The biggest debut of the 2017 Detroit auto show, the completely new 2018 Toyota Camry, got a lot of attention — understandably so. To learn more about the eighth-generation Camry, we spoke to Ian Cartabino, head of exterior design, and Masato Katsumata, global chief engineer for Camry.
01. The Camry’s final exterior design started as a two-inch sketch in Cartabino’s notebook. Seriously, he has the notebook locked in a desk drawer.
02. Cartabino went to Japan for 18 months to work on the car. He says he now intimately understands the company and believes that the Camry wouldn’t look as good as it does had he not gone across the Pacific.
03. Toyota designed the XLE model first, and it ended up being more aggressive than the outgoing XSE model. So Toyota decided to dream up completely new front- and rear-end designs for the new XSE model, which is even more aggro.
04. The XSE’s rear wing is one-third the height of the outgoing XSE’s spoiler. Toyota wanted this new Camry to have a more “premium … European” feel.
05. No one thought the Camry’s blacked-out roof would happen. But somehow, it slipped through the concept phase to production. (And we’re happy it did.)
06. Oh, and that black roof is a serious pain to do. While Toyota first tried to do the roof in vinyl wraps, they ended up needing to use black paint with a blue-metallic base to get the finish right. The Camry has come off the production line, and the roof has to be taped off and sprayed separately.
07. A team from Calty designed the final mock-up for interior in six weeks. The team from Toyota’s SoCal-based Calty design research center went to Japan to draw, model, and build a last-minute full interior, which wowed executives.
08. Design and engineering teams worked together all day, every day. CEO Akio Toyoda wouldn’t have it any other way as Toyota works to break down disconnected “chimney” development in order to get everyone on the same page.
09. The “combustion design” of the four-cylinder engine is all new. The 2.5-liter inline-four is completely reimagined, from the block out.
10. The trunk lid opens just past vertical. That way you don’t hit your head when you’re loading in bags, groceries, whatever.
11. The hybrid has the same trunk space as the standard Camry. Toyota expects hybrid sales to be 10 to 12 percent of all Camry sales.
12. The hybrid also has better weight distribution and balance than even the XSE model. Masato Katsumata says it is his favorite Camry for spirited driving, more so than the V-6 model.
13. “American customers love the V-6.” According to Masato Katsumata, it’s the only reason the V-6 stuck around; it should represent less than 10 percent of Camry sales.
14. The Camry almost had totally different headlights. Some pending production issues near the very of development necessitated an alternate, last-minute design for a headlight.
15. The all-new chassis allows for more efficient building in the factory. More components, like suspension parts, can be bolted to the chassis before the platform is mated to the body.
16. The Camry has all-new fonts, inside and out. Exterior and interior design teams made up new typefaces for the Camry so that absolutely everything on the sedan felt different.
17. The Camry has some of the thinnest A-pillars Toyota has been able to produce. “Forward visibility is amazing,” says Cartabino. “It’s not so claustrophobic.”
18. The rear-door apertures are larger than the outgoing car’s. Made possible by moving the roof peak and rear wheels back a bit.
19. The front-facing camera couldn’t be anywhere else but exactly where it is. Moving it would’ve meant nixing the surround-view system, so instead the design team redesigned the front grille in one day, better integrating the camera into the exterior.
20. “If you close your eyes, it drives like a European car.” Cartabino drove the Camry at Toyota’s proving ground in Arizona and said the car is very much improved, especially its steering feel and suspension rebound. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel ourselves.