THE UN-CAMRY

The V6 tries to be some­thing it’s not AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - BILL McK­IN­NON

Toy­ota built the Camry in Mel­bourne from 1987 un­til 2017. This eighth­gen­er­a­tion model, im­ported from Ja­pan, is new from the wheels up, which you can prob­a­bly guess just by look­ing at it. Gone is the in­vis­i­ble, ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive styling that didn’t look right in any hue other than Ap­pli­ance White.

Our test car, a 3.5-litre V6 SX, has a most un-Camry-like toned, mean stance and sleek sil­hou­ette. In pro­file, it could al­most be mis­taken for a big Mercedes AMG sedan.

That’s where the com­par­i­son ends.

VALUE

Ham­mered by the all-con­quer­ing SUV — in com­mon with ev­ery other sedan on the mar­ket — Camry sales have slumped by 37 per cent this year. At $37,290 for the SX V6, you have to won­der what else Toy­ota can pos­si­bly do to get more bums on Camry seats.

Let’s put this in con­text. For about the same money as a mid-spec RAV4, with a 132kW 2.5-litre petrol/six-speed au­to­matic, you get a 224kW di­rect-in­jec­tion 3.5-litre V6/eight-speed auto, with pad­dle-shifters in SX spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

This adds sports sus­pen­sion, 19-inch al­loys with 235/40 Dun­lop SP Sport Maxx tyres, auto lev­el­ling LED head­lights, leather-faced, pow­ered sports seats, eight-inch touch­screen au­dio with nav­i­ga­tion and full voice func­tion­al­ity (but there’s no Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto), wire­less phone charg­ing, dual zone air­con, park­ing sen­sors and key­less en­try and start.

That’s ridicu­lously good value and — be­cause we’re talk­ing about a Camry — ser­vic­ing is cheap, chances are noth­ing will ever go wrong with it and with reg­u­lar main­te­nance it will last un­til Tony Ab­bott gets his old job back. Maybe longer …

Un­like its Au­rion V6 pre­de­ces­sor, though, the new en­gine re­quires pre­mium un­leaded. The SX’s 19-inch wheels mean that a full-size spare won’t fit, so a space-saver is stan­dard.

COM­FORT

Big wheels, low-pro­file tyres and firm sus­pen­sion — your typ­i­cal bolt-on “sports” hard­ware — have never been per­sua­sive on any Camry be­cause, to state the bleed­ing ob­vi­ous, it just ain’t a sports car.

So the ride on SX is un­rea­son­ably stiff and at times harsh, with ex­ces­sive front end thump and bump, while the Dun­lops make a racket on coarse bi­tu­men. The driver’s seat isn’t par­tic­u­larly com­fort­able ei­ther; its cush­ion is too short for long legs, and un­der­padded.

Rear seat space is vast but the bench is also un­sup­port­ive. Two USBs and vents are pro­vided and ac­cess is easy via light, wide open­ing doors.

SAFETY

Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, lane de­par­ture alert with ef­fec­tive steer­ing as­sist and auto high beams are stan­dard across the range. The luxe SL, priced at $43,990, adds blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert.

I’ve re­cently moved from NSW to Vic­to­ria, so I’m now com­pletely para­noid about los­ing my li­cence. You re­ally can get done here for ex­ceed­ing the limit by a few kays, which is non­sen­si­cal.

The Camry’s nav­i­ga­tion could have been de­signed for Vic­to­ria’s brutal en­force­ment regime. It gives you cus­tomis­able alerts for ev­ery­thing bar the re­turn of the Bhag­wan and al­lows you to ad­just the ex­ceed speed limit warn­ing thresh­old in one km/h in­cre­ments.

If you then stray into crim­i­nal driv­ing ter­ri­tory, a nice lady says, “Please obey the speed limit.” Like Pavlov’s dog, this sub­tle form of be­hav­iour mod­i­fi­ca­tion ther­apy even­tu­ally rewires your brain — spend a week in this car and you will be­come a ter­ri­fied, speedo-fix­ated au­tom­a­ton, so I heartily rec­om­mend it to our Vic­to­rian read­ers.

DRIV­ING

The new V6 is a beauty, though low revs and high gears ex­pose its in­her­ent short­age of bot­tom end torque com­pared with turbo ri­vals. It cruises silently and ef­fort­lessly at 100km/h, tick­ing over at 1300rpm in eighth, re­turn­ing four cylin­der-ish fuel econ­omy of 6.5L/100km.

Drive modes in­clude Eco, Nor­mal and Sport. The lat­ter isn’t at all sporty, ex­cept by Camry stan­dards, though for the first time in a Camry you now have pad­dle-shifters to play with.

As revs climb the V6 lights up, with a mus­cu­lar, don’t-ar­gue de­liv­ery that en­dows the SX with se­ri­ous pace. Seat of the pants says it’s a six and a bit sec­onds car from 0-100km/h.

Af­ter all, 224kW drag­ging a light (for its size) 1620kg around pro­duces a pretty re­spectable power to weight ra­tio. High fuel con­sump­tion in town — 12-14L/100km — is to be ex­pected from a pow­er­ful, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 3.5-litre V6.

Sim­i­larly, any big front-driver with a large lump of en­gine up front will be quite a nose heavy, un­re­spon­sive de­vice when you point it into a tight cor­ner.

The SX’s firm sus­pen­sion and sporty rub­ber keep things tidy but lazy, re­mote steer­ing is no­tice­ably af­fected by tug­ging at the wheel un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, which also com­pro­mises di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity and front-end grip.

HEART SAYS

I’m a re­spectable, quiet, Cap­tain Nor­mal sort of bloke who loves his Camry be­cause, well, it’s me. This one might make my life a bit more ex­cit­ing. Not too much, though.

HEAD SAYS

I buy a car in the same way that I buy a 8.9L/100km (thirsty) Space-saver (not good)

com­puter, TV or wash­ing ma­chine. I want a trusted brand, great qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity and a bar­gain price. This will do nicely, thanks.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES HOLDEN COM­MODORE RS LIFTBACK FROM $40,790

Less stan­dard equip­ment than Camry SX but bet­ter safety spec, more com­fort­able seats and po­tent 235kW 3.6-litre V6/nine-speed auto/all­wheel drive. Great, lo­cally sorted drive dy­nam­ics. Five years’ war­ranty. Runs on 91.

MAZDA6 GT FROM $43,990

Price pre­mium over Camry is jus­ti­fied with deluxe spec­i­fi­ca­tion, su­pe­rior safety and a rich, stylish in­te­rior that makes the Toy­ota’s feel very old. Tractable and quick enough with 170kW 2.5-litre turbo four/six-speed auto/ front-wheel drive. Also runs on 91 and has fiveyear war­ranty.

ROAD TEST

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