Six of the best

Are you sure we can’t in­ter­est you in a big fam­ily car?

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - NEIL DOWLING neil.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

CO­CONUTS kill 150 peo­ple a year, mak­ing them 15 times dead­lier than sharks. This pif­fle par­al­lels myths such as fly­ing cham­pagne corks killing more peo­ple than spi­ders, don­keys be­ing re­spon­si­ble for more deaths than com­mer­cial air­line crashes and large cars hav­ing ex­ces­sive thirst for fuel.

This week’s long-dis­tance test in Toy­ota’s ever­green Au­rion— Aussie-built, like the Camry— shows that car buy­ers have swal­lowed what they’ve been told been about the lat­ter.

The 10.2L/100km aver­age of the Au­rion over Cars­guide’s 620km was purely city and sub­ur­ban use. Yes, mid-size cars— par­tic­u­larly the Mazda6 diesel— will beat this but the V6 Au­rion is a live­lier ride and shrugs off the ef­fects of ex­tra pas­sen­gers or a trailer.

VALUE

There are five Au­rion vari­ants. The test Sportivo ZR6 sits just un­der the flag­ship Presara. At $47,990 it isn’t cheap and I’d sug­gest that the lesserequipped and $7000 cheaper Sportivo SX6 will pro­vide the same fun.

As buy­ers are in­creas­ingly dis­cov­er­ing, value in home­made cars is de­clin­ing as the buoy­ant Aus­tralian dol­lar makes im­ports cheaper.

That’s a shame. But there are coun­ter­points, in­clud­ing the capped-price ser­vice sched­ule of a mere $130 to 45,000km. Ar­guably, it’s a cheap car to own.

The ZR6 gets a 10-speaker au­dio with Blue­tooth and dig­i­tal ra­dio, sat­nav, leather up­hol­stery and even a rear win­dow blind.

DE­SIGN

I like the clean shape of the lower-specced Fal­con, Com­modore, Camry and Au­rion. The ZR6 and SX6 are a lit­tle over­done, the add-on body kit a tad flashy and awkward while mak­ing the body look un­gainly.

It’s a theme that works in con­junc­tion with a more mo­ti­vated pow­er­plant (those of HSV and FPV) but con­sid­er­ing the base and top-line Au­ri­ons per­form the same way, it’s sim­ply too much mas­cara.

As with the cur­rent Fal­con and Com­modore, the Au­rion’s cabin is clearly age­ing. It’s per­fectly func­tional and very well laid out but ex­cess chrome and some fid­dly bits are hints of yes­ter­year.

The cabin is airy and light, the space avail­able is per­fect for five adults and even the boot (with full-size spare) ac­com­mo­dates lots of lug­gage. Split fold-down rear seats are use­ful though the open­ing could be big­ger.

The foot-op­er­ated park brake can make a dent in your left shin, en­hanc­ing the feel­ing that a cabin up­date is called for.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The Au­rion fol­lows Toy­ota’s sim­ple, in­grained en­gi­neer­ing phi­los­o­phy. The 3.5-litre V6 runs on base-level un­leaded fuel and pumps out 200kW/ 336Nm— though it doesn’t feel this feisty— through a sixspeed au­to­matic.

Toy­ota claims an aver­age of 9.3L/100km and that’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble.

The front-drive plat­form de­sign is re­heated Camry and is a good com­pro­mise be­tween space ef­fi­ciency, taut body de­sign and low pro­duc­tion costs. The ba­sic engine has been around for ages in dif­fer­ent ca­pac­i­ties.

As a 3.5, it ap­pears not only in other Toy­ota and Lexus mod­els but in the Lo­tus Evora(su­per­charged in the Evora and Ex­ige sta­ble­mates). That in­di­cates a solid parts sup­ply and peo­ple who know how to fix them.

SAFETY

The ZR6 shares the seven airbag quota and five-star crash rat­ing of most Toy­ota pas­sen­ger cars. It adds stan­dard blind-spot sen­sors, front and rear park sen­sors, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, full-size spare and re­verse cam­era.

DRIV­ING

Aus­tralian in­put makes the Camry/Au­rion plat­form a big per­for­mance step up on the aver­age-grade han­dling of off­shore clones.

The Au­rion shows un­der­steer bias when hur­ried through cor­ners but re­mains pre­dictable and poised.

It’s not a car rec­om­mended for such pur­suits but the fact it can com­bine agility with com­fort and quiet­ness re­flects en­gi­neer­ing thor­ough­ness.

The engine is pretty good, more for its hushed smooth­ness than power de­liv­ery.

I could never feel 200kW/ 336Nm though I got close with the help of a heavy right foot. But it’s a fam­ily car and one made for roomy cruis­ing or trips to the shops.

In this re­gard, it’s a car with few faults.

VER­DICT

Large car or not, the Au­rion per­forms and han­dles well enough to make it al­most fun. Low-cost ser­vic­ing makes it hard to pass up as a fam­ily car.

Boot room: Even with a full-size spare, there is still space for heaps of lug­gage

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