Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - Touring sedan
Performance, driveability, reliability
Room for improvement
Unexciting looks both inside and out
27 Jun 2001
By TIM BRITTEN
OTHERS may have more serious-looking sports sedans but not many outshine Toyota's Camry Touring in terms of overall balance, sheer refinement and value for money.
Underwriting the Touring's impressive abilities is a delightful all-alloy, 3.0-litre V6 complete with dual camshafts per cylinder bank and the usual electronic engine management that helps it produce a stirring 141kW.
This latest Camry V6 is essentially the same engine used in the Lexus ES300 and replaced the previous engine of the same capacity with the launch of the current model in 1997.
While the original 136kW V6 was no slouch, its power output and overall refinement place it in a different category to the new engine.
Coupled to the five-speed manual Camry gearbox, the V6 unleashes strong, unremitting off-the-mark acceleration as well as reassuring response out on the highway.
Compared with arch-rival Magna Sports, the Toyota lacks the torquey urge of the Mitsubishi but compensates with a generally more pleasant chassis.
The Touring's suspension was tuned for more responsive handling by adding gas shock absorbers and stiffer springs front and rear, then the standard steel wheels were replaced with Michelin-shod five-spoke alloys.
The result is an even better feeling Camry, a touch more reactive to driver input and more reassured in tight, twisting sections of road.
There is some muted torque steer but the speed-sensitive, power- assisted steering is well balanced and nicely weighted. A four- wheel disc anti-lock braking system completes the picture of a well balanced, secure handling package.
Combined with the smooth, progressive acceleration of the V6, this adds up to a car deceptively swift from point to point.
One sorry note is the lack of audible presence from the engine. It sounds nice enough, especially when being taken into the upper reaches of its power band, but surely there would be no harm in letting the car play a tune able to delight the ears of an enthusiast.
Visually, as mentioned, the Touring is relatively subtle.
The body kit includes a rear spoiler and a splash of colour- coding on the grille and door handles, plus the odd embellishment such as a chrome tailpipe extension and a "Touring" badge on the boot, and that's about it.
Inside, the story is equally restrained. The Touring gets its own seat trim, a leather-bound steering wheel, gearshift knob and handbrake grip, plus redesigned instrument graphics with a "Touring" motif to remind the driver what is underfoot.
Touring buyers also get twin front airbags, cruise control and a single-disc CD player operating through a "premium" six-speaker sound system.
The ergonomics are generally fine and the seating firm and comfortable, although the front seats could do with a little more thigh support.
Adjusting the seat back is a simple process with the latch providing infinite control via one lever.
Rear-seat passengers will find plenty of leg, head and elbow room while the cushion itself is firm but comfortable. Underlining its basis as a useable family sedan, the Touring has an enormous boot.
Overall, the relatively small premium asked over the Conquest V6 model is justified with the Camry Touring.
And it looks better with the GTP styling kit made available by Toyota that adds items such as side and rear skirts, deeper front spoiler, mesh front grille and alloy wheels up to 17 inches in diameter.
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