Toyota Camry

Source: Toyota Motor North America / Toyota Motor North America

S   o, I’ve never driven the 2018 Toyota Camry. That’s not to say I haven’t seen it. I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time with it, first, at the 2017 New York International Auto Show and most recently at the FACE List Awards Gala, which was held during the 2017 Pan African Weekend NYC.

One of Toyota’s flagship vehicles, the Camry was its best-selling model for the last 29 years—the RAV4 mini SUV exceeded Camry sales for the very first time this year. Still, Camry remains one of the most iconic Toyotas on the street, so it’s not surprising that the brand spends so much time and energy on it.

So, what can I tell you without having driven it yet? A lot, actually. First of all, car companies love to do something called a “refresh.” It means that the brands take the basic body style that is already selling well and make a few minor tweaks and upgrades. Alternately, some car companies will barely touch a best-selling car, silently invoking the maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

All that said, Toyota’s choice to do the equivalent of a gut renovation on one of the best-selling midsize sedans in the world is a bold move and a big risk. Especially considering that J.D. Power recently ranked the Toyota Camry as having the lowest average number of problems, period.

For the redesign, Chief Engineer Masato Katsumata’s task was to keep Camry’s core components, while adding something new: high-end performance and a whole lot of sex appeal.

And that’s not just hype. When I first sat inside the 2018 Camry, I thought it was a Lexus that had been mislabeled. The interior looks fly and it also offers features usually reserved for luxury vehicles, like standard dynamic cruise control, a wireless phone charging system, paddle shifters, and a textured metal interior trim.

During the Toyota-sponsored FACE List Awards, I interviewed close to 10 different people while they were sitting inside the 2018 Toyota Camry, and—while the design cues were much appreciated—it was the car’s smoothness on the road and its classic reliability that really impressed people the most.

Almost 100% of the interviewees had favorable previous experience with Toyota before being exposed to the 2018 Camry, including a man who not only buys Toyota but also requests a Toyota vehicle when he needs to rent a car. Perhaps his sense of brand loyalty helps explain the fact that Toyota is historically the top selling car brand among African Americans.

Another key component of Toyota’s appeal to the multicultural audience is its longevity. That’s why it isn’t uncommon to hear Toyota owners brag about keeping the vehicle for more than a decade, or two, before trading up. To another Toyota.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact the 2018 Toyota Camry will make on the community, but if the reactions I’ve witnessed are any indication, the new Camry is going to be a huge hit.

  • 2018 Toyota Camry (Toyota.com)
  • Starts at $23.4K
  • MPG: 22/32
  • Fun fact: The pre-collision detection system, which comes standard, will alert you if it senses an imminent collision and direct additional power to the brakes.