Out with the old, in with the new. New Toyota Camry is most certainly an eye opener when compared with its honourable ancestors.
Sadly the Camry is no longer made in Australia, it now comes from Japan. The build quality on the ones we have seen to date is every bit as good as what we have seen coming out of the Altona, Melbourne factory for the past 20 years.
Let us jump straight to style because, believe it or not, that’s what people will be talking about in the 2018 Camry. Gone are the conservative lines of old, it is now almost in the sports sedan class. It’s lower than the superseded model (more about that in a moment) sits on a longer wheelbase, has a deep glasshouse, a very bold grille, sloping tail and even sleek mirrors.
Have a look at the dummy rear air extractors. There are even what you could call twin power bulges on the bonnet. Cheekily these suggest a fore-and-aft mounted engine, not the transverse unit of this front-drive car.
The centre of the dashboard moves right away from the mainstream in being asymmetric. Look at the way the lines sweep in different directions. Love it.
Engines are as before, but have been significantly revised: a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, a hybrid petrol-electric four, and a 3.5-litre V6. Note that the name Toyota Aurion is no more, all models are now tagged Camry (previously the Aurion was a Camry with a V6).
Transmissions are all automatic: a six-speed beside the four-cylinder, a CVT in the hybrid and an eight-speed with the V6. There are paddle shifter on the upmarket models.
All powertrains feature more power and produce lower emissions.
The model range has also been revised, and Camry now comes as Ascent, Ascent Hybrid, Ascent Sport, SX and SL. Grilles and tail diffusers change from model to mode.
Though new Camry has a comprehensive infotainment system, Apple Car Play and Android Auto are noticeably absent.
Toyota Camry has gained a five-star safety rating from ANCAP.
A pleasing feature is the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking in all models. Hopefully all makers do this as soon as possible, because more and more (alleged) drivers are not looking at the road ahead, preferring their smartphone screens. Well done Toyota Oz.
Lowering the height of the Camry means getting in and out of the seats can be a bit of an exercise for those of us with older knees and backs.
One reason for the rapidly increasing number of SUVs being sold is ease of entry and exit, we can see some potential Camry buyers moving in that direction. Fortunately for Toyota Australia it has an enormous range of SUVs / 4WDs on offer.
Headroom is good, though tall travellers may find a sunroof comes close to their heads.
There is an impressive amount of legroom in the Camry’s rear seat. Even when sitting behind myself in the back seat (if that doesn’t sound too Irish) I would be comfortable on long country and interstate trips.
We have only driven four-cylinder, non-hybrid Camrys at this stage. The engine is responsive and probably has enough power for most buyers. While it’s smooth enough in the normal rev range if you push it towards the redline, perhaps when doing hard overtaking, it loses some composure.
Ride comfort is very good, even on some roads that have seen better days. Noise levels are pleasingly low, with only a minor increase on sound when on coarse-chip or corrugated surfaces.
Handling is competent with steering that is sharp, but not too sharp as this Toyota isn’t aimed at drivers keen to push along their favourite driving roads of a Sunday morning. Feedback is good and it will take really clumsy driving to get into trouble.
Clearly Australian steering and suspension engineers played an important part of the design of new Camry, as they have done for many years. Hopefully this will continue indefinitely with all Toyota designs intended for sale in Australia.
Boot size in this big sedan is impressive with a volume of 655 litres. Part of this is due to the car having front-wheel drive. Rear drive may be a sexy feature for some buyers but it does steal space under the boot.
The hybrid now has its battery under the back seat, not the boot, so there’s no loss in space.
While it’s sad to see Toyota Camry is no longer an Aussie-built car, this stylish new Japanese model has a lot going for it and we can see Camry continuing to hold onto the top-selling spot in its class it has held Downunder for the past 20 years.
Ascent 2.5-litre petrol four-door sedan: $27,690
Ascent Hybrid 2.5-litre petrol / electric four-door sedan: $29,990
Ascent Sport 2.5-litre petrol four-door sedan: $29,990
Ascent Sport Hybrid 2.5-litre petrol / electric four-door sedan: $31,990
SX 2.5-litre petrol four-door sedan: $33,290
SL 2.5-litre petrol four-door sedan: $39,990
SL Hybrid 2.5-litre petrol / electric four-door sedan: $40,990
SX 3.5-litre V6 petrol four-door sedan: $37,290
SL 3.5-litre V6 petrol four-door sedan: $43,290
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Toyota dealer for drive-away prices.