When Toyota decided to go for revolutionary change with the eighth-generation 2018 Camry, the move could have taken the brand down the road forged by competitors seeking improved fuel economy as the Holy Grail.
Many have embraced, or are moving to, small turbocharged four-cylinder engines to replace the larger, normally aspirated powerplants that have been the staple of the no-drama family sedan market for decades.
That includes ditching optional V-6 engines, which drew a small but grateful fraction of sedan buyers, in favor of a more powerful turbo four-cylinder engine than the entry-level turbo.
And then, of course, there's the continuously variable transmission that does away with traditional gears in favor of pulleys. CVTs are efficient but feel artificial, so they're often tuned to mimic gears, and normality.
Toyota has turbocharged engines and CVTs in its global portfolio, but not for the bread-and-butter Camry hitting showrooms this summer (the exception is the CVT in the hybrid that sells in low volumes stateside).
Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata said the reinvention of America's best-selling sedan had a long list of objectives, with better fuel economy being an important one, but not at the expense of driving dynamics, refinement and the intangible "feel" of a vehicle so important to the brand.
There are millions of Camry owners, and while many are gravitating toward crossovers, Toyota thinks it can pull some loyalists back from the brink.
So, no turbos here.
The base engine is a new four-cylinder with high-tech tricks such as direct-injection, variable-valve timing, etc. Horsepower comes in at just more than 200, so the Camry will be competitive against the entry turbos from rivals.
The V-6 option isn't just staying around, but has been reworked to crack 300 hp with silky smooth delivery. Take that, turbos.
Both gasoline engines in the Camry are mated to a new eight-speed transmission to replace the six-speed. That means the worst buyers can do in the bottom-rung, value L Camry is a high-tech, large-displacement four-cylinder engine with 200 ponies and eight real clicks.
All of this is to say that the Camry is something of an outlier in its approach to the segment, even as it tries to catch up and surpass its more modern rivals.
The company released some objective metrics last week on fuel economy, and the numbers are pretty good, especially for a traditional powertrain setup.
The L model, which has smaller tires than higher-level trim lines, gets an EPA estimated rating of 29 mpg city/41 highway/34 combined for a 26 percent improvement over the outgoing model. The higher trims hit 28 city/39 highway/32 combined.
The fuel economy of the V-6 rises 8 percent to 22 city/33 highway/26 combined over the outgoing model. And the most efficient of the hybrid models (the entry LE version) hits 51 mpg city/53 highway/52 combined.
A slew of car reviewers have posted first driving impressions, and the consensus is that the retooled Camry is much more exciting than the rather bland appliances of yore, especially when slicing through the winding roads outside Portland, Ore., during a media ride and drive event.
But the Camry does not exist in a vacuum. Its 15-year sales crown belies the fierce competition in a shrinking segment, and competitors have been sharpening their elbows.
A redesigned Honda Accord, Camry's perennial rival, will be introduced on July 14. We know it will feature a turbocharged four-cylinder with a CVT on the lower trims (or a six-speed manual, bless their hearts), and a bigger turbo with a 10-speed geared automatic on higher trims.
So, here are two worthy rivals, with fresh horses and divergent tactics. Let the games begin.