Toyota Camry: Vanilla and proud
BETTER THAN PREVIOUS MODELS, THE NEW CAMRY SEDAN HAS CONSERVATIVE LOOKS
For a car targeted at those who “get things done”, Toyota’s new Camry is a mixed package.
The new model certainly looks better than its predecessors while continuing to provide a reliable and comfortable ride for driver and passengers. And it still accommodates three adults comfortably in the cavernous rear seats.
But like previous models, if you are looking for a medium-sized sedan with lots of character, the Camry is not the car for you.
Depending on your point of view, Toyota engineers have either eliminated any distinctive driving characteristics from the Camry, or else they have produced one of the blandest drives possible.
The Camry rides comfortably and on the motorway lopes along without giving any impression of putting itself to any effort. It handles city and urban speed bumps well, gliding over them in a way passengers hardly notice.
The steering is too light for my tastes but the sedan holds its line much better than previous Camrys, and the new cabin is noticeably quieter than earlier models.
Shift the six-speed automatic gearbox into sport mode and there is greater feel in the steering. The car provides the driver with greater assurance that it will do exactly what the driver wants.
Not that Camry owners, especially those buying the standard models, are likely to want to throw their cars around on the road.
The 2.5-litre engine delivers power smoothly and without dramatics, even when the accelerator is floored on a state highway passing lane. Rather than coming at a rush the power builds smoothly and without histrionics or even any sense of drama.
The power builds faster when in sports mode, and the steering is firmer and more reassuring.
By today’s standards this is a large motor, although it provides just 135kw, in the standard models.
Performance is not startling. But Camry fans wanting sportier performance will have to look at the top of the range model, the Atara SX, selling for almost $45,000 plus on road costs, or around $5000 more than the entry-level model.
Inside, the Camry is well equipped, from a large and easy-to-use touch screen in the middle of the dashboard, through to a rear-view camera mounted on the boot lid — an especially handy driver’s aid in a car of this size.
During more than 500km of driving I achieved an average fuel consumption of 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres, hardly earth-shatteringly frugal these days. While that average was over both highway and secondary roads, the car was in sports mode for much of the time. More sedate drivers might achieve greater economy, and Toyota says the model has an overall average fuel consumption of 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
One slightly odd quirk in the car tested was the fuel gauge, which showed there was around a quarter of a tank of fuel left, when the fuel range computer indicated there was only 87 kilometres of travel in the tank.
The interior of the car is spacious and the seats comfortable, even over two journeys of around two- and-a-half hours each. Rear seat leg room is more than ample, and matches or beats the space in the rear compartment of competitors such as the Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord.
There is no exterior boot lid latch and instead there is a latch on the floor beside the driver’s seat and another on the key. Where an external latch would normally be found, is the rear-view camera.
Dropping the rear seats is a much easier task than in many other models — open the boot and there are two knobs to pull, releasing the catches holding the rear of the back seats in place. Once the levers are pulled it is easy to simply push the seat backs down.
Toyota has eliminated some of the hard plastics that dogged the interiors of earlier models.
The touch screen and a leather-like steering wheel on the latest Camry helps elevate the quality feel of the car, and in typically reliable Toyota fashion, every switch the driver needs is readily accessible.
This is the last Camry to be built at Toyota’s plant in Melbourne, and it is a model that feels well-assembled, whether it is being driven on State Highway 1 or in the back streets of Auckland’s inner suburbs.
The present model has been available for only a few months but already there are many new Camry taxis on our roads. While many are the more economical hybrid model, the petrol-driven Atara has obviously already found one of its market targets.
Engine: 2.5 litre engine
Pros: Ample space, especially in the back seats, composed ride, particularly in sport mode.
Cons: A conservative drive.