Yup, this is the new 2018 Toyota Camry, unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. Toyota says that the eighth-generation Camry has gone through a total evolution – from a proven, dependable and safe car to one that also possesses a more exciting and emotional character, thanks to newfound sporty performance and style.

Let’s start with the eye-catching exterior styling. While North America’s Camry has possessed a sporty flavour (relative to the chrome-laden version the rest of the world including Malaysia gets) for some time now, this is a big step further in that direction.

There were three primary design goals when penning the all-new Camry: a distinctive, low centre of gravity that results in a firm wide stance; a practical-yet-emotionally styled cabin profile, and a sporty and upscale image both inside and out. Toyota says that these goals have resulted in a sedan that’s both exciting to look at and drive.

The 1.6-inch-lower hood flows down to a “Keen Look” face that’s dominated by a two-piece grille comprised of flowing thin and thick treatments. The hybrid model gets a blue tinged emblem.

The 2018 Camry has an obviously sleeker profile than the current car. By lowering the hip points of the occupants (nearly 1.0-inch in front and 1.2-inches at the rear), and therefore their seating positions, Toyota was able to reduce the car’s overall height by around an inch from the current model and incorporate a lower roofline, without sacrificing cabin space. Striking character lines around and along the body augment the aggressive front and rear fenders, giving the new Camry a surprisingly sporty look.

At the back, a distinct crease extends from the slim taillights down to the bumper, effectively “pushing” the wheels outward in appearance to create a wide appearance. There’s even a new Camry logo. The new “midsize” sedan is 4,859 mm long (+10 mm), 1,834 mm wide (+13 mm) and 1,440 mm high (-30 mm), with a wheelbase of 2,824 mm (+48 mm).

The American Camry will as usual be available in four grades: LE, XLE, SE and XSE. The sport trims are SE and XSE (you see the latter here as the red car), and they come with a sculpted rocker panel, new 19-inch black machined-finish alloys (XSE only), a rear spoiler lip and rear diffuser. Unique facial features include large side intakes flanking the lower bumper’s unique ‘Catamaran’ accents, a high and slim upper intake encompassing the Toyota badge and a mesh grille. A revised rear bumper with distinctive corner lines and smoked lamps are also highlighted.

The design team sought to make the new sporty Camry models “instantly recognisable and appear different from the other models from as far as 200 yards away.” On that count, I think they have succeeded, although it might be too much for some. What do you think?

If anything, the changes inside are even bigger. Sporty is again the key word here, and the driver sits in a ‘cockpit’ with gauges angled toward his or her direction. A key visual element of the new dash is a sweeping new character line that flows down from the instrument cluster and bisects the centre console waterfall.

Another unique approach is the mix of tones and hues throughout a space rather than a strict colour profile, which Toyota says is inspired by home furnishing. All cabin surfaces employ the highest grade of soft touch and premium materials, the company claims. The front seats are new, and they now provide maximum comfort with a newfound level of ease and engagement to match the new Camry’s elevated performance and athleticism, Toyota says.

The new Camry features Toyota’s latest Human Machine Interface (HMI) which relays info through three interlinked displays: a 10-inch colour head-up display, a seven-inch MID within the instrument cluster and an eight-inch audio/navigation display and AC control flush in the centre console. A new nine-speaker JBL premium audio system with Sound Staging (emulates a live concert venue), Low Frequency Sounds (made possible by a 10.1-inch subwoofer) and Clari-Fi (‘uncompresses’ music to help restore a track’s dynamic range) is available.

The new Camry is built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that also underpins the Prius. By extending the wheelbase by two inches, as well as bringing down the roof and hood height, Toyota lowered the centre of gravity and created a wider and more composed vehicle. Everything is lowered – the driver’s seating position, heel point for more foot room and ease of movement, hood, cowl, and dashboard height. The range of steering adjustment has been increased.

Toyota says that the front occupants will experience unprecedented outward visibility, thanks to a more compact design for the instrument panel and a lowered beltline, plus repositioned A-pillars and side mirror sections.

Three new powertrains will be available. They include a 3.5 litre V6 with D-4S fuel injection, a 2.5 litre four-cylinder with a new eight-speed automatic, and a next-generation Toyota Hybrid System (THS II).

The all-new 2.5L Dynamic Force Engine’s higher power/torque and lower fuel consumption in total use range is achieved by rapid combustion due to higher tumble air flow. With its long-stroke and high compression ratio, multi-hole direct fuel injectors, variable cooling system and Toyota’s Variable Valve-Timing-intelligent Electric (VVT-iE), this powerplant boasts world-leading thermal efficiency of 40%, which is also claimed by Toyota for the Prius and Hyundai for the Ioniq Hybrid’s ICE.

Figures have yet to be released, but the 2.5L is anticipated to achieve best-in-class fuel economy. It’s drivetrain partner is the newly developed Direct Shift-8AT that provides direct-lock up from gears two through eight to eliminate power loss from the torque converter, executing shifts “like a high-performance automated manual gearbox.”

The new hybrid system has been engineered to work in concert with the 2.5L Dynamic Force Engine. The CVT auto features a new Sport Mode with simulated six-speed sequential shift (SE adds on paddle shifters). Sport also improves acceleration thanks to an electric power boost from the hybrid system. To help enhance handling, the hybrid’s battery pack has moved from the trunk to beneath the rear seats. The new Camry Hybrid is expected to achieve best-in-class FC, with Prius-like city/highway driving efficiency, Toyota claims.

Toyota is promising ‘sporty handling’ and ‘enhanced ride quality’ for the new Camry. Improved structural rigidity (new platform, increased use of ultra-high-tensile steel, application of a new molding tech), a new double-wishbone rear suspension system, and a new four-point engine mounting system (improves NVH performance) are contributing factors.

Toyota says that driving dynamics were always at the forefront of the engineering philosophy for the new Camry, and that they wanted dramatic improvements that drivers will notice within the first few seconds of driving.

“In order to create something that stirs people’s soul, we’ve laid out the concept of a new sedan that provides fun and excitement behind the wheel. In developing the next-generation Toyota Camry, we were able to start with a clean slate, which allowed us to create a true driver’s car,” said Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata. Sounds like something Mazda would say

Last but not least, safety. Toyota Safety Sense P is standard across the board and the suite bundles Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Automatic High Beams. Select models will also come with Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. All 2018 Camrys have 10 airbags and a reverse camera.

Made in Georgetown, Kentucky (an important point for the president-elect), the latest iteration of America’s best-selling car for 15 consecutive years will roll into US dealerships in late summer this year.