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Toyota cuts Camry fuel consumption

Makeover: The revised Toyota Camry automatic uses 11 per cent less fuel.

Better economy, a fresh front-end and more standard kit for facelifted Camry

20 Jul 2009

TOYOTA has improved the fuel consumption of its top-selling Australian-made model, the Camry, as part of a midlife makeover that also brings more standard safety features and equipment, updated interior and exterior cosmetic and a price reshuffle across the range.

Engine and transmission tweaks have resulted in an 11 per cent cut in fuel consumption of the automatic four-cylinder Camry, to 8.8 litres per 100km, thereby taking the fight up to rivals such as Ford, which boasted its six-speed automatic Falcon could match the Toyota mass-seller.

On sale from July 20, the facelifted Camry sedan is priced between $29,990, for the entry-level Altise as either a five-speed automatic or manual (which previously cost $28,490), and an unchanged $39,990 for the flagship Grande auto.

Similarly, the Camry Sportivo manual increases in price by $240 to $33,990, bringing it in line with the automatic version, which is reduced in price by $1260 – the same retail price cut applied the auto-only Camry Ateva (now $32,490).

Having escaped widespread Toyota price increases in January and June, the Camry’s $500 base price hike is believed to be its first since the current model was released in July 2006. Of its volume-selling rivals, only Holden’s Korean-built Epica sedan (from $28,490) and the Mazda6 sedan (from $29,100) undercut its starting price.

8 center image Left: Toyota Camry Hybrid.

GoAuto understands next February’s locally-built Camry Hybrid should debut with an opening price of $35,990, making it $3500 more expensive than the mid-range Ateva upon which it is likely to be based, but $4000 more affordable than the new Prius (from $39,990). Expect a second, premium-specification version of the petrol-electric Camry to be positioned above $40,000.

As we reported three weeks ago, Australia’s best-selling mid-size car for the past 15 years will now also come with more standard safety features at base level, with the addition of six airbags as standard in the cheapest Camry Altise.

The move to make six airbags standard across the Camry range brings it in line with Toyota’s own Aurion large sedan, which will also be facelifted soon, as well as key rivals in the Mazda6, Epica, Subaru’s soon-to-be-replaced Liberty, the Honda Accord Euro, Ford’s recently upgraded Mondeo and Volkswagen’s Passat (which offers eight airbags across the range).

However, with no structural changes, the 2009 Camry (or Aurion) is unlikely to match its leading competitors or the locally-built Commodore and Falcon by lifting its four-star ANCAP crash safety rating to a five-star result.

As expected, all Camrys now also offer Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity and sound systems with an auxiliary audio-input jack and at least six speakers (two more for the Altise), plus sunvisor lamps and seatback pockets.

The mid-range Ateva also gains a rear-view camera, automatic air-conditioning and a new audio system with 4.3-inch colour LCD display, while the Sportivo adds dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, push-button heater control and an LCD display.

A rear-view camera is now also standard on the top-shelf Grande, as are a keyless entry and starting system, rear parking sensors, upgraded premium sound system and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror.

Completing the technical upgrades is a shift position indicator and outside temperature indicator for the Altise and, for all grades, a warning signal that sounds continuously if the car moves while the handbrake is engaged, and storage area with 12-volt socket and aux-in socket instead of the ashtray and cigarette lighter.

Of course, the biggest news is a long-awaited fuel consumption reduction for the Camry, which in automatic guise has lagged well behind its four-cylinder rivals by returning no better than the 9.9L/100km achieved by Toyota’s larger Aurion V6 and now the Falcon with an optional six-speed auto. Holden is expected to improve on the base Commodore’s current 10.6L/100km average soon.

An 11 per cent improvement in the newer Camry’s official ADR 81/02 combined-cycle fuel consumption (8.8L/100km – also down from the current manual’s 8.9L/100km) is not the result of employing the facelifted US Camry’s new 2.5-litre engine, but by engine and transmission tweaks.

The Camry’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder continues to produce up to 117kW at 5700rpm and peak torque of 218Nm at 4000rpm, but features revised electronic throttle mapping and a one-way clutch for the alternator pulley to reduce belt tension and therefore crankshaft drag. Idle-speed under deceleration has been reduced from 1100 to 800rpm.

A bigger change has been applied to the five-speed auto, which now features revised shift points and “flex lock-up control” to control the amount of drive distributed from the lock-up clutch and torque converter, increasing their operating range.

The 2009 Camry’s 8.8L/100km fuel economy average compares well with all but the Mazda6, whose 125kW/226Nm 2.5-litre engine returns 8.4 to 8.6L/100km as a (six-speed) manual and 8.7 to 8.9L.100km as a five-speed auto. The Mazda6’s manual-only 2.2-litre diesel engine delivers 136kW/400Nm and a benchmark-setting 5.5L/100km (hatch) and 6.0L/100km (wagon).

The Accord Euro’s 128kW/230Nm 2.4-litre engine returns 8.9L/100km, the Liberty’s 127kW/227Nm 2.5-litre four returns 9.0 to 9.3L/100km, the six-speed auto Mondeo’s 118kW/208Nm 2.3-litre engine returns 9.5L/100km (the 2.0-litre diesel version offers 96kW/320 and 7.5L/100km) and the Epica’s 2.5-litre six returns 115kW, 237Nm and 9.3, also with a six-speed auto (7.5L/100km for the similarly equipped 110kW/320Nm 2.0-litre diesel version).

The rest of the Camry upgrade is window dressing, headlined by larger projector headlights, a new front bumper with larger lower intake and fresh grilles – curved grille bars with chrome accents for the Altise, Ateva and Grande, and a black lattice patterns for the Sportivo, which adds a new front spoiler and sheds its side rub strips.

At the rear, new LED tail-lights across the range are claimed to contribute to improved fuel economy and safety by consuming less energy and lighting up faster than regular bulbs, while new rear garnishes are chromed on the Grande and body-coloured for other variants.

The Altise’s 16-inch steel wheels get a new seven-spoke plastic wheel cap, while the Ateva has a new 10-spoke alloy wheel design and the Sportivo and Grande are now fitted with machined five-spoke 17-inch alloys.

Finally, inside, there are new interior trim colours and seat fabrics, updated instruments and warning signals and a darker upper instrument panel surround, while Liquid Metal replaces Inferno and Tungsten in the Camry’s exterior paint colour palette.

Metallic paint continues to be a $400 option, while Altise options include 16-inch alloys and a rear spoiler ($850) and a reversing camera, six-CD changer and USB/MP3 input ($500).

Ateva options include leather-accented seats ($1500), Sportivo options include a rear camera, six-CD changer, USB/MP3 input and part-leather seats ($2000), and the only Grande option is a moonroof and rear personal lamps ($1800).

The superseded Camry Touring SE auto continues to be available at $29,990 and Toyota this week also released special-edition ‘Edge’ versions of its Yaris, Corolla and RAV4.

Toyota has produced almost 1.5 million Camrys at its Altona plant in Victoria since 1987, including almost 115,000 in 2008, when most were exported to the Middle East and at least 20 other markets, making the Camry Australia’s biggest automotive export earner.

2009 Toyota Camry pricing:
Altise $29,990
Altise (a) $29,990
Ateva (a) $32,490
Sportivo $33,990
Sportivo (a) $33,990
Grande (a) $39,990

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