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The eight-generation Camry now is based on Toyota's wide-ranging TNGA vehicle architecture. (Toyota)

What we're driving: 2018 Toyota Camry

I was a little late in trying this new, eighth generation of the Camry and it represents an intriguing turn for a car that often is cast, somewhat unjustly, as the symbol for automotive blandness.

But Toyota’s one of the last makers of midsize sedans to be crowbarring a V6 under the hood, and there’s nothing unexciting about 301 hp in a vehicle this size, even if it all does have to get to the pavement through the front wheels. The midrange shove of this engine so stout that I sometimes wondered who really wants—or needs—this much punch in a family sedan. But here it is, provided you’re down with the hefty upcharge for the V6: this car’s $38,000-plus sticker is pushing into lux territory.

Now riding on underpinnings derived from Toyota’s widespread TNGA architecture, the top-level XSE trim is a smooth-sailing creature, but at least for the speeds you can build up with the V6, it’s vividly under-damped, particularly at the front. The smoky 3.5-L V6 is writing a few checks this otherwise solid all-around chassis isn’t ready to cash.

Meantime, the Camry’s interior is a treat. The angled-to-the-driver center stack is gorgeously executed and the entire HMI interface is superb: big buttons with clear functionality with soft blue night backlighting that works perfectly and imparts a slightly retro vibe. The XSE includes as standard the excellent 10-in. color head-up display (HUD) that really demonstrates the potential for HUD technology—even if, in a quite un-Toyota-like quality slip, the HUD often froze the gear-position information when using the steering-wheel shift paddles. Rear-seat room, you ask? Expansive.

Can’t go without mentioning the styling, which is to say there’s a lot of it and nobody can call it bland. I can’t figure out the blacked-out slashes cut below the taillights on the XS and XSE trims; from a distance they look like a strap or something stretching from the trunk.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE

Base price:        $34,950

As tested:          $38,335

Highs:                Outstanding interior design and build quality; inimitable luxury of V6 power

Lows:                 Too-soft damping; busy exterior design

Takeaway:         Last of the V6 family-sedan breed

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