LAST OF THE TOYOTA STALWARTS MADE ACROSS THEDITCH GETS SPORT TREATMENT
One overlooked side-effect of Ford and Holden ceasing production across the ditch will be the demise of the Australian-built Toyota Camry.
Though it is easy to think of the Camry as a Japanese car, it has been every bit as Aussie as the Falcon and Commodore since it was first imported into New Zealand from Australia in 1987.
Since then the vast majority of Camrys sold new in New Zealand have been true-blue Aussies and it was only that Ford and Holden were pulling the plug that forced Toyota’s hand.
The company even had a back-up plan based around the idea that Ford could go but Holden might decide to stay, which would have made it viable for the Camry to continue to be built in the Altona plant outside Melbourne. But, alas, Holden bailed too and the result was inevitable.
So we have now arrived at what will be the last Camry to come out of Australia, and everyone at Toyota Australia was determined to make it the best yet. Driven was invited to drive the new Camry in Melbourne and we reckon they might just be right.
The new Camry features sleeker, sexier styling, dropping the previous model’s slab-sided look for a far sportier, aggressive look.
An almost Lexus spindle-style grille dominates the nose, flanked by less angular, more sculpted headlights. Low, aggressively styled daytime running lamps sit out at the far edges of the bottom of the bumper, drawing the nose down and outwards.
With the roof being the only piece of bodywork to carry over from the last model, the Camry takes on a different, convincingly sportier look than the previous car. The new Camry will cross the Tasman in seven guises — four petrol cars and three hybrids.
The petrol cars are all powered by the venerable 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 133kW of power and 231Nm of torque in GL form, while this is boosted to 135kW/235Nm in the Atara models thanks to their dual-exhaust system. All cars are available only with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Just as the petrol engine carries over from the previous model, so too does the hybrid drivetrain in the newly expanded hybrid line-up — a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol four-cylinder and the electric powertrain team up to produce a combined 151kW of power, with 213 and 270Nm of torque respectively, driving the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. The new Camry is available in GL, Atara, Atara S and Atara SX trim in the petrol car, while the hybrid comes in GL Atara S and Atara SL.
The addition of the petrol Atara and hybrid Atara S models are an attempt to broaden the Camry’s appeal to the private buyer.
Claiming that the latest incarnation is sportier to drive has become something of a tradition at the launch of a new Camry, but this time there is actually something to that claim, particularly in the sports-oriented Atara SX model.
Revised power steering in the Atara SX now offers a degree of added weight and feel, while firmer suspension keeps the car planted and surprisingly responsive. Though the Atara SX is pitched as the “sportiest”, the hybrids offer the better compromise between ride and handling.
The softer ride is far more cosseting and comfortable than the firm SX, and the handling isn’t anywhere near as compromised as you might expect from a softer car. It was only the sluggish response from the CVT that kept the hybrid down in terms of enjoyment and sporty feel.
Our biggest gripe with the new Camry is that all the high-tech driver aids are limited to the Atara SL hybrid. None of them reach further down in the range. Driving the Camry, you can certainly feel there has been a concerted effort to make it a better car — from the push in Japan to give it more appeal to a younger buyer through to the determination in Australia to make the last locally manufactured one the best yet.
It is far better to drive than it has ever been and there is no doubt it looks far better than it has for a while.
Toyota New Zealand is yet to announce pricing for the new Camry, but given the aggressive pricing for direct competitors such as the new Ford Mondeo, we would expect little change from Toyota.
Prices are expected to be announced in June, and the Camry goes on sale in New Zealand on July 1.