For years the Camry has been the butt of many jokes. Any time a Camry article is posted, comments like “Does it come in beige?”, “yawn”, and “no 1 cures bout dem furin cars” are abundant to say the least. The Instagram, @boring.cars has always loved picking on the lowly Camry. To be honest, it has been an easy target for as long as I remember. Many actually come in a shade of beige or white, it’s been nothing to write home to mom about. For decades, it has been one of the best-selling vehicle in the US and it’s been there for a reason. The Camry has been affordable, reliable, and an easy answer to “what car should I buy”. Well, Akiro Toyoda and the Toyota engineers have heard what you’re saying and are coming back swinging. Toyoda, the president of ToyMoCo, has been pushing for Toyota to reach a market it hasn’t had since the Supra ended production in 2002.
That market? Fun cars.
Even as a Toyota apologist, I must admit, Toyota and Lexus haven’t been at the forefront of cars I want to drive. In 2008, Lexus showed their intent by selling the ISF, and nearly a decade later, Toyota is finally catching up. The 2018 Corolla hatchback has been getting rave reviews and the new Supra has been seen testing all over the world but this new focus on sportier vehicles is finally reaching the masses. There is absolutely no car that reaches the masses more than the Camry.
When Toyota released the 2018 Camry, it shocked the world. It was definitely not what people expected from a vehicle better known as a grandparent transportation appliance. (Ed. note, that’s the Avalon!) The mostly lackluster design of the last generation was traded for a car with “vents” and curves and other things usually associated with something more fun. When I first saw a new Camry in the wild, I laughed. I didn’t laugh because it was funny though, I laughed because it was shocking. It was a good-looking Camry.
Fast forward to this loaner that Toyota sent me for a week, with its gorgeous silver paint and black wrapped top, the feelings were much the same. While helping a friend move, I was complimented on the “really sharp car” I was driving. I even had a valet exclaim in disbelief to my wife as she got out of the car “Is that really a Camry? There’s no way that’s a Camry!”. Friends who are fellow automotive enthusiasts have also talked about how they “hate that I like this car” because it’s a Camry. Quad outlet exhaust, 18” standard wheels, and a down right aggressive look all give the appearance of a car your grandparents would fear. Even as I sit here typing out the praises of a Camry exterior I can’t believe it either.
The interior is no different. The only complaint anyone had was the sheer intensity of the interior for a Camry. When checking the qualifications of an “@boring,car”, a red interior is definitely not on the list of expected items and some could be considered quite abrasive. During my week of daily driving, there was only one or two times I thought it to be too much. Toyota worked to overcome the over-the-top seats by including a largely black dash with an accent of red on the driver’s side. The infotainment system is much easier to use then the Lexus mouse setup. The screen is accessible via touch, but the combination of physical buttons and screen controls make for a fluent control of most features. I did find myself changing the temperature rather than the volume on more than one occasion but that is something easily rectifiable via practice and ownership.
In the performance department, it is no slouch either. At 0-60 in around five and a half seconds, it could be considered fast for most sedans under $100,000, let alone a car that MSRPs for just under $40,000. Anyone who asked was shocked by the 305 horsepower figure. The 3.5L V6 being a staple of the Toyota and Lexus lineup, it’s wouldn’t be too surprising to see it producing that level of power worry free either. Handling was also far above what would, or should, be expected. The vehicle weight, at just under 3400 lbs, is actually quite light for a four-door sedan but the heavy powertrain over the front axle does create a little understeer but it can be managed. Turn in was quite good and whether it was backroads, city roads, or the interstate, The Camry made me feel comfortable and ready to tackle whatever was next.
The focus Toyota has been working on more “fun normal cars” is working. While visiting Key West last week, I saw more Camrys than any other single automobile. Not a surprising fact considering it is the one of the highest selling vehicles in the United States and has been for years. But, only two of the Camrys I saw were the nearly $40,000 XSE. This car has been a huge financial windfall for Toyota and hopefully this trend of interesting family cars will not be killed off soon. People want reliable fun cars, and the Camry is the perfect compromise. For $10,000 more the GS300 is a better, although slower, compromise; but the Camry is not the car you think it to be. It deserves a shot very few people have given it before. Take that mic drop @boring,cars.