Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - Vienta Touring sedan
Space, refinement, dynamic abilities, Toyota reliability and durability, vast ground-covering abilities
Room for improvement
Bland styling inside and out
11 Jul 2003
TOYOTA introduced the Vienta as the upmarket V6-engined version of the Camry when it launched the wide-bodied range in February, 1993.
The top-line models were intended as a replacement for the much-loved imported Cressida. Meanwhile, the Touring - introduced in late 1993 - was a lower spec Vienta aimed at the popular "added-value" Commodore Acclaim, as well as an image car to spice up the dull Vienta range in the Gran Turismo style of the Falcon XR6.
In August, 1995, the Camry name was dropped on V6 models to reposition Vienta away from its four-cylinder Camry brethren while both received a fresh grille and tail-light treatment and some minor changes to interior trim.
More importantly, enthusiasts took the hitherto four-speed automatic Touring more seriously as it finally become available with a five-speed manual gearbox.
The Touring has all the ingredients to make it a great Australian sports sedan.
Toyota's local engineers substantially retuned the suspension of the Australian-built 1993 to 1997 series Camry/Vienta, reportedly using Peugeot's accomplished 405 as a handling and ride yardstick. The more stiffly sprung Touring builds on this.
The V6 engine is light years ahead of the Australian sixes in terms of design sophistication, sporting twin camshafts and multi-valve cylinder heads. Even today's Falcon and Commodore do not.
Then there is the generous 70-litre fuel tank, ideal for uninterrupted long-distance driving.
Touring occupants will enjoy such journeys in air-conditioned comfort and the security of a driver's side airbag and anti-lock brakes.
The later manual gearbox Tourings are slightly faster and more economical than the automatic Vientas, as well as more desirable for drivers wanting a greater connection between man and machine.
Vienta also benefits from its Lexus connection through advanced sound-deadening technology and levels of innate quality that belong higher up the refinement scale.
So knowing that the Vienta Touring is so accomplished, there must be a catch, and here it is: the Touring looks like every other grey-flannel suit Camry.
Toyota has made little effort to visually distance it from a fleet Camry save for a rather tacky rear spoiler and undistinguished alloy wheels.
Maybe this is why the Touring has languished while cars like the distinctive Falcon XR6 continue to sell well.
But the Camry connection has some useful advantages. Like the rest of the Camry/Vienta range of that era, the Touring benefits from a spacious, strong and tight body. The rather dour Camry interior features comfortable seating for five, plenty of practical oddments space, clear instrumentation and faultless build quality.
The trim and materials look hard-wearing while still imparting an impression of warmth and comfort.
There are plenty of features, including a CD player, central locking, power steering, power mirrors, cruise control and handy split/fold seats - revealing a big, easy-loading boot.
On the road the extremely impressive V6 engine performs exactly as expected. It is beautifully smooth and has enough mid-range torque for swift accelerator response.
The ride is fine and, apart from a slight vagueness about the steering, Touring's handling is secure and predictable with good tracking stability at high speed.
But probably the greatest benefit the Camry connection brings for Vienta Touring owners is quite remarkable reliability.
Astounding ruggedness and dependability of this model Vienta can be expected as long as regular maintenance is carried out. So look for a thorough service history.
These extremely well-engineered cars have no typical faults. The Vienta Touring shapes up as one of the outstanding family sports sedan buys.
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