Ignition

2018 TOYOTA CAMRY XSE V6

Story and Photograph­y by Lee Bailie AS TESTED

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Quick confession: the last Toyota Camry I drove was in 2010, and let's just say it didn't leave a favourable impression.

If memory serves, it perfectly fit the cliched notion of Toyota's ubiquitous mid-sized family sedan: low-level LE trim with a noisy 2.5L 4-cylinder engine mated to a mushy automatic and trimmed in the dullest beige on beige colour scheme once could imagine.

Seven years on, I find myself in beautiful late-summer Prince Edward Island behind the wheel of a 2018 Camry XSE V6 and my feelings could not have been more different – this is a Camry I didn't want to stop driving. It was as if Toyota has given the car a desperatel­yneeded soul transplant.

The XSE V6 is powered by 3.5L V6 (301 hp / 267 lb-ft.), mated to an eight-speed automatic that drives the front wheels. Of note, the V6 receives rather significan­t gains in horsepower and torque output (33 and 19, respective­ly) for improved performanc­e.

The big news for the 2018 Camry is that it is the first Toyota to receive the full implementa­tion of TNGA, which stands for Toyota New Global Architectu­re. The 2018 C-HR compact CUV also has some TNGA elements.

Without getting too much into the technical weeds, TNGA means a higher level of body rigidity (30 percent increase for Camry), a low centre of gravity, a more rigid steering system and a double wishbone rear suspension.

This translates into a car that is longer (30 mm), wider (20 mm) and shorter (25 mm) than its predecesso­r and rides on a longer wheelbase (45 mm). Among the benefits of TNGA are better driving dynamics, lower fuel consumptio­n and a stiffer, lighter body that also reduces NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).

In terms of content, the XSE V6 comes with standard 19-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, 7-inch multi-informatio­n display, panoramic glass roof, LED headlights, tail lights and DRLS. A quad-tip exhaust, embedded navigation, a 10inch head-up display, Bird's Eye View monitor and a ninespeake­r JBL audio system are also standard kit.

The ' 18 Camry also receives a few other firsts. Entune 3.0, an infotainme­nt system which offers connectivi­ty, navigation and entertainm­ent via smartphone connection in a similar fashion to Android Auto and Apple Carplay is available in Canada for the first time across the Camry model range. Entune works with Android and IOS devices and features built-in and third-party apps that deliver weather, traffic, sports scores and gas station locations, among other informatio­n.

On the road, the Camry XSE V6 offers a very quiet and comfortabl­e ride. Sound insulation has been improved and it shows, and the car's lower centre of gravity, more rigid structure and longer and wider stance has improved its handling significan­tly.

I'm pleased to see company brass chuck convention­al Camry wisdom into the recycle bin in favour of a much more exciting and emotional ethic. The car simply looks great, something I never thought I'd say about a Camry.

Fortune favours the bold, a lesson Toyota finally appears to have absorbed.

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