Seeking to shake its reputation as dependable, safe, and boring, America’s bestselling car is broadening its lineup to include “a Camry for everyone.”
The Toyota Camry, which helped spearhead the popular mid-size sedan segment when it launched stateside in 1983, has been the best-selling car here for the last 15 years. For the Camry’s eighth-generation, arriving at dealerships this summer, designers cast the car in a sportier mold to suit an upgraded slate of engines as well as a new entry-level model.
“Even as we emphasize feel, handling, and overall driving performance, we’ve created a Camry that continues to improve in the areas of power output and class-leading fuel economy – two things we strongly believe will resonate with our drivers,” said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division for Toyota Motor North America.
The 2018 Camry will be built on Toyota’s new platform, called Toyota New Global Architecture, as part of a cost-saving measure to streamline the production process. Analysts say the move will support Toyota’s role in continuing to set the standard for versatile mid-size sedans.
“It’s about getting far more economies of scale than they have even now,” said David Whiston, an analyst at Morningstar. “They have to do it to keep a cost advantage and competitive cost structure with other massive manufacturers such as Volkswagen.”
The Camry is available in five trims, ranging from the new, $23,495 entry-level L grade to the $34,950, top-of-the-line XSE trim configured with an optional V6 engine. Hollis said the L model, which has smaller wheels and a manually-adjusted driver’s seat, will help attract more customers to the nameplate. “The new L grade is yet another example of how we listen to our customers, and then translate their feedback into a tailored lineup that meets their needs,” he said. “Indeed, our new L grade will help in our mission to attain – and retain – new drivers.”
Fuel efficiency will also be key in attracting and keeping Camry customers, especially as the nameplate's new hybrid lineup boasts figures beginning to rival the segment’s gold standard, the Toyota Prius, which is also built on Toyota’s global platform. The Camry’s entry-level hybrid is 30 percent more fuel efficient than the outgoing model, delivering 52 mpg combined, the same as the Toyota Prius. The Camry’s standard gasoline engine returns 34 mpg combined, a 26 percent improvement over the last one.
Though the Camry has managed to meet the evolving demands of the U.S. market – namely, growing larger and offering more amenities – the switch to the new platform underscores the pressure to remain competitive, said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at Edmunds. “While the Camry is definitely a yardstick by which other sedans are measured, this space has become increasingly crowded in the past decade and most automakers today sell a high quality, well designed midsize sedan.”