2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid First Drive - Who Needs a Prius?

As part of a larger group of automotive publications, TTAC has access to a variety of content. We wanted to bring you some of the unique content we think lives up to TTAC’s standards and offers legitimate insight or a properly critical viewpoint to car evaluation. This story, by Hybrid Cars author Evan Williams, showcases the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Toyota’s replacement for its popular hybrid sedan – sales of which have been falling off this year – comes along with the thorough overhaul of its entire Camry line. After years of cars that were reliable, efficient, and perceived by some to be boring, Toyota wants the new model to be reliable, efficient, and fun to drive. No, really.

Toyota is selling the new Camry as being an emotional choice, not just a rational one. Chief Engineer Masato Katsumata called it “visceral.” A strong word for a family sedan.

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QOTD: Camry, Camry, on the Wall, Which Is the Greatest Toyota Camry of Them All?

The launch of the 2018 Toyota Camry in July 2017 marked the arrival of America’s eighth Camry. Near the end of Ronald Reagan’s first term, the first Camry — not the first Camry, but the first Camry available for U.S. consumption — was launched in front-wheel-drive sedan and hatchback formats.

By 1997, the Camry was America’s best-selling car — a title it has held in each of the last 15 years.

The second-generation Camry spawned a V6 powerplant, available all-wheel drive, and a hatchback-replacing wagon. The third-generation Camry kept the sedan and wagon, dropped the AWD, added a coupe, and was built in America. The fourth iteration of the Camry, 1997-2001, dropped the wagon and began to be seen as the automatic choice for America’s midsize sedan buyers. The fifth Camry, which ran from 2002-2006, was sturdy enough to be form the foundation for two more Camry generations. The sixth Camry was the first to be available as a hybrid, but it put an end to the coupe, which in the prior two generations was known as Camry Solara. The seventh Camry, 2012-2017, sometimes hailed as the most American-made of all cars, benefited from a thorough refresh for 2015. The eighth Camry, at dealers now, represents much more than a major overhaul, with significant increases in fuel economy standing out as a leading improvement.

But which Toyota Camry is best of all?

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Don't Be so Quick to Pull the Trigger on That 2018 Toyota Camry - 2017s Are Cheap and Abundant

The 2018 Toyota Camry is the first truly, completely, all-new Toyota Camry since 2002. Built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, it’s stiffer, safer, and by all accounts, substantially better to drive than the 2017.

Fuel efficiency took a leap forward. Horsepower did, too. The feature count, including the safety department, was elevated. The 2018 Toyota Camry even has a sense of style, whether you like its sense or prefer less offensive past examples.

With an all-new architecture for an in-demand car — yes, even as sedans slow, the Camry is still the 15-time best-selling car in America — comes a lack of willingness on the part of Toyota to deal. That’s made all the more true by the current cost of importing Camrys. While production will eventually be in full swing at the Camry’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant, early copies of the 2018 Camry hail from Japan.

Rare will be the buyer who heads into a U.S. Toyota store this Labor Day weekend with a strong preference for the old Camry, still available in abundance on dealer lots. Even with concerns (albeit modest concerns; this is a Camry) regarding first-model-year reliability, the MY2018 Camry is the bright and shiny object.

The 2018 Toyota Camry is better than the 2017 Toyota Camry: objectively, subjectively, on paper, on the road. But is it 41-percent better?

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How Far and How Fast Has U.S. Passenger Car Market Share Fallen? So Far, and so Fast
“This was the harshest move in consumer preference the industry has ever seen.”
– Bob Carter, Executive Vice President, Toyota North America

37 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States in the first seven months of 2017 were passenger cars. That’s correct. 63 percent of the new vehicles now sold in America are pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and vans.

But how did we get to this 37-percent basement? When did we get here? How long did it take to get here? And is it really the basement?

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QOTD: Camry Now Or Accord Later?

By the time the all-new 2018 Honda Accord debuted at a July 14, 2017, launch event, the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry was already on sale.

There are still sedan buyers alive in this world, you see. You might just be among them. Toyota and Honda will sell some 700,000 Camrys and Accords in the United States in 2017, roughly four out of every 10 midsize cars.

So, presented with two new options from the preeminent manufacturers of midsize sedans, what choice do you make? A 2018 Toyota Camry right now, with all the glory of a J-VIN and a 301-horsepower V6? Or do you wait a few weeks for the 2018 Honda Accord, a sports sedan on the cheap with a 2.0T and a six-speed manual?

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Don't Go All Hybrid/Turbo/Electric/Fuel Cell Just Yet - Toyota V6 And V8 to Gain "Dynamic Force" Camry Engine Tech

Forget hybrids. Set aside, for this moment, plug-in hybrids as well. Ignore the EV hubbub and the pie-in-the-sky hydrogen fuel cells. While you’re at it, remove turbochargers and their accompanying displacement reductions from your memory, too.

The naturally aspirated internal combustion engine has legs. The proof is in the 2018 Toyota Camry’s 2.5-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder. With no hybrid assist, no turbos, no cord that plugs into your garage wall, and no futuristic fuel source, the new Camry 2.5-liter produces 206 horsepower and hits 41 miles per gallon on the highway on regular 87 octane.

That’s 16-percent more power 24-percent more highway mpg than the 2017 Camry’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder. With improvements in conventional, naturally aspirated, gas-fired engines occurring in such leaps and bounds, it’s no wonder Toyota has bigger plans for the Dynamic Force blueprint.

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Midsize Sedan Deathwatch #14: July 2017 Sales Plunge by a Fifth, Everybody Falls Except the Dodge Avenger

Every midsize car on sale in the United States reported declining year-over-year volume in July 2017. Every car except the Dodge Avenger, which came back from the dead with 10 reported sales after a nine-month hiatus. 2014 was the Avenger’s last model year.

But forget that sales stat quirk — Pentastar Avenger Blacktop Edition, be still my soul. Every other midsize nameplate generated fewer sales in July 2017 than July 2016, with losses piling up fastest at Ford and Hyundai, with the Fusion and Sonata, respectively.

Between major Fusion and Sonata losses and decreased volume everywhere else, U.S. midsize car volume fell by a fifth in July 2017 — a 36,000-unit decline.

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Toyota Sees All Upside for 2018 Camry If Rivals Decide to Focus Purely on SUVs

As Toyota watches its RAV4 quickly climb sales charts, the Japanese behemoth estimates it will sell fewer copies of its new-for-2018 eighth-generation Camry than it has in six years.

According to Reuters, Toyota is targeting 30,000 monthly Camry sales in the U.S. once the 2018 model fully takes over. That’s 360,000 Camry sales per year, well below the 412,000-unit average Toyota has managed over the last half-decade; 7-percent below last year’s output.

Toyota considers the thought of overall midsize sedan demise “inconceivable” but is by no means blind to the segment’s evolution. Recent deaths, such as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, followed the disappearance of the Mitsubishi Galant, Suzuki Kizashi, and domestic nameplate removals, as well. Remember the Mercury Milan, Pontiac G6, and Saturn Aura?

But as the midsize segment struggles, Toyota looks down from its lofty perch and sees the odds increasingly turning in the Camry’s favor. “If other automakers left the sedan market to focus more on SUVs,” Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata says, “that would be an opportunity to expand our market share of the segment.”

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Want a Truly Japanese 2018 Toyota Camry? Examine VINs Closely for the Next Few Months

As all-new 2018 Toyota Camrys begin to trickle into Toyota’s U.S. dealers over the coming weeks, take a close look at the VIN.

It’s viewable through the windshield on the driver’s side. See that first number? It’s likely a 4, which means this Camry was built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

But there’s a chance that the VIN on the new 2018 Camry sitting on your local Toyota dealer’s lot doesn’t begin with a number at all.

You’re looking at the once-coveted J-VIN. Ooh la la.

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Junkyard Find: 1991 Toyota Camry DX With V6 Engine and Five-Speed Manual Transmission

When I poke through automotive graveyards in search of the rare and the interesting, I always take a look at late-1980s/early-1990s Toyota Camrys for the very rare All-Trac all-wheel-drive versions and extremely rare manual-transmission versions.

So rare that its existence in the wild is merely theoretical, however, is the V6-powered manual-transmission Camry… and I just found one in Denver. Let’s take a look!

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Vellum Venom: 2017 Toyota Camry XLE
The common road-going distraction of DLO FAIL sometimes forces a discussion with my best friend from the car design world. While the raison d’etre for the series sadly left us over a decade ago, some cars take me back to our time together, as if his spirit never left. If you’ve experienced a similar loss, just know your lingering sorrows are not a burden you must bear alone. Put your brand of Venom on your personal Vellum — there’s plenty of room on the Internet for you.
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QOTD: What's Your Favorite Ride With Odd Windshield Wipers?

Look, with the best word in the world, we’re all pretty odd around here. Writers, readers, editors (past and future), we’re a community of pedantic gearheads with an affinity for the peculiar. How else to explain Panther Love or Sajeev’s Bitter Tears?

I’m no different, which is why I like it here. One of the things I enjoy — which no one in my immediate family can seem to explain — are cars and trucks with a weird number of wipers. Two wipers? Pah! How pedestrian. The discerning TTACer requires – nay, demands! – their ride of choice to be equipped with rain-clearing devices of the oddest configuration!

Ahem. Yes. Let’s look at a few, shall we?

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Toyota Claims New Camry Represents an Evolution for the Entire Company

Toyota is claiming that its TNGA modular platform represents more than a sea change for the Camry. It points to an entirely new direction for the company as a whole, highlighting its commitment to American manufacturing and a future involving more exciting vehicles.

While the latter remains to be seen, the Toyota New Global Architecture has warped the company’s midsize sedan into something almost unrecognizable. With substantially “more-aggressive” styling, the Camry is also boasting efficiency and performance gains — thanks to the platform’s low center of gravity and increased rigidity. But Toyota doesn’t want to keep the technology limited to America’s best-selling sedan, the architecture and concept are set to be baked into future vehicles as well. Because what good is cost-saving modular platform if you are only use it on a single model?

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2018 Toyota Camry Prices and Fuel Economy Ratings - More Money, More Power, More MPGs

The 2018 Toyota Camry will be priced from $24,380, including delivery, when it goes on sale this summer — a $425 increase compared with the base 2017 Camry.

Riding on an evolution of the Prius and C-HR’s Toyota New Global Architecture, the 2018 Camry is an all-new design for the first time since the 2012 model year. Market positioning is key, even for a Camry that’s been America’s best-selling car for 15 consecutive years, as demand for midsize sedans is quickly falling and even Toyota is seeing greater interest in the RAV4 than the historically dominant Camry. With new competitors approaching from Honda and Nissan, Toyota isn’t fooling around with this hugely important launch.

All eighth-generation Camrys are equipped with an eight-speed automatic. There’s essentially no tangible weight increase. The Camry offers the most standard horsepower in the midsize segment, the optional 3.5-liter V6 now produces 301 horsepower, and all Camrys now include Toyota Safety Sense P with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and auto high beams.

Perhaps most notably, highway fuel economy jumps all the way to 41 miles per gallon; above 50 mpg for Camry Hybrids.

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The 2018 Toyota Camry Has the Most Standard Horsepower in America's Midsize Sedan Segment - for Now

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry’s new 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine generates 203 horsepower in the entry-level model, 206 horsepower in the 2018 Camry XSE.

This means the eighth-generation Camry offers the most standard horsepower of any car in America’s midsize segment, at least for the time being.

We know not yet what the 2018 Honda Accord will bring. Honda released some engine details last Friday, including information that reveals the death of the Accord’s V6 and future reliance on the 1.5-liter turbo from the Civic and CR-V — as well as the 2.0-liter turbo from the Civic Type R. But we don’t know how much power Honda, notoriously not a participant in any horsepower war, will allow the Accord’s basic 1.5T to produce.

Meanwhile, the Camry’s upgrade engine continues to be a 3.5-liter V6, and Toyota’s gone and done the right thing with that powerplant, too. Moar powah.

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