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SCOOP: Cooler Camry captured

Revamped: Toyota's all-new Camry features bolder, more aggressive styling than the current model.

Toyota has adopted a more adventurous approach with its next-generation Camry

30 Jul 2001

PUT that cardigan in mothballs. The Camry is about to get a bold new look.

Toyota Australia senior executive vice president John Conomos promised the new-generation Camry would dispel the current car's bland, "whitegoods on wheels" image - and this spy pic suggests he wasn't exaggerating.

"Watch this space - no more fridges," he recently said when asked about the Camry's successor.

The spy shot shows the newcomer gains an aggressive face featuring angular headlights and a grille not too dissimilar to the "five-point" units that have become a trademark of Honda and Mazda.

Although it goes on sale in Japan within weeks, the revamped Camry won't be offered here until July or August next year.

Sources suggest the new Camry will be roomier and quieter than the current car - a none too shabby feat given that the existing vehicle already sets high standards in terms of packaging and refinement.

The newcomer measures 4805mm long, 1795mm wide and 1490mm tall. While its length and width are only marginally increased over the current model, its 70mm higher stance is believed to be the real key to its improved cabin space.

There is no word yet on whether a wagon variant will be available initially.

Japan and US-spec cars will be built on a new platform, but our version is likely to use essentially the same underpinnings as the current Altona-built Camry and Avalon.

Toyota Australia says this is so the cars can be tailored for local conditions - but cost savings are also believed to be part of the equation.

"The decision on which platform to use is based on what is best for our market," a senior company insider said.

Performance promises to be sharper courtesy of a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with variable-valve timing - as used in the Tarago - in lieu of the 2.2-litre that powers the current car.

The bigger powerplant, which will be built here, cranks out 115kW and 221Nm - a useful improvement on the 94kW and 187Nm outputs of the current four-pot.

The existing 3.0-litre V6 will also be carried over to the new lineup, contrary to recent speculation it would be dropped in order to reduce overlap between Camry and the slow-selling Avalon.

Company insiders suggest the V6 will benefit from a few tweaks to improve its performance and emission levels - but the exact nature of the upgrades is as yet unknown.

The current Camry has been a strong seller for Toyota since its 1997 debut, giving the company a stranglehold on the medium-car segment - particularly since the demise of the four-cylinder Magna in March, 1999.

Even in the US it has been a bullet performer on the sales charts, overtaking America's perennial favourites, the Ford Taurus and Honda Accord.

The locally-built Camry has been a valuable export earner for Toyota Australia - more than half the 80,000-odd Camrys churned out by the Altona plant over the past 12 months were destined for offshore markets.

Mr Conomos said the Camry's export potential would be increased further once the new model comes on stream.

Toyota treated the Camry to a facelift last October, but changes were kept to a minimum as the existing model remained a popular choice despite - or perhaps because of - its conservative "cardigan and slippers" image.

We'll be back, says Toyota

TOYOTA may have conceded victory to Holden in the 2001 sales race, but senior executive vice president John Conomos warned it would pose a more serious challenge in 2002.

The company's lineup will be strengthened in December by an all-new Corolla lineup comprising sedan, hatchback and wagon variants.

The seven-seater Avensis Verso is also due around the same time. Similar in size to Mitsubishi's Nimbus, it will replace the van-derived Spacia, which was never a big hit here.

The Camry's arrival in the third quarter of next year will be followed by the introduction of a facelifted Avalon in late 2002 or early 2003.

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