally never happens on that drive.

The kids similarly had no complaints about their rear seat accommodations. The growing tweens never put an errant knee into my kidney, and had plenty of room to stretch out and lose themselves in their various electronic devices. They dozed off silently before the batteries died.

I’ll register one annoyance — maybe it rises to the level of a complaint, but I’m not certain — but this new Camry shares an unfortunate trait with other Toyotas I’ve driven recently: a rather tinny sound when the door is slammed. Whether it’s a legitimate quality concern, I don’t know, but it does lend an air of cheapness that isn’t reflected in the rest of the car.

After venturing off the interstate and onto a favorite two-lane, the big Camry’s composure impressed. While I wasn’t hustling like I might with something more suited to apex hunting, the demure sedan with the big engine exhibited little body roll when cornering with gusto.

Indeed, the 2018 Toyota Camry is a surprisingly good driver. It’s big, roomy, powerful, and does everything quite well. There’s a reason over 350,000 of these roll off showroom floors year after year — quiet, simple competence goes a long way to building a winner.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 75 comments
  • Carroll Prescott Carroll Prescott on Jul 02, 2018

    -Rude comment adding nothing to discourse!- -Mod

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jul 16, 2018

    Sorry Toyota but for nearly 40K I expect more. The cheap tinny sounding doors and floppy door handles are off putting. No USB ports or power outlet for back seat riders is just ridiculous along with no A/C seats, no heated rear seats, no Apple car play and Android auto. Add in the weird front and back styling and it's a definite no sale for me.

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.