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Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - range

Our Opinion

We like
Improved styling, value, ride comfort
Room for improvement
Sat-nav for top-spec only, tricky voice control

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Toyota logo11 May 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

LET us start by acknowledging that, while Australia is a nation filled with car enthusiasts, a large proportion of resident car-owners and drivers are not.

We regularly fill the pages of GoAuto with huge power figures, tiny acceleration times and pictures of gorgeous sportscars, but many people are more interested in a car that does normal car things regularly, reliably and without breaking the bank.

That is the Camry mantra and the secret to its success.

For the final Australian-built version, a mild mid-life facelift would have sufficed but with the influential American market bearing down, Toyota has treated the Camry to a major refresh.

It's not that the outgoing Camry was ugly, but it was guilty of having somewhat forgettable styling, and the makeover is a big step in the right direction with a large grille not unlike the Toyota-owned Lexus luxury range and more appealing looks all round.

Our drive started in the $26,490 (plus on-road costs) entry-level Altise, which has not changed mechanically from the outgoing model. Its 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine still produces 133kW and 231Nm and drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

After covering about 50km of varying Victorian roads we realised that the car had hardly been discussed at all, but rather than a criticism, we site that as a true compliment.

The Camry is easy to drive, offers a comfortable and quiet ride, and supportive seats. This transparent driving experience is exactly what many motorists are looking for.

Its tried and tested naturally-aspirated engine is no fire cracker but provides adequate power to move around, while the transmission shifts cogs without complaint or occasion.

Yes, if one prods the throttle the Camry engine doesn't sing an angelic note and its gearbox won't click down speeds with Formula 1 severity, but piloting a Camry is more about ushering rather than rushing.

One disappointing omission is satellite navigation, which is only available as standard in top-of-the-range SL variants, and with a touchscreen in all versions, we can't imagine the inclusion was impossible.

Otherwise the cabin offers a relaxing place to spend time with generous space in all five seats and a well screwed-together cabin. Only the odd traces of hard plastics and bland colours detract from a good package.

In the previous model, the Camry sold a vast majority as the base Altise so we are pleased to report the new version does the job just as effectively and pleasantly as the outgoing version, only with a more likable face.

In addition to the new look that extends to all panels except the roof, Toyota has also thrown in an extra surprise variant, which it says brings a sporty appeal to the Camry name. A sporty Camry we hear you say?Eighteen-inch forged alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone rubber save 1.5kg at each corner, a reworked chassis is more focused on driving, and slick two-tone leather interior completes the Camry SX from $31,990.

The combination of the largest wheels fitted to the model (painted black in the case of our test car), rich metallic red paint and the more purposeful nose styling has a dramatic effect on the humble Camry.

The addition of an extra tailpipe on variants above the base Altise liberates an extra 2kW and 4Nm, and we couldn't wait to throw the most sporty Camry to date through some twisty bits.

Toyota are certainly not describing the SX as a sportscar but the locally tuned suspension has made a big difference to the way the Camry drives and rides. Its steering ratio has been sped up and the carefully selected and tuned dampers allow more speed to be carried through corners with confidence.

Compared with the Altise, and all Camrys before it for that matter, the SX resists body-roll and sends more feedback through the steering wheel, which has shrunk down from the last Camry and is nicely wrapped in leather for SL and SX variants.

Where the Camry RZ of the previous generation pioneered a sportier Camry attitude, the SX actually talks some of the talk that the enhanced looks promise.

But is that what a Camry driver wants? Toyota thinks so, and reported a good reception of the RZ, which partly prompted the creation of this warmed-up version.

Toyota is also offering the well-received hybrid version of the Camry with the 2015 reshape and has added an extra variant taking the offerings to three. We spent a brief stint at the wheel of the top-spec $40,440 Atara SL.

Like the last version, the new Hybrid has a less powerful but more efficient 2.5-litre engine strapped to an electric motor for a combined output of 151kW.

That makes the most powerful Camry also the most efficient.

While performance is adequate when wringing out all the volts, the Hybrid Camry is far better suited to cruising and the stop-start environment of a city.

Its combination of 5.2L/100km economy and mile-munching comfort with good safety features such as active cruise control and rear cross traffic alert cement the Camry's value proposition.

Toyota is trying to attract a more youthful audience and part of the strategy involves adding more technology to its entertainment systems, which in the case of the Camry now has Pandora in addition to other applications.

The touchscreen system is easy to navigate, especially in the top-spec cars with larger 7.0-inch monitors (6.1-inch in lesser variants), but using the voice command function mostly confused the system.

We are very interested to see who will opt for Toyota's wild-card and mildly sporty SX Camry, but with typical practicality and ease of ownership, the more orthodox Camry range will continue to do what it has always done best.

The Camry ain't broke but Toyota has fixed it.

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