Walk on the Wild(ish) Side: The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6

Side view of 2018 Toyota Camry XSE
The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE.
For 35 years, Toyota's Camry has been the car that everybody bought.  What's new in 2018 is that it has become the car that everyone notices.  Like the lab assistant who takes off her glasses and lets down her hair ("Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You're beautiful!"),  the Camry has stopped blending in and is now considered....kinda hot, even in hybrid form.

Rear 3/4 view of 2018 Toyota Camry XSE
2018 Toyota Camry XSE.
And if the entire lineup is now...kinda hot...that makes the XSE, the sporting trim level of the Camry lineup, downright desirable. The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE isn't going to suddenly hijack buyers on their way to the BMW store to pick up an M3, but it does offer quite a bit more sizzle than Camry intenders have been used to in the past.

You can get an XSE with a 2.5-liter, 203 horsepower four-cylinder engine like you'll find in all other Camrys apart from the hybrid for a starting price of $29,475, but our tester was the V6 variant.  Price of entry for an additional 98 horsepower is $34,600.  That's a significant step up (and there's a fuel economy penalty for choosing the V6---28 mpg city/39 highway becomes 22/32), but you get more than just the extra oomph for your $5,125.

Interior view of 2018 Toyota Camry
2018 Toyota Camry interior.
Oddly enough, all of those things are interior, not performance items.  Choosing the V6 XSE over the four makes the optional moonroof standard, upgrades the audio system to a nine-speaker JBL system with Clari-Fi (which reconstructs missing data in digitally compressed audio), upgrades the Entune app suite, adds a ten-inch color head-up display which is unavailable in the four and makes the optional illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors standard.

Both XSEs, regardless of engine choice , get an eight-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift mode, Toyota's Safety Sense suite (including pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, enhanced vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology), an anti-theft system with alarm, ten airbags, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, 19-inch black machined-finish alloy wheels, LED headlight with smoke tint, integrated LED daytime running lights with auto on/off, a gloss black front grille with mesh insert, a color-keyed rear spoiler, sport leather-trimmed heated 8-way adjustable front seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth phone and voice command controls, a backup camera with dynamic gridlines, a seven-inch TFT multi-information display, tire pressure monitoring, Qi wireless phone charging, smart key with pushbutton start and dual-zone automatic climate control.

That is, as is Toyota's way, a chunk of stuff for $29,475 for the four or $34,950 for the V6. 

Our tester did have a few extra-cost options.  The Driver Asssist Package with the birds-eye view camera added $1,050.  Adding navigation to the upgraded JBL audio system was an additional $940, and ours was painted in Ruby Flare Pearl, which is a special color that comes with a price tag of $395. 

Bottom line, with $895 delivery processing and handling fee: $38,230. 

Yes, it's a Camry pushing 40 grand.  It's also a Camry pushing the boundaries of what we all thought a Camry looked and drove like.  And you'll be hard-pressed to find another 301-horsepower family sedan that looks this good that's this well-equipped for less.