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Toyota Camry 2018 review: SL V6

Before SUVs there were sedans. Remember those?

Before SUVs there were sedans. Remember those? The cars everyone drove while we were growing up before the onslaught of the SUV in recent years. The Toyota Camry is one of those sedans that brings back memories, but has had a very new, quite terrific update. I barely recognised it.

This week it was school holidays and I was taking my two girls plus their friend around to various activities. I was driving the top-of-the-range Camry SL in the V6 petrol. So, was it big enough for three kids seats? Did it have enough boot space? Let's see how it performed.

How does it drive?

The Camry feels really smooth. It drives nicely and you can barely feel a bump. It's also got power, thanks to the 3.5-litre V6 engine, so while it's not super zippy, the speed comes after a few seconds and make no mistake, it goes well. You would think an engine this size would be loud, but not so, the drive is surprisingly quiet which makes it feels premium.

Despite the Camry being longer than an SUV, it was relatively easy to park. (image: Dean McCartney) Despite the Camry being longer than an SUV, it was relatively easy to park. (image: Dean McCartney)

And despite the Camry being longer than an SUV, it was relatively easy to park. Sure, shorter parks need more care and took longer to squeeze into, but it's not enormous, so was fine on the whole.

The steering is easy to turn, not stiff at all, which made parking and doing three-point turns easier, and the car handles well. I was confident driving it and I felt like I matched up to other cars on the road, so it felt good to be behind the wheel this week.

It's got power, thanks to the 3.5-litre V6 engine. (image: Dean McCartney) It's got power, thanks to the 3.5-litre V6 engine. (image: Dean McCartney)

What does it look like?

The Camry SL is a good looking car. It has a sleek, modern shape and I got lots of positive comments on it - people just wanted to get inside it when they spotted it in my driveway. It looks fresh and new.

Inside is quite lush, which I'm putting down to the creamy leather seats. There is something about this colour that imbues a sense of luxury throughout the whole car. It helps that they're also seriously comfortable and ventilated. I'd be happy sitting in here for a long journey.

  • The Camry SL is a good looking car. (image: Dean McCartney) The Camry SL is a good looking car. (image: Dean McCartney)
  • It has a sleek, modern shape and I got lots of positive comments on it. (image: Dean McCartney) It has a sleek, modern shape and I got lots of positive comments on it. (image: Dean McCartney)

There's a high-gloss, black finish on the centre console which also spells high-end, and everything is clearly set out and well designed. It's a stylish finish befitting a more expensive car, so hats off Toyota. The steering wheel is leather and feels good under the hands, and the gear stick feels comfortable, it doesn't stick at all - you can really notice the difference here because some cars just haven't nailed the gear thing.

This LS model has been fitted with an enormous sunroof, which goes through to the back and gives the impression of a glass roof. The whole thing looks like a premium car and it was lovely to be in.

There is something about this colour that imbues a sense of luxury throughout the whole car. (image: Dean McCartney) There is something about this colour that imbues a sense of luxury throughout the whole car. (image: Dean McCartney)

How spacious is it?

The front leg space is good - there's enough room for both me and my 185cm husband to fit comfortably. Head space is on the low side, the enormous sunroof eats into the roofline and I like to have my seat high, so there's not a huge amount of headroom.

The front leg space is good - there's enough room for both me and my 185cm husband to fit comfortably. (image: Dean McCartney) The front leg space is good - there's enough room for both me and my 185cm husband to fit comfortably. (image: Dean McCartney)

The back had loads of room for my two girls aged four and six, and when I had to fit a third child in a booster seat, it fit pretty well and the children were comfortable once they were in.

The only thing is finding the seat belt buckle on the seat - you practically have to lift the seat up with the child in it to get the seat belt done up, which is harder work than I would like. I was happy to do it for a few days but wouldn't want to do it regularly.

If you have one child out of a child seat, you'll have no trouble though, because three people fit comfortably in the back seat. (image: Dean McCartney) If you have one child out of a child seat, you'll have no trouble though, because three people fit comfortably in the back seat. (image: Dean McCartney)

If you have one child out of a child seat, you'll have no trouble though, because three people fit comfortably in the back seat. Bending down to do children's seats up is harder than just reaching into a higher seat as you would in an SUV, but that's not a big issue for me with just two children who can (sometimes, when they're feeling helpful) do their own seat belts up.

The boot is large, it's not even the biggest in its class but there is definitely enough room for a pram, or a full load of groceries. Bending down to get things out of the boot rather than reaching in as you would in an SUV is a bit harder, but not a deal breaker.

The boot is large, it's not even the biggest in its class but there is definitely enough room for a pram. (image: Dean McCartney) The boot is large, it's not even the biggest in its class but there is definitely enough room for a pram. (image: Dean McCartney)

How safe is it?

The Camry SL is fitted with airbags covering driver, front passenger and side curtain airbags extending to the backseat. There are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers for children's car seats. The Camry range has advanced safety equipment like auto emergency braking, front and rear collision warnings and lane departure alerts, and this SL model has rear-cross traffic alerts which I always find helpful when I'm reversing out of my driveway. It has a full five star ANCAP rating.

What's the tech like?

There's a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with a digital radio, sat nav and Bluetooth connectivity, but it's lacking in that it doesn't offer the option of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Because everything else is fancy and new, I would like to also see the latest technology in the Camry.

Everything is easy to use however and I had no trouble connecting my phone and listening to Spotify through the system.

Everything is clearly set out and well designed. It's a stylish finish befitting a more expensive car. (image: Dean McCartney) Everything is clearly set out and well designed. It's a stylish finish befitting a more expensive car. (image: Dean McCartney)

There's also a bunch of automation throughout the car - the driver and passenger seat move into position electronically, the sunroof opens with a button and most excitingly, the park brake turns off and on by itself, so I don't even have to touch it. This is especially helpful with electronic park brakes as I am always turning them off when they're on, and vice versa.

What does it cost to drive?

At the top of the range, the Camry SL V6 comes in at $43,990. Fuel consumption is claimed at 8.6L/100km on the combined cycle which is not bad for an engine this size. Toyota offers a three year/100,000km warranty.

Services are capped at $195 per visit and you'll need a service once every 12 months/15,000km.

At the top of the range, the Camry SL V6 comes in at $43,990. (image: Dean McCartney) At the top of the range, the Camry SL V6 comes in at $43,990. (image: Dean McCartney)


The Wrap

The Toyota Camry SL was an impressive car for my family of four over the week. The smooth, powerful drive made me feel confident on the road, I appreciated the luxe interiors and the big boot, plus it had enough space to transport a third child in the back. I liked all the automation and the advanced safety features, and thought value-for-money was spot-on.

I gave it a family rating of eight out of 10, and my children loved it too, they were won over by the slick seating and the fact that we fit their friend in for school holidays. They gave it a collective eight out of 10, too.

Likes

Interior style
Smooth drive
Powerful engine

Dislikes

Fairly beepy
Headroom in front

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4

$33,888 - $43,990

Based on 11 car listings in the last 6 months

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