2018 Toyota Camry: A whole new world from Toyota?

Price: $30,390 as tested (only a panoramic sunroof added $1,045 to the cost). Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the "efficient four-cylinder, refined road manners, spacious interior," but not the "uninspired acceleration, busy styling," and that "key infotainment features are missing."

Marketer's pitch: "Toyota Safety Sense standard."

Reality: It's like a trip back in time.

What's new: The Toyota Camry gets a much-ballyhooed redesign that definitely draws Mr. Driver's Seat's eye.

But it's what's underneath and inside that counts.

Up to speed: Toyota has infused the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the Camry with some power — 203 horses, to be exact. Acceleration was quite brisk, especially in sport mode; it could be a little whiny in regular drive mode.

Sixty miles per hour comes in 7.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver. A V-6 model comes with 301 horsepower, so it's far more fun, assuredly.

Shifty: Ahhh, do I spy a shiftable automatic in a Camry? Ohh, the edges of the Camry are starting to look a little soft, because I must be in a dream.

(Splash of cold water.)

Nope, forget it, pal. Let Toyota's eight-speed transmission do the work for you, and like it, 'mkay? Perhaps this is to push people into the Lexus line.

On the road: Speaking of dreamy, the Camry seemed to move like a dream — at first. I'd just finished up a couple of crossovers and was happy to come back down to earth in a car. Highway cruising was very nice, indeed.

Until I started turning. Big turns, corners, otherwise fun turns — they were all turned to mush in the Camry's suspension. Somehow, I imagine myself like the late, great Papa Driver's Seat in his 1970 Ford LTD. That car may have been long gone before I got my license, but the Camry is how I imagine the handling to be.

The Camry and I eventually found a meeting of the minds. Highway cruising is nice, and rolling hills make Dukes of Hazzard-style jumps come easy. Just slow down before the turns.

The 2018 Camry’s interior has some shortfalls — in technology and comfort — and handling is just not up to par.
Toyota
The 2018 Camry’s interior has some shortfalls — in technology and comfort — and handling is just not up to par.

Driver's Seat: The interior looks really sharp — pretty leather seats, nicely appointed and rich-looking materials.

But this seat just flat-out hurt my back. I could adjust the lumbar just as I wanted it, but while the seat didn't feel hard, it wasn't comfortable. Some heavy stitched trim in the lower part of the seat seemed to be the culprit. Your mileage may vary.

Maintaining speed: I'd been dreading this moment. I knew someday some Toyota designer would look at my beloved cruise-control stalk and murmur: "But that's so last decade. Let do it here on the steering wheel. See how cool?"

No. Give me back my stalk.

Also, radar cruise is awesome, but there needs to be a normal, nonadaptive setting available for when the radar sensor gets gunked with snow. It's snowing in Southeastern Pennsylvania in April, and you're going to take away my cruise control, too? Thanks a lot.

Keeping warm and cool: The vents also bring back a 1970s feel — really wide low ducts blast the air at you from the middle. I was almost expecting to see slider controls beneath them, and perhaps a speedometer needle that tracks from left to right.

Play some tunes: Fortunately, we get more than an AM mono unit with one dashboard speaker, but Toyota still needs to join us in 2018. Its infotainment systems don't come with GPS pre-installed, and CarPlay is not available. Sirius XM is also not available.

Furthermore, the Camry dashboard design continues the Toyota tradition of odd lines merging together around the stereo as well — a look that dates back at least to Mr. Driver's Seat's 2011 Sienna.

Nice silver buttons control most functions, and then a small, somewhat blurry touchscreen takes it from there. This seems acceptable in a $16,000 Corolla IM but not in a $30,000 Camry.

Friends and stuff: The rear seat is not as spacious as I expected. Legroom is OK but not astounding; headroom is actually a little tight, thanks to that pretty roofline curve. The center passenger isn't treated too badly, though.

The seatback itself, though, leaves a lot to be desired. Très uncomfortable.

Cargo space is 15.1 cubic feet.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 33 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat round of testing, pretty darn good.

Where it's built: Georgetown, Ky.

How it's built: Consumer Reports predicts the Camry reliability to be a 4 out of 5.

In the end: I have nothing against Toyota — I own one and Sturgis Kids 1.0 through 3.0 each own one as well, at my recommendation. But does the Camry have to be so blah?