Pitting the eighth-gen commuter against a Teutonic heavyweight. Because why not?

You know, you can buy a lot of car for not a whole lotta money these days. For example, if it’s straight-line muscle you’re looking for, the Dodge Charger Hellcat and Dodge Challenger Hellcat will put over 700 horsepower at your disposal for a mere $65,000. That’s pretty insane if you ask us, but what about something on the either side of the spectrum, where comfort and style rule supreme? Well, around these parts, you could opt for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the German’s mid-size luxury four-door that comes jam-packed with high-tech goodies, top-shelf opulence, and upper-crust flair. Or, as an alternative, consider the new eighth-generation Toyota Camry. No, seriously.

Suffice to say, we’re big fans of the new Camry. So much so, we feel comfortable comparing it to one of Merc’s best luxury barges. The updated Toyota just dropped cover at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, and we’re convinced it’s got the goods to punch way above its weight.

But maybe we’re overstepping things a bit. Maybe we’re completely off in the deep end. Maybe. It’s certainly a possibility. But after the response we got when we compared the Camry and the BMW 5 Series, we shrugged our shoulders and went for it anyway.

Continue reading for the full comparison.

Exterior Design

Toyota Camry

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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When we first got a look at what the new Camry was bringing to the table styling-wise, we were floored. Gone was the frumpy, boring box of yesteryear, replaced instead by cuts, angles, creases and style.

“The all-new 2018 Camry is, without a doubt, the most captivating mid-size sedan we’ve ever produced,” said Bob Carter, senior VP of automotive operations at Toyota in the Camry press release. And yeah, it sounds a whole lot like the usual PR boasting to us too, but in this case, we actually agree.

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Toyota labels it the “Keen Look” design philosophy, but I think the whole thing looks more like a Lexus than a Toyota.

Toyota labels it the “Keen Look” design philosophy, but I think the whole thing looks more like a Lexus than a Toyota, especially when talking about the XSE trim level. For example, the XSE’s front end is composed of a two-piece grille that looks quite a bit like the large Spindlegrille that the luxury half of Toyota is so fond of using. The headlights are sharp, quick brushstrokes against the fenders, while the grille inserts are a polished mesh.

The stance is lower than before, thanks in part to a lower hood and a lower seating position. The silhouette gets a coupe-like rake to it, while available 19-inch wheels fill the fenders.

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Oh what a difference a generation can make. The whole thing just looks slipperier, sportier, better.

However, my favorite angle is from the rear. I mean, just look at it –

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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it’s wide and low, with slim, nicely cut taillights, tasteful trunk lid spoiler, and quad exhausts fitted in a aggressive diffuser. If we blurred out the Toyota logo and Camry badge, there’s no way you’d think this was the same four-door commuter as this –

2016 Toyota Camry Special Edition High Resolution Exterior
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Oh what a difference a generation can make. The whole thing just looks slipperier, sportier, better.

Of course, not all Camrys are created equal. The hybrid XLE model isn’t quite as stylish as the XSE, replacing the latter’s prominent aesthetic elements (front grille, rear spoiler, wheel design, etc.) with its own unique pieces.

In the end we prefer the XSE, but the head-turning design just goes to prove what the 2018 Camry is capable of.

Mercedes E-Class

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class High Resolution Exterior
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The Mercedes E-Class is now in its tenth generation, and with the changeover issued just last year comes a more coupe-like appearance. There’s a long hoodline, short but muscular rear end, and sporty roofline. Large wheel arches encapsulate plus-sized rollers.

Mercedes dubs it the “Sensual Purity” design language, which is a bit more flamboyant than “Keen Look,” but there you go. Like Toyota, the Mercedes also offers unique grille patterns to differentiate between the models.

In back are single-piece taillights, plus twin trapezoidal exhaust outlets.

It’s all very chiseled, and definitely a classic Mercedes design. But is it really that much better to look at than the Camry?

The Bottom Line

2018 Toyota Camry
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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
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2018 Toyota Camry
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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
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Toyota Camry pictured on the left, Mercedes-Benz E-Class pictured on the right.

Granted, this part of the comparison really comes down to pure subjectivity, but without the badging, I find it difficult to justify the huge price jump you get with the Mercedes. You could make the argument that the German brand offers more refinement, with simpler, more effective lines than the busier Toyota. But the counter to a statement like that is a simple one – the Merc is just more boring.

Toyota Camry Mercedes E-Class
Wheelbase (Inches) 111.2 115.7
Length (Inches) 192.1 193.8
Height (Inches) 56.9 57.8
Width (Inches) 72.4 73.7

Interior Comfort And Features

Toyota Camry

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Interior
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Step inside the Camry and the first thing you’ll notice is the new asymmetric layout of the dash. This includes a prominent centerline that curves its way down the middle of the dash and into the central tunnel. In the middle of the dash is a large infotainment screen, which integrates nicely and doesn’t stick out like so many other infotainment screens.

Throughout the cabin, soft touch materials abound, covering the majority of the surfaces located within an arm’s reach. The front seats were also revised for more comfort, while the upholstery incorporates high-level stitching for an added sense of premium feel.

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Interior
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2018 Toyota Camry
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The front seats were also revised for more comfort, while the upholstery incorporates high-level stitching for an added sense of premium feel.

The infotainment options include a 10-inch heads-up display, a 7-inch multi-information display inside the instrument cluster, and an 8-inch display in the main center stack. Providing some amusement is an Entune 3.0 multimedia system, while navigation comes as standard. Optional features include the available Wi-Fi with up to five devices supported (plus a 4G LTE connection), as well as an available premium JBL sound system with a 10.1-inch subwoofer and nine speakers.

Under the skin, the new Camry is underpinned buy the latest architecture. It’s called TNGA, or Toyota New Global Architecture, and it should provide an excellent ride thanks to its high torsional rigidity. It should also be noted that interior space increases thanks to a wheelbase that was extended by two inches.

On the high-tech safety front, Toyota has been doing its homework when it comes to autonomous and semi-autonomous systems.

On the high-tech safety front, Toyota has been doing its homework when it comes to autonomous and semi-autonomous systems. Standard equipment includes a Pre-Collision system with Pedestrian Detection, as well as Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Automatic High Beams. Opt into the higher-grade models and you get Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
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The look and layout of the Merc’s interior is quite nice. There are lots of horizontal surfaces, and everything is either covered in hide, surrounded by polished metal, or both. There’s an artistry and flair to it, and it definitely gives a sense of offering a “premium feel.”

Enhancing that feel is the optional Air Body Control suspension system, which allows passengers a feeling of floating while cruising over the road. The latest model also gets a wheelbase extension, now up to 115.7 inches total.

Trim and materials include a natural Grain Ash wood finish, plus a plethora of new color combinations for the updated model.

If you’re feeling saucy, you’ll wanna go for the available heating feature, which extends beyond the seats and onto the armrests and steering wheel. In back, there’s the option for a tablet holder for a little device-based entertainment.

Trim and materials include a natural Grain Ash wood finish, plus a plethora of new color combinations for the updated model. Nighttime ambiance is enhanced thanks to the LED lighting, with up to 64 different shades added to areas like the central display, console, and door handles.

On the infotainment side of things, the base model E300 is equipped with a 12.3-inch diagonal display screen. Behind the steering wheel is a normal analogue set of gauges, but higher in the model line, you can get additional horizontal screens for the digital gauges.

Controlling it all are touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel, with regular smatphone-esque operation (swipe, tap, etc.). Looking to the central console, and you can also perform handwritten controls as needed, plus there’s always the option for voice control if you want. Per usual, there are a good number of hard buttons and switches as well, but these are attractively laid out and adorned in slick-looking materials.

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class High Resolution AutoShow
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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported. If you really like your tunes, you can also go for the optional Burmester 3D sound system, which places up to 23 speakers throughout the cabin, including in the roof.

On the safety front, Mercedes offers its Pre-Safe Sound feature, which will emit a sound that supposedly makes the human ear reflexively protect itself during an accident.

There’s also active brake assist as standard, plus automatic emergency braking capable of detecting both vehicles and pedestrians. Attention Assist will detect when the driver is distracted or tired, and Crosswind Assist is self-explanatory. There’s also the optional Driver Assist Package Plus, which will throw in adaptive cruise control that can operate at autobahn-appropriate speeds up to 130 mph. Steering assist will operate at speeds up to 81 mph, plus there’s Active Lane-Change Assist, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function (basically more capable auto braking), evasive steering assist, active lane keep assist, a remote parking pilot that uses a smartphone app, and Pre-Safe impulse side, which moves outboard passengers away from an impact when an imminent collision is detected.

The Bottom Line

2018 Toyota Camry
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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class High Resolution Interior
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2018 Toyota Camry
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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class High Resolution Interior
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2018 Toyota Camry pictured on the left, Mercedes-Benz E-Class pictured on the right

Alright, I know what you’re thinking – you’re probably thinking, quite smugly I might add, “Okay TopSpeed, exterior styling is one thing, but there’s no WAY you can say the Camry’s interior is on par with the E-Class!”

And I agree. To a point.

The question is this – what are you really paying for in the Mercedes? Is it the materials? Well, the Camry has lots of nice materials as well. Opt for the right trim level, and you get plenty of leather upholstery, while lots of other soft touch surfaces can be found elsewhere. Wood trim is a bit lacking, but there’s no shortage of trim kits out there if you wanna upgrade.

As for the infotainment, the Camry gets tons of options for screens, plus all the tech you could want, or even possibly use for that matter. The E-Class comes with more, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better.

How about space? The Merc should definitely win there, right?

‘Fraid not. The graph below tells the tale.

Toyota Camry Mercedes E-Class
Headroom (front/rear) (Inches) 38.8/38.1 37.9/38.2
Legroom (front/rear) (Inches) 41.6/38.9 41.3/35.8
Shoulder room (front/rear) (Inches) 58.0/56.6 57.8/56.9
Hip room (front/rear) (Inches) 54.5/54.5
Cargo volume (cu ft) 15.4 13.1
Passenger volume (cu ft) 102.7

Performance

Toyota Camry

Along with all the other updates on the surface, the new Camry is also equipped with a few new engines and a new transmission. Mounted in the nose is a 3.5-liter V-6, or alternatively, a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, and a revamped hybrid system.

Routing the power to the front axle is an eight-speed automatic transmission, which apparently offers “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 hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder uses a CVT, which simulates the shift feel of an automatic six-speed, even including the associated shift paddles. A selection of driving modes are part of it as well, with an extra electric boost provided in Sport Mode. Better weight distribution comes courtesy of the hybrid battery’s placement in the trunk.

Speaking of the 2.5-liter hybrid, Toyota claims it’ll post 40-percent thermal efficiency, which should yield mpg figures that are similar to the Prius (58 mpg city, 53 mpg highway).

Handling it all is a new double-wishbone rear suspension.

Toyota Camry 4-cyl Toyota Camry V-6 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Engine 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder Toyota Hybrid System (THS II)
Horsepower 178 HP (est.) 280 HP (est.) TBA
Torque 170 LB-FT (est.) 260 LB-FT (est.) TBA
Transmission Direct Shift eight-speed automatic Direct Shift eight-speed automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Fuel economy city/highway TBA 21/31 (est.) 54/50 (est.)

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
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Making the go in the E-Class is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which makes 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. You could get more, but that would mean stepping up to something with an AMG badge, and we’re not going there in this comparison.

Cog swaps come from a nine-speed automatic transmission as standard.

The suspension supposedly mixes both sportiness and comfort, either through the available Direct Control damping systems, or that previously mentioned Air Body Control air suspension system. That means electronically controlled damping, and multiple driving modes to suit your mood.

Engine 2.0-liter inline-4 turbo
Power 241 HP hp @ 5,550 RPM
Torque 273 LB-FT @ 1,300-4,000 RPM
Transmission type 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic
Acceleration, 0-60 mph 6.2 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph
Fuel economy city/highway 22/30

The Bottom Line

2018 Toyota Camry High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class High Resolution Exterior
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2018 Toyota Camry pictured on the left, Mercedes-Benz E-Class pictured on the right.

Simply put, the Camry offers more when it comes time to choose your powerplant. Whether it’s a V-6, four-banger, or hybrid, the Toyota can be specified to meet your needs.

But what about handling? Surely the RWD E-Class with its sophisticated suspension system will beat the Camry when push comes to shove, right?

Not necessarily. Weight is also a major factor here, and the Camry should be significantly lighter than the Merc. We have yet to get the final curb weight on the 2018 model, but if the previous gen is any indication, the Toyota will most likely be between 500 and 1,000 pounds lighter, depending on trim levels.

And I don’t care how good your adaptive dampers are. Throw the same tires on there, and the Merc might just bite the dust.

Conclusion

I know, this was kind of a weird comparison. But the point we’re trying to make is this – yes, on the surface, there are some very clear differences between these cars, and given the choice between an E-Class or Camry, pretty much anyone in their right mind would go for the Merc.

However, that said, if you drill down and figure out what you’re really getting at the core of each of these automobiles, the difference isn’t quite as great as the price disparity would have you believe.

The Mercedes E-Class starts at $52,150, before options. For the same money, you should be able to get two Toyota Camry’s.

So then – is the Mercedes twice as good?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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