Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - SL
Smooth and strong V6, roomy cabin, plush seats, impressive equipment, precise steering, comfortable ride quality
Room for improvement
Thirsty engine can lack torque, tyres struggle for purchase, soggy handling ditches crispness of four-cylinder Camry
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25 May 2018
ONLY a half-decade ago this Toyota Camry SL V6 would have cost $50,000 plus on-road costs.
There is no guesswork involved there, but history highlights that the predecessor to this flagship version of the eighth-generation Camry was called the Aurion Presara, which likewise powered the front wheels via a 3.5-litre engine and was priced just $10 beneath the above pricing threshold.
In the modern era, however, a shrinking medium passenger car segment means there is no need for a separate nameplate to tackle the Holden Commodore large car as once was the case, with the irony being that the latter ZB-generation German-import now itself must battle a mass of mid-sizers.
Today’s Camry not only reverts back to offering V6 availability for the first time since 2006, but it offers petrol four-cylinder and petrol-electric hybrid powertrains as well, all in attempt to keep the clear sales leader in the class in that formidable position.
Flagship Camry SL V6 pricing that now ducks $6010 beneath the aforementioned pricing threshold has certainly been designed to help, too.
Price and equipment
The value equation of this Japanese-built Camry has only become more competitive.
Even the $29,990 plus on-road costs Ascent Sport, with a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, scores automatic up/down high-beam, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assistance, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with digital radio and satellite navigation, and dual-zone climate control.
The $33,290 SX (with the same engine) further adds 19-inch alloy wheels (up from 17s), steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters, wireless phone charging, rear USB ports and leather trim. But it then takes another $4000 to get to the first step of 3.5-litre V6 engine ownership – the $37,490 SX V6.
The only other model grade available with that most powerful petrol engine is this $43,990 SL V6.
Toyota needed to overhaul the previous-generation Camry’s interior design, which harked back to 2011 and was barely improved. Thankfully, the new generation is truly just that, built on an entirely fresh platform that positions the driver lower and notably boosts fit-and-finish to a lofty standard.
Particularly when equipped with such a high level of standard equipment, and priced below $35,000 as the Ascent Sport and SX are, the swoopy cabin has become a new Camry highlight. Towards $40,000 that sheen starts to be smudged, however, while over that barrier it is largely removed.
Ergonomically, everything is as it should be in the SL V6, while the front seats are generous in padding and the rear bench is deep and plush, a fine match for the excellent legroom and headroom. The 524-litre boot is, expectedly for this nameplate, enormous and practical.
However, the resolution mis-match between the intuitive centre touchscreen and colour trip computer display, plus its basic graphics, come under greater scrutiny at this level.
Engine and transmission
SL-grade Camrys are available with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and hybrid powertrain that are $4000 and $3000 cheaper respectively than the V6 tested here, and having tested both drivetrains prior to this 3.5-litre, the middle hybrid is definitely the pick.
With 160kW of power and instant torque, the hybrid becomes the most improved Camry as well as being the most suitable to its character. It is now faster, smoother and quieter than before.
Consumption now drops to a claimed combined-cycle figure of 8.7 litres per 100 kilometres, down from 9.3L/100km, thanks partially to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. It needs premium unleaded now, though, and delivers near-double the hybrid’s 4.5L/100km figure.
From a standing start the Camry SL V6 is quick. Off the line the front Bridgestone Turanza 18-inch tyres can struggle to deliver grip, indicating that the Dunlop SportMaxx 19s of the Camry SX V6 would be more suitable.
Ride and handling
Where the Camry SX includes sports suspension, the Camry SL gets the standard chassis tune. The former suits the heavier V6 engine more than this lazier set-up does, particularly given how subtly sporting it is, but either way the handling crispness of an SX four-cylinder is not nearly matched.
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