Dramatic character lines on the body side, along with a lowered height and roofline, give the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid a great new look that actually turns heads. (Manufacturer photo)

Dramatic character lines on the body side, along with a lowered height and roofline, give the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid a great new look that actually turns heads. (Manufacturer photo)

Fuel economy boosted 30 percent in 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid

The blockbuster midsize sedan is also redesigned for a sleeker, sportier look inside and out.

The Toyota Camry sedan is an automotive blockbuster, selling like crazy since its introduction to the U.S. market 36 years ago.

Though sedan sales have taken a hit with the increasing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, Camry has been our nation’s top-selling vehicle (not including pickup trucks) for the past 15 years.

Toyota has reinvigorated Camry by creating a whole new version for 2018. It is completely redesigned, more fuel efficient, and has more safety features than the outgoing model. The Toyota Entune infotainment system has also been updated, and driving dynamics and ride quality have been enhanced.

Changes for 2018 also apply to the Camry Hybrid, which Toyota treats as a separate model in its lineup, and that’s the model I drove.

The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid is available in three grades: LE, SE, and XLE. EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for the LE are 51 mpg city, 53 mpg highway, and 52 mpg combined. That’s a nice 30-percent increase for combined mpg over the outgoing version.

The combined mpg rating for SE and XLE trims is boosted by 21 percent. Their new numbers are 44 mpg city, 47 mpg highway, and 46 mpg combined.

Base pricing for the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid, including an $885 destination charge, starts at $28,685 for the LE.

My tester was the Camry Hybrid XLE, whose exterior is enhanced by unique 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, chrome exhaust tip, and heated body-color outside mirrors.

Inside the XLE are leather-trimmed and heated eight-way power driver and front passenger seats, and an Entune 3.0 audio system with Bluetooth, 7-inch touchscreen and six speakers.

Throughout the XLE are Toyota Safety Sense (a comprehensive suite of driver assistance technology), the Toyota Star Safety System (a comprehensive suite of stability control technology), 10 airbags, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

Forward and backward thrust for the Camry Hybrid XLE are provided by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor, nickel-metal hydride battery pack, and a continuous variable automatic transmission (CVT). Total horsepower is 208, plenty adequate for powering the car without disappointment. Toyota was the pioneer of the production hybrid car when it introduced the Prius in 1997, so it’s a given that the Camry Hybrid’s system is flawless, the gold standard.

The new Camry Hybrid has four driving modes: EV (all-electric), Normal, Sport and Eco. Driving on a mix of city, highway and winding roads for a week in mostly Normal mode, I averaged 47.6 mpg.

Exterior design of the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid attracts attention and delivers major eye appeal. It’s stylish and even sporty-looking. It’s the first Camry I’ve driven that actually turned heads.

Interior designers were equally artistic in producing a smart and sophisticated cabin with space galore, an easy to use infotainment system, and a wonderfully comfortable driver’s seat. Passengers are treated well too, as witnessed by three strapping college students visiting from the Midwest who rode in my Camry Hybrid from Sea-Tac to Seattle’s Pier 91 to board the Emerald Princess cruise to Alaska. And by the way, the Camry Hybrid trunk took on their considerable amount of gear effortlessly.

The tester’s total price is increased by a bird’s eye view camera, adaptive headlights, a power moonroof, navigation, app suite and wireless smartphone charging.

2018 TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID XLE

Base price, including destination charge: $33,135

Price as driven: $37,245

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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