The Toyota Camry is currently the best selling car in America. The Camry since its inception has been reliable, comfortable, but could never really be mistaken for an exciting car. The Camry was the car you bought when your priorities changed and very affordable and reliable family transportation became your main attraction to a new car. The problem is that some Camry buyers have desired a little more performance under the hood along with a sporty and stylish exterior and interior. In the past these Camry buyers had to move to Nissan, BMW, and other automakers to purchase a genuine sporty 4-door sedan.
It’s not that Toyota hasn’t had the in-house talent to produce a true sporty 4-door sedan, it’s that simply Toyota hasn’t really been performance oriented in a very long time. Flashback three decades and Toyota had the following fun sports cars – the Supra, Celica, and MR2. All are long gone. In recent years Toyota has gotten too comfortable producing reliable, fuel-efficient, and affordable cars. To its credit, it does this well. Toyota never gave up on performance it merely shifted it to its upscale Lexus division many years ago. However many of Lexus’ cars over the years have been too expensive for the average buyer. In recent years it has been Toyota’s Scion division to the rescue with its performance-oriented rear-wheel drive Scion FR-S. To Toyota’s credit it realizes the problem and is in the process of remedying it with the return of the rear-wheel drive Supra for the 2019 model year which will be built on a platform shared with the upcoming BMW Z4.
This new Toyota performance attitude is now being applied to the stodgy Camry. For 2018, Toyota has a new redesigned Camry which is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). The new Camry is wider and larger than the 2017 Camry it replaces. Though Toyota will offer different Camry models for 2018, the Camry XSE will be aimed at performance buyers. This isn’t the XSE model you have seen available with the Camry since 2015 which was merely an appearance package that never quite looked right. With the 2018 Camry XSE, Toyota has nailed it, the XSE package finally gives the Camry the Lexus DNA its been longing for. In other words the Camry XSE no longer looks like the Lexus IS’s senior citizen great uncle but it’s bigger, stronger, better looking brother. The aggressive blacked-out front grille is complimented by many curved edges that touch it. The lines flow well in ever other part of the exterior in perfect harmony. There’s even a rear deck-lid spoiler. The overall look of the 2018 Camry XSE is bold and muscular.
In the interior the 2018 Camry XSE’s materials are far superior than the vehicle it replaces. The dash has a very functional layout, not to mention the entire dash has an artistic flow. The XSE’s seats provide the support and feel you would expect from a serious sports car. There’s also a new red leather seating option which rivals the best you’ll find in ultra expensive European sports cars. Overall the interior really takes the Camry XSE to the next level when compared to the 2017 XSE’s boring and outdated interior. Let’s face it most Camry XSE owners are going to spend a lot of time behind the wheel, this new very attractive interior is going to be the cause of many 2018 Camry XSE sales. There are so many available options on the options list -everything from a retractable panoramic glass sunroof to a 800 watt JBL sound system. Unfortunately there is neither an Apple CarPlay option or Android Auto option.
As good as all this sounds Toyota has added some real meat to the 2018 Camry XSE, it’s 3.5 liter V6 produces 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. This is 33 horsepower more than the 2017 Camry XSE’s 3.5 liter V6. The XSE’s quad outlet exhaust pipes gives the V6 powered XSE a very nice performance tone. Now the bad, just like the previous year’s XSE which came standard with a 178 horsepower 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine, the 2018 XSE will be standard with a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder, however it will now produce 206 horsepower. I can see why Toyota is offering a 4-cylinder from a financial standpoint since it will ensure XSE sales are higher however from a purist performance car standpoint it lessens the appeal of the XSE package by having it be standard with a 4-cylinder engine. Unfortunately there is not a manual transmission option for the XSE or any 2018 Camry. The XSE has as its mandatory transmission, a new 8-speed automatic unit which is available with steering wheel paddle shifters.
Toyota has not forgotten handling, steering feel, and road feel with the 2018 Camry XSE. The Camry will provide excellent crisp handling while still providing the civilized ride characteristics we have come to expect from the Camry when the pavement is rough.
The final verdict is the Camry XSE will be a must have among current or previous Camry owners who have desired a more fun performance oriented Camry. The 2018 Camry XSE is still a front-wheel drive car that’s in a buying segment where the competition is very fierce, so wishing it was rear-wheel drive is pointless. The new XSE is going to win over a lot of new buyers. It’s a big leap forward for Toyota, and shows that Toyota is now very serious about producing a genuine performance oriented 4-door sedan. The new XSE is a big game changer, and if the new XSE is a taste of what’s to come in the future, the future will indeed be bright for Toyota. The new XSE opens up the floodgates of possibilities for the Camry, who knows there may even be a future all-wheel drive option or perhaps a bump to 350 or even 400 horsepower for the XSE in the near future. If you really like performance cars and are forced to own a reliable front-wheel drive 4-door sedan the new XSE will certainly not disappoint.
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