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New York show: Radical mid-life update for Camry

Major change: Toyota’s mid-life Camry update is far more substantial than the industry standard.

Toyota takes covers off the car that will be the final Altona-made Camry

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Toyota logo17 Apr 2014

By BARRY PARK

TOYOTA has surprised the motoring world by unveiling radical stylistic changes to its Camry mid-size sedan, despite the model lining up for a complete replacement in just a few years’ time.

The Japanese car-maker has revealed that it will make radical changes to what will be the last Camry built in Australia before it quits manufacturing here in 2017, producing a sharp-looking version of its big-selling model that is only likely to be on sale for only about two years.

However, it will be a long wait for buyers and parts makers feeding components into Toyota’s Australian supply chain, with the heavily remodelled car unable to go on sale here until some time in 2015, despite it going on sale in North America in the next six months.

Toyota used this week’s New York motor show to reveal the revised car, featuring the same engine and gearboxes as the one currently on sale, but with a completely made-over exterior and interior.

So complete is the makeover that the “Big Little Change” Camry, as it is known internally, will have every panel changed apart from the roof. It adopts a deep Lexus-style grille, and vertical daytime running lights borrowed from the Camry Hybrid.

However, while the car will go on sale in the US later this year, the new Camry will make its debut in Australia some time next year, giving it a likely lifespan of just over two years until an all-new model — and the end of Australian automotive manufacturing — arrive.

The short timescale for the new Camry’s production will be helped by a $30 million boost in taxpayer support given to Toyota Australia in August last year, only months before it made the decision to quit Australia in late 2017.

According to Toyota North America group vice-president Bill Fay, Toyota’s brief for the Camry was to build a car that was “more premium inside and more fun to drive”.

“Normally every four years there is a major model change, but this one for the Camry arrives two years into its life cycle,” Mr Fay said.

“This one is now super-stylish and emotional. The ride, braking and handling are all different, and when you look at the body, it has a new, emotional feel about it.”

Before the new Camry goes on sale in Australia, though, it will get specific suspension and steering tuning from the Melbourne-based Toyota Technical Centre Australia, Toyota Australia public relations manager Mike Breen said.

Redevelopment of the Camry ahead of an all-new model due in 2017 started with engineers stripping the car back to its bare chassis.

As well as almost every exterior body part, the new model contains almost 2000 new parts compared with the old one.

It has significantly upgraded the interior, too, with more soft-touch surfaces giving a higher sense of quality to areas where the hand falls.

The Camry’s dash has also been significantly updated, featuring a 4.2-inch LCD screen mounted in the instrument cluster, and another screen high up on the dash measuring up to seven inches depending on the model.

In a world first, the Camry will get a wireless recharging hotspot built into the centre console to make charging for devices such as smartphones and music players a lot easier.

According to the car-maker, Toyota has worked hard to improve noise, vibration and harshness levels.

The carpets throughout the cabin provide 30 percent more noise reduction, while the new Camry’s wing mirrors are pushed out further to reduce wind rush.

The Camry also offers more on-road potential than before, with a two-stage brake booster said to improve brake feel, while the chassis’ torsional stiffness has been improved using extra spot welds.

The US has announced that it will add a sports-focussed hybrid version of the Camry to its line-up, featuring stiffer suspension that the base petrol-electric hybrid sedan.

However, Toyota Australia said it was unlikely to expand its Camry model line-up to include the more performance-honed hybrid.

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