Glittery, shiny purple paint in what Toyota calls Ruby Flare Pearl and with extra contour traces than WTF moments in “Sport of Thrones,” the 2018 Camry Hybrid surprised me with its visible presence. From the belt-line dip on the cab to the odd little C-pillar crease, Toyota’s designers specific lots of feeling on this new Camry.

I virtually anticipated a Lexus badge up entrance, somewhat than the upended-oval-and-steer-horns Toyota emblem.

And past fashion, the brand new Camry seems huge, not terribly stunning because it good points a few inches in wheelbase and about 1 inch in general size versus the earlier technology. Though wider by a half-inch, it additionally drops an inch in top, which doubtless explains the almost Three-cubic-foot drop in passenger quantity. That stated, the inside felt roomy in each entrance and rear seats.

The Camry, Toyota’s midsize sedan, gained a status as a boring transportation equipment, but nonetheless manages to carry the highest spot in US automobile gross sales for a few years operating. At this yr’s Detroit auto present final January, Toyota launched its utterly re-engineered and restyled 2018 Camry. This eighth-generation Camry sedan is constructed on Toyota’s new structure, which additionally underpins the brand new Prius. The corporate sells it with a four-cylinder engine, V6 or as a gasoline-electric hybrid, much like the earlier technology.

Toyota’s designers labored extra time on the brand new Camry.

Wayne Cunningham/Proinertech Roadshow

Toyota affords the Camry Hybrid in LE, XLE and SE trim, of which I drove a preproduction model of the final of those. For 2018, Toyota elevated the output of the automobile’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, from 156 to 176 horsepower, whereas lowering the complementary electrical motor from 105 to 88 kilowatts. These adjustments end in the next general output, going from 200 to 208 horsepower.

Together with extra energy, the brand new Camry Hybrid boasts a rise in gas financial system. In SE and XLE trim, the 2018 Camry Hybrid will get 44 mpg metropolis and 47 mpg freeway, about Eight mpg higher than the 2017 mannequin, on common. My outcomes got here in at 44.5 mpg for the Camry Hybrid SE.

As an added wrinkle, Toyota additionally makes the Camry Hybrid LE out there, utilizing a lithium-ion battery pack as a substitute of the nickel-metal hydride utilized by the opposite trims, and attaining a powerful 51 mpg metropolis and 53 mpg freeway.

The Camry Hybrid’s Eight-inch display exhibits when the automobile is driving below electrical energy.

Wayne Cunningham/Proinertech Roadshow

With the important thing fob in my pocket, the Camry Hybrid unlocks with a contact of the door deal with, and pushing the beginning button causes the silent boot-up I’ve grown accustomed to with hybrids. Beginning out my journey with the drive mode set to Eco, somewhat than Regular or Sport, I discover that the mode additionally impacts local weather management, not simply the powertrain. Eco modes have turn into in style in vehicles, however few truly detune the air-con, one of many prime accent power customers, so it’s good to see Toyota implement it right here.

The automobile flows by means of the parking zone below electrical energy, the ability animation on the middle Eight-inch touchscreen displaying the battery feeding the drive motor. On the road, moving into the accelerator somewhat extra, the engine cranks up with a noticeable harshness, its grinding noise disrupting the electrical quiet. The engine sound is not nice, however I solely hear it below acceleration. And Toyota’s planetary gearset, which stands in for a conventional transmission in its hybrids, seamlessly mixes the ability, so I do not really feel an surprising enhance from the engine.

After I discover a have to sluggish, particularly taking place a hill, I experience the brakes within the data that, somewhat than burning up brake pads I am charging up the Camry Hybrid’s battery.

Over tough roads and clean, the Camry Hybrid delivers a agency however pliant experience, dealing with potholes and bumps like an expert. The entire expertise, from the heft of the steering to physique movement, feels strong and well-tuned.

Though the local weather management’s Eco mode retains me good and funky whereas driving in 90-degree warmth, I check out the Camry Hybrid’s Regular drive mode. It provides somewhat extra throttle sensitivity, however not sufficient distinction for me to make use of it regularly. If I owned the Camry Hybrid, I might doubtless simply go away the automobile in Eco as my default.

I wait till I get the Camry Hybrid on a twisty mountain highway earlier than hitting its Sport mode and utilizing the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. This mode appears utterly pointless for the Camry Hybrid, nevertheless it corporations up the steering and makes the throttle extra delicate. Sport mode places the transmission in S4, which is basically extra of a spread than a gear. Dropping it right down to S3 with the paddle, I hear the engine operating at greater pace, though there is no such thing as a tachometer to trace the rpms.

The agency suspension limits physique roll within the turns, however understeer and size retains the Camry Hybrid from being a sleeper sports activities automobile.

Toyota’s Entune Three.zero infotainment system, debuting within the Camry, is constructed on the Automotive Grade Linux platform.

Wayne Cunningham/Proinertech Roadshow

Greater than the drive expertise, and killer gas financial system, what I actually seemed ahead to in driving the brand new Camry Hybrid was the prospect to expertise Entune Three.zero, the primary manufacturing infotainment system to be constructed on Automotive Grade Linux. For Entune, it is just like the change from Mac OS 9 to OS X, a totally new system constructed on a well-engineered platform.

The house display exhibits audio on the proper aspect of the dashboard touchscreen, with the automobile’s energy circulation animation on the higher left and saved cellphone contacts on the decrease left. Audio contains the standard sources, from a single USB up entrance to Bluetooth streaming to satellite tv for pc radio. The interface graphics look sensible, with out a lot effort spent on aesthetics, and the touchscreen proves responsive.

Navigation on this preproduction Camry Hybrid SE, nonetheless, is relegated to Toyota’s Entune Three.zero App Suite, powered by Scout GPS Hyperlink app operating on my cellphone. A Toyota spokesman instructed me that onboard navigation will likely be out there in manufacturing variations of the Camry Hybrid.

After establishing my Entune Three.zero account, establishing one other one for Scout GPS Hyperlink, then connecting my cellphone to the automobile, I’ve bought maps on the dashboard. I can search for locations within the Scout app on my cellphone and have them out there within the automobile, or within the automobile I can use the Eight-inch touchscreen to sort in an internet vacation spot search. Nonetheless, Entune locks out most inputs after I’m shifting, so I can solely search after I’ve pulled over and put the Camry Hybrid in Park.

The maps are simple to learn, and route steerage works precisely. Nonetheless, Scout makes an attempt to get granular by telling me the subsequent flip is arising in distances as quick as 50 ft. Telephone GPS is not all that correct, so I typically discovered myself already making the flip when Scout suggested me about my upcoming maneuver. Increments of 100 or 200 ft could be extra sensible.

Oddly, the Scout navigation implementation within the Camry Hybrid additionally switched inexplicably between the map view and switch listing when below route steerage, with no obvious means of choosing one or the opposite.

Whereas testing Entune Three.zero, I regularly thought to myself, why did not Toyota simply go together with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay? The perfect response I may suss out was Entune’s a lot larger variety of third celebration apps, an space the place each Apple and Google have been surprisingly sluggish to implement. Simply as within the earlier model of Entune, I may take heed to NPR One, iHeartRadio, Slacker or Pandora, and I may seek for locations on Yelp.

After all, there isn’t any cause Toyota could not embody Android Auto and Apple CarPlay help alongside Entune Three.zero in an replace.

My largest grievance with Entune Three.zero within the Camry Hybrid was that it not solely locks out vacation spot entry whereas underway, it additionally would not let me choose music from my iPhone library. As a substitute of selecting an artist or album, choosing my iPhone because the audio supply merely auto-played the highest itemizing within the library. That is extra restrictive than any automobile on the highway, however hopefully one thing that may change for the manufacturing car.

Final yr Toyota made a dedication to incorporate superior security know-how on all its vehicles, commonplace, which implies the Camry Hybrid advantages from the Toyota Security Sense P bundle of options. Though I did not check it, the automobile detects pedestrians and robotically brakes if it senses an impending collision, a probably life-saving know-how. The bundle contains lane-departure prevention, which steers the automobile again into its lane for those who let it drift. Nonetheless, this method is the least aggressive of the numerous I’ve examined, because it solely took maintain after I was effectively onto a lane line.

On the comfort entrance, the Camry Hybrid contains adaptive cruise management, which matches pace with slower visitors forward. This method labored effectively on the freeway, however because it braked for stopped visitors the system dropped out, displaying a message that it would not function below 32 mph, making it ineffective for stop-and-go visitors.

The Camry Hybrid blows its gasoline-only siblings away in the case of gas financial system, and would not stint on the ability.

Wayne Cunningham/Proinertech Roadshow

Actually in its styling, Toyota retains the 2018 Camry trendy. And its roomy, near-premium inside will attraction to many a seller lot shopper. The Camry’s engine line-up seems staid in comparison with opponents, who largely ditch V6es in favor of turbocharged inline fours. Nonetheless, with the Camry Hybrid you possibly can’t deny the the double-win of improved energy and gas effectivity. As with the previous Camry technology, I favor the hybrid for its mixture of energy and financial system, regardless of the very fact the brand new four-cylinder Camry will get simply over 200 horsepower.

Entune Three.zero prompts the query of why Toyota hasn’t carried out Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, though they are not mutually unique. Perhaps in a future model.

Surprisingly, the least costly Camry Hybrid, the LE at $27,800, will get the very best mileage, topping 50 mpg as a result of its lithium-ion battery and improved powertrain effectivity. That makes it a tempting choice, however I might take a severe take a look at the Camry Hybrid XLE. At $32,250 base, the XLE trim comes with many attention-grabbing commonplace options, most prominently a 10-inch head-up show and a extra upscale audio system. For the gadget-happy, the XLE is the best way to go.

The midsize sedan section, the place the Camry competes, has lengthy been scorching, however this new technology comes out at a really strategic time. Chevrolet confirmed off a well-received new technology of its Malibu two years in the past, whereas Honda has introduced its new technology 2018 Accord, which will not hit sellers till later this yr. The Hyundai Sonata will get a serious facelift for the 2018 mannequin yr and will likely be out quickly. Different opponents, akin to Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima, are lengthy within the tooth. 

Editor’s word: This assessment was based mostly on a preproduction model of the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE. Though we do not count on our analysis of experience high quality or design to vary, Toyota could revise software program with the its infotainment system.

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