Six of the best
Are you sure we can’t interest you in a big family car?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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