I noticed the small compartment right away. Located just below the radio, but hidden away enough that you can’t really see it from outside the car, the Qi charging pad in the 2018 Toyota Camry is just about the right size for the Apple iPhone X. And, it charges “hands-free” and “cable-free” meaning you can drop the phone in the compartment with no fuss.
Toyota has offered Qi charging in previous cars, but I’ve never tested one in the Camry. All new for the 2018 model year, the car has a business look and feel–about right for someone who is commuting to work but not necessarily trying to impress clients at a legal firm. At a $23,495 base price, it’s remarkably affordable, although I tested the XSE with the Qi charging pad, which costs $29,000 and has a few extras like a V6 engine.
On my daily commute (mostly to coffee shops across town), I jumped in each morning and placed the iPhone X in the compartment. The pad has an on/off button and is about the size of an adult male hand. There’s about an inch of space leftover on the pad when you use the iPhone X, and I’m sure you could charge a Google Nexus phone or one of the Samsung Galaxy models (the latest Google Pixel phones do not use wirelessly charging). I happened to have an iPhone 8 Plus and it also fit fine.
Not having a cable means you don’t have to connect up or even bring a cable at all. In some cars, inserting the USB cable is a pain because it’s located in the middle storage box and you can only insert the plug one way. (If it’s dark, this procedure can take a while.) With Qi, you drop the phone on the pad. I’d also say not having the charge cable dangling over the seats might draw less attention to the fact that you have a $1,000 phone like the iPhone X in your car, especially if you leave the cable connected when you park (guilty).
I was quite happy with some of the other tech features. I’ve never tested a Camry that has lane-recognition, a feature that has been around a long time in Infiniti cars and other models. On the Camry, the vehicle beeps if you swerve slightly out of your lane. It’s called Lane Departure Alert and only works when you go over 32 MPH. The system will also adjust steering for you if you don’t respond and go back to the center of the lane.
A Pre-Collision alert system worked surprisingly well for parking in my garage as well. Designed to reduce or prevent the impact of an accident, I used it in my garage when I pulled forward. A large “brake” alert appeared when I pulled in too close to a cardboard box and stopped the car. I could see this feature helping quite a bit in stop-and-go traffic. I didn’t realize at first after seeing the alert that I could pull ahead a few more inches.
For a lower-priced vehicle, many of these tech features were surprising because they are usually found in upper-end luxury cars from brands like BMW and Audi. The Toyota Camry even has automated high-beams, which means the car sense when there’s a car coming toward you on the highway and will disable the brights. These features are slowly spilling down to the mid-level cars, and I was happy to see them in the Camry.
In the end, I liked the Qi charging pad the best–and the new sleeker design which seems to be keeping pace with how cars are lower to the ground and look more sporty these days. It’s a car for people with good business sense (and want a few perks).