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First drive: New Toyota Aurion a ‘Lexus lite’
Toyota aims to grab larger share of falling large-car market with luxurious Aurion
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17 Apr 2012
TOYOTA’S second-generation Aurion sedan expands on the outgoing car’s formula, differentiating itself from its locally-built rivals by majoring on “attainable luxury”, build quality and interior quietness.
Currently accounting for 31 per cent of sales for Australian-built Toyotas and 4.9 per cent of its total sales in this country, the Aurion is being launched into a declining large-car market.
However, Toyota is hoping to increase its market share in the segment above the 12.2 per cent achieved last year with, as chief engineer Yukihiro Okane describes it, “rational aspects such as quality and reliability, overlaid with emotional appeal”.
A $500 price increase on the entry-level AT-X ($36,490 plus on-road costs) and Sportivo SX6 ($40,990) has not been replicated on the $41,490 mid-spec Prodigy or $49,990 Presara flagship, but the Sportivo ZR6 has been moved upmarket and accordingly priced $4500 higher at $47,990.
The base Aurion AT-X continues to undercut its local six-cylinder competitors, the Ford Falcon XT ($37,235) and Holden Commodore Omega 3.0 ($39,990).
Toyota has priced its most expensive Aurion below $50,000 and the $57,466 LCT threshold, providing customers with a kind of ‘Lexus lite’ without the tax burden that affects even that brand’s least expensive sedan.
Despite minimal or no price increases, the Aurion has received numerous equipment upgrades and technical improvements, while being slightly larger yet lighter.
Standard equipment firsts include a driver’s knee bag – bringing the airbag count to seven – 60/40 split-fold rear seats and an indicator that informs drivers when they are driving economically.
In addition to being built in Australia, the Aurion was developed with the help of an Australian engineering team who worked on the car’s chassis, crash structures, body, instrument panel, rear seats, tail-lights and the aggressive-looking body kit fitted to sports-oriented Sportivo variants.
The Australian team was also responsible for developing the Aurion to cope with climate and road conditions for global markets including Thailand, Russia and China.
A more spacious interior with more head and legroom for rear occupants and larger, more supportive seats help Toyota achieve its aim of better meeting the requirements of buyers, who it says “do not see the need to enter the market above the luxury car tax threshold, but who still want distinctive luxury features”.
The steering column has an extra 10mm of adjustment in both height and reach and the front seats are 30mm taller for improved back support, with 20mm more thigh support, and now have 60mm of height adjustment.
Standard across the five-variant Aurion line-up are seatbelt reminders for all five seats, electronic stability control plus a brake override feature that prioritises the brakes and reduces throttle input if both pedals are pressed at once, reducing the chance of unintended acceleration.
Interior features across the range include standard dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, audio system with colour display, USB and iPod connectivity, a reversing camera, electric driver’s seat adjustment with lumbar support, and instrument panel-mounted multi-function display.
On the outside, indicators are built into the door mirrors, while alloy wheels are standard and the spare is a full-size alloy.
Toyota said most of this equipment constitutes an upgrade over the outgoing AT-X variant, which can be further enhanced with optional leather upholstery and 17-inch wheels.
Next up, the Prodigy variant adds an upgraded four-spoke steering wheel, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery with upgraded door trims, automatic wipers, self-dimming interior mirror, electric rear sun blind, driver’s seat and exterior mirror memory, and electric adjustment for the front passenger seat.
Exterior upgrades on the Prodigy include 17-inch alloys, chrome door handles, front fog lights and standard metallic or mica paint.
The top-spec Presara gains a JBL premium audio system with digital radio, satellite-navigation with seven-inch screen and SUNA traffic updates, proximity display for the parking sensors, adaptive HID headlights with automatic high beam, blind-spot monitoring, woodgrain-effect interior trim and a sunroof.
Sportivo models are fitted with sports suspension, 17-inch alloys, a body kit (including unique front and rear bumpers, a rear spoiler and diffuser), front fog lights, standard metallic or mica paint, three-spoke sports steering wheel (with paddle-shifters for the auto transmission), sports seats and keyless entry and start.
The upper-spec Sportivo ZR6 gains the Presara’s adaptive HID headlights with automatic high beam, and automatic wipers, and front and rear parking sensors.
Inside is leather upholstery, memory for the driver’s seat and door mirror settings, JBL premium audio system with digital radio, sat-nav with seven-inch screen and traffic updates, a self-dimming mirror and proximity display for the parking sensors.
All Aurion variants come with a 200kW/336Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, which consumes 6.1 per cent less fuel than before at 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres and emits 7.7 per cent less CO2, down to 215 grams per kilometre.
Toyota achieved the eco improvements by cutting 55kg over the old model, adding lower-rolling-resistance tyres and reducing internal engine friction by changing the oil viscosity.
In addition to fuel saving benefits, the adoption of electric power steering – mounted to the steering column to improve feel – has enabled Toyota to reduce parking steering effort while providing a heavier, more direct feel when travelling at speed. Sportivo models get sportier settings.
Toyota claims improved ride and handling, with a stiffer body and lower weight to aid agility and reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels. The chassis engineers said it enabled them to more finely tune the suspension settings, which are said to give “improved luxury isolation feel and improved ride on undulating roads”.
Australian engineers tweaked the Aurion for local road conditions, improving its performance on rough country roads and coarse-chip bitumen.
The company said it was particularly proud of achieving 3.5mm panel gaps on the new Aurion – as with the Camry on which it is based – down from 5mm on the previous models, and claims the tighter tolerance is on a par with “very few true luxury cars”.
Toyota says interior quietness will be a “hallmark” of the second-generation Aurion and the luxury interior feel is said to be enhanced by a 10 per cent improvement in cabin noise.
Noise suppression comes through aerodynamic improvements and the use of acoustic glass in the windscreen plus triple-layered sound insulation between the cockpit and the engine compartment.
In addition, there are new sound-deadening materials in the doors, seat-backs and boot plus upgraded insulation in the sills, wings and rear wheelarches.
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