Earlier in 2017, we had the opportunity to drive the new for 2018 Camry mid-size sedans at their North American launch.  At the time we noted that – while many competitors were refocusing on SUV and CUV vehicles over sedans – Toyota was not.

While others were satisfied to offer a mid-size sedan for 2018 with minimal upgrades or improvements, Toyota had invested in a totally reimagined Camry.   A Camry for 2018 that has been restyled and reengineered to deliver more comfort, convenience and amenities.  There is more power (including hybrid) with better driving characteristics, latest technology, increased fuel economy and more.

To our surprise, we came away from that launch event with a strong impression that the new 2018 Toyota Camry was a winner and the Hybrid, hands down, was the best of the new Camrys.

Knowing that driving a top-of-the-line unit at a launch event is not the same as spending a week with a production unit more like most shoppers would be looking for, we knew we needed more drive time in the hybrid.

2018 Toyota Camry SE hybrid

The 2018 Camry Hybrid is available in three well equipped trim levels (LE, SE, XLE) priced from $27,800 to $32,250.  We put in a request for the mid-level SE model in order to confirm our earlier impressions and a little bit before Christmas, Toyota delivered us a 2018 Camry Hybrid SE for week long test drive.

The long and short of it is that our launch impression was confirmed.  We would buy the hybrid vs the 2.5L four-cylinder or the 3.5L V6 powered models – even with their new 8-speed automatic transmission enhanced performance because – all else being equal – the hybrid simply drives better.

Testing the 2018 Camry Hybrid SE

Toyota brought us a 2018 Camry Hybrid SE in Ruby Flare Pearl (special color) with black interior for us to test – great color by the way, just right for the season.

The MSRP for our Camry Hybrid SE was $29,500.  Already well equipped, Toyota had added a short list of packages and options popular with buyers that included Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof ($900), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert ($600), Convenience Package with Auto-Dimming Mirror ($325) and the Entune 3.0 Audio Plus ($1,060) 6-speaker system including a 7-inch color touchscreen, Connected Navigation and App Suite, Qi-compatible Wireless Smartphone Charging and more.

Adding $395 for the Ruby Flare Pearl special color and delivery – our test 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE priced at $33,685.

The Hybrid Powertrain

The reengineered Toyota Hybrid Drive System for 2018 delivers a new higher net 208 horsepower and is mated to a new Sequential Shiftmatic Technology “quickshift” CVT with a Drive Mode SPORT setting.  Convincingly emulating a conventional six-speed automatic, this powertrain delivered – what we have called ‘eye-popping’ performance.

For additional confirmation of our thinking, we took several current Camry owners for evaluation rides across the week and, impressing them in every case, had them questioning if this SE was really a hybrid.

Looks Better Inside and Out

Camry styling for 2018 is sleeker and sportier with a new lower center of gravity accented by its aggressive – yet refined – shape and silhouette featuring LED lighting in front that borders a lower, wider and sleeker profile with a new two-piece grill nestled below a 1.6-inch lower aluminum hood featuring a bold new Toyota emblem.

At the SE trim level, it is even more aggressive looking with sculpted rocker panels, 18-inch machine-finish alloy wheels, rear spoiler, front bumper with gloss black mesh grill, rear bumper with distinctive lower diffuser corner lines and smoke-tinted rear lamps.  The lower waistline features a bold crease reaching from the slim LED taillights to the bumper that appear to push the rear wheels outward like a premium sport sedan.

Featuring lowered hip points for the occupants, the new Camry is about one inch lower than its predecessor – but (we can confirm), it surprisingly keeps the ease of access it is known for.

On the inside, the 2018 Camry redesign provides generous personal space, comfort and convenience with new distinctive styling and materials.

Most notable is the new, very bold, fluid character line for the console and center stack that sweeps down from the instrument cluster to bisect the center console waterfall.  The performance styled cockpit angles the carefully planned yet distinctive array of gauges and screens toward the driver to provide ease of visibility and access.

Cabin surfaces – dashboard, instrument panel, center console, door trim and so on – feature a carefully selected array of high grade materials including metals and layered woods with textures and colors in a rich combination pleasing to both eye and touch.

Comfortable cabin seating features a new ergonomic design with available Sport SofTex trim and fabric inserts or leather-trimmed multi-stage heated front seats and accent stitching both front and rear.

The new 2018 Camry drives, handles and rides better on 18-inch alloy wheels with its enhanced suspension system using an improved MacPherson strut setup at the front with a new double wishbone system at the rear –  both using gas-filled shocks and stabilizer bars.

Steering is Electric Power Steering with an electric-assist rack and pinion system and braking features 12-inch ventilated disc up front and 11.06-inch solid disc at the rear.

All of the Rest

Building on the LE entry trim level, our test SE exterior featured Bi-LED Combination Headlights with Auto On/Off, LED Daytime Running Lights, LED Combination Taillights, Color-Keyed Outside Mirrors, Color-Keyed Door Handles with Touch Sensor Lock/Unlock, Washer-Linked Intermittent Windshield Wipers, Solar Energy-Absorbing Glass and Acoustic Windshield

The SE trim level added the following exterior features: Black Front Grille with Sport Mesh Insert, Color-Keyed Sport Side Rocker Panels, Color-Keyed Rear Spoiler, Dual Chrome Tips to the exhaust and upgrades to 18-inch Black Machined-Finish Alloy Wheels mounted with P235/45R18 all-season tires.

Building from the LE, interior standard features of our SE included Full-speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Four-mode Drive Mode Control Switch, Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control, Integrated Back-up Camera with path projection, 4.2-inch TFT Multi-Information Display, Smart Key with Push Button Start, Keyless Entry and Remote Entry Illumination, Electric Parking Brake, 60/40 Split Fold-down rear seat with armrest and cupholders and LED Rear Seat Reading Lamps.

The SE trim level adds or enhances with Sport SofTex-trimmed, 8-way power driver and 6-way manual passenger, heated front seating with fabric inserts, Embossed Mesh interior trim, soft-touch upper door trims and layered wood accents, Leather-trimmed 3-spoke Sport Steering Wheel with paddle shifters and multi-function audio, information, cruise and voice command controls.

Safety

The comprehensive Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) suite of systems and technology is standard on all models of the 2018 Camry.  Included are Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Assist with Steering Assist and Automatic High Beams.  In addition, all models have 10 airbags and feature the Toyota Star Safety System with Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Brakes and Smart Stop Technology.

You can read our earlier report on the complete 2018 Toyota Camry lineup up here:  http://www.inwheeltime.com/2018-camry-quantum-leap-forward/

The 2018 Toyota Camry – including hybrid – is available at dealerships now.  Click here (https://www.toyota.com/camry/ ) for more information about the Camry lineup.