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Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - CSi V6 wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Balanced chassis, smooth V6 engine
Room for improvement
No interior release for tailgate

27 Jun 2001

TOYOTA followed up its overtly American-look 1993 to 1997 Camry station wagon with a far more subtle version in May, 1998.

With its stylised shape, the Camry wagon loses a quantity of practical loadability compared to its more boxy predecessor.

Thankfully the flat-folding rear seat means it is still possible to load 1.8m-long objects - ideal for those weekend trips to the furniture store.

Surprisingly, there is no interior release for the tailgate.

The split fold seats also have a lap sash belt for each passenger and a head rest while child seat webbing straps can be clipped into the back of the seat upright rather than strung from the roof or the rear of the load floor.

Intrusive suspension towers rob the wagons of useful floor space compared with, say, the Mitsubishi Magna. A handy load cover which is easily and quickly removed is a boon as is a higher opening tailgate, which for taller people means fewer unfortunate meetings of mind and metal.

The best news from a driver's perspective is a balanced chassis, which did not happen of its own accord.

Intensive tuning by Toyota's Australian engineers has provided the wagon with benign road manners, allowing the driver to make full use of the grunt available without dissolving into unseemly lurching and wallowing.

Although the four-cylinder, 2.2-litre engine can be found wanting in terms of outright power and overtaking acceleration on the open road, the super-smooth quad camshaft, 3.0-litre V6 is as polite and refined as you will find.

It produces off-the-line and mid-range acceleration that could leave you wide-eyed in awe.

There is a penalty to pay in terms of some muted torque steer on the V6 model but the speed-sensitive, power-assisted steering is better balanced on this car than the regular power assisted set- up on the four-cylinder. It is still pleasantly firm but can be tiring after an extended period slogging through the city.

Both models are quiet and well insulated so suspension noise does not intrude, although tyre rumble is noticeable.

The adaptive shift automatic transmission fitted to the V6 car is a handy addition, offering slick up and down changes, and instinctively picks up the tempo when the driver fancies a bit of a rev.

Inside, you would be hard pressed to spot the difference between the base four-cylinder CSi (the V6 is optional) and the significantly more expensive V6-engined Vienta VXi.

The extra cash all goes into the power and drive train. In the interim, you could also look at the models in between - the CS-X which comes in above the CSi but only as a four-cylinder or the dual-airbag, ABS-equipped Conquest (a kind of Holden Acclaim competitor), available in four-cylinder or V6 form.

As well built as Toyotas are, our V6 test car came with a minor trim panel rattle and the door handles on both test cars are still the same slippery customers encountered on the sedan.

The lift-up flush handles are too shallow and slippery on the underside to get a good grip and it was not just female manicures that felt the sharp tang of fingers flying violently off the handles.

Overall, the Camry wagon is a well fettled and, in V6 guise, a genuinely desirable drive.

Whether the new styling suits your purpose is up to you but there should be few complaints from drivers looking for an agile chassis or refined, playful engine.

- Automotive NetWorks, 05/07/1999

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