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2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Test Drive Review

There are three types of cars out there.

The first has qualities and specifications that make you raise an eyebrow and nod approvingly. You might look at the stats for a visually unremarkable car and think to yourself, Wow. It may not be a looker, but it sure has a lot of great features — for a great price, too.

The second type of car may have outstanding performance figures, but it takes your breath away before you can even get to those. Its design is so stunning that you don’t care how comfortable it is, which grade of gas it requires, or how many suitcases can fit in its undoubtedly small trunk. All you want to do is look at it, then blast down the road in it.

The third type of vehicle is a combination of the first two. It looks as good on paper as it does in a parking lot. The accountant and the teenager in you both want it.

Consider the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE we drove for a week that third kind of vehicle.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Exterior

The 2018 redesign of the Camry took it from being a car that was merely seen to a car that’s looked at. When we first laid eyes on it at an auto show, we couldn’t stop staring. Our gaze lingered on the endpoints of each slash and the apex of each curve. The Camry has never looked bolder or more aggressive. It may be a sensible sedan, but it dresses like a faster, sleeker car. It’s not all about the clothes it wears, though. The Camry has the proportions to match its new wardrobe. By basing the new Camry on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), engineers were able to stretch the 2018 model’s wheelbase by two inches, lower the roof and hood lines, drop the center of gravity, and make the Camry wider.

Our test car was equipped with bi-LED combination headlights which slanted inward toward the prominent hourglass shape formed by the top grille and Toyota logo, and the pronounced lower air intake.

In profile, the Camry Hybrid SE looked lean and defined. Its prominent lines shot upward over the 18-inch two-tone wheels, giving the car a poised and athletic stance.

Our Camry Hybrid SE’s increased width was most evident at the rear. A sporty lip spoiler topped the trunk lid. The tail lights started at points near the middle of the trunk, then stretched outward as they simultaneously flowed into the muscular rear fenders and connected with the black aero accent strips. A rear diffuser helped the spoiler hold the Camry to the road and added the finishing touch to its sporty exterior.

According to a Toyota press release, “The Camry design team sought to make the new Camry sport models instantly recognizable and appear different from the other models from as far as 200 yards away.” We’d say they succeeded.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Interior

The eighth-generation Camry’s interior designers used soft touch materials in varying tones and hues, and more ergonomic front seats to create an environment that’s new to the eye yet still user-friendly and comfortable. Standard equipment on the Camry Hybrid SE includes keyless entry and start, dual zone automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch TFT Multi-Information Display that showed us readouts for things such as distance to empty and the outside temperature, and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control for relaxed and hassle-free travels.

Toyota added optional safety and convenience features to our review vehicle; those included the appropriately named Convenience Package and its Homelink universal transceiver and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, a power tilting and sliding moonroof, and the Entune 3.0 Audio Plus package with navigation, wireless phone charging, and various apps. Using the eight-inch touchscreen to connect a smartphone through Bluetooth or change the satellite radio station was simple. The large knobs for the volume and HVAC system enabled us to grip-and-rip those settings to the desired levels. Three stages of heat kept us comfortable in the front row; ample rear legroom allowed our friends in the second row to stretch out and relax.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Performance

The 2018 Camry is also new under the hood. The Hybrid SE gets down the road with the combined power of an all-new 2.5-liter four-cylinder Dynamic Force Engine and next-generation Toyota Hybrid System. Thanks to the latest iteration of Toyota’s Variable Valve-Timing-intelligent Electric system and D-4S direct/port fuel injection, the gas engine generates more power than before: 176 horsepower and 163 lbft of torque. That’s paired with an electric motor that produces 118 horsepower and 149 lbft, and a 6.5-Ah nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total Camry Hybrid SE output is 208 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission with a sequential shift mode that simulates the behavior of a six-speed sequential gearbox translates those figures into forward motion.

Pushing a button in front of the shift knob allowed us to change how the Camry Hybrid SE delivered its power. Eco proved that it was easy being green—and that visits to the gas station were not something we missed making. The EPA gave the Camry Hybrid SE fuel economy ratings of 44 city, 47 highway, and 46 combined mpg.** We averaged close to 43. Normal was a balance of fuel economy and performance. Sport mode used a boost from the hybrid power plant to make acceleration more forceful. Whenever we had the Camry Hybrid SE in that setting, we pulled on the paddle shifters to snap off satisfyingly quick gear changes.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Safety

The Camry Hybrid SE comes right out of the box with 10 airbags and a substantial amount of additional safety gear. Toyota Safety Sense P includes the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist to keep you in the correct lane, automatic high beams that turn off when they detect oncoming traffic, and the convenient Dynamic Radar Cruise Control we mentioned earlier. Engineers also included stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist for full braking force in panic situations, and Smart Stop Technology to prevent unintended acceleration in the Star Safety System. Since Toyota added the optional Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert to our press loaner, we had peace of mind knowing those technologies surrounded us. Fittingly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 Camry a five-star Overall Safety Rating.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE Overall

Prices for the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE start at $29,500.* The one Toyota sent us to evaluate had an as-tested price of $33,290. Whether you buy your own Camry Hybrid SE for its impressive fuel economy or its eye-catching design (or both), just make sure you sign on the dotted line at an AutoNation Toyota dealership.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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