Meet the un-Camry
TOYOTA built the Camry in Melbourne from 1987 until 2017.
This eighth-generation model, imported from Japan, is new from the wheels up, which you can probably guess just by looking at it.
Gone is the invisible, ultra-conservative 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 unCamry-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.
Hammered by the allconquering 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/sixspeed automatic, you get a 224kW direct-injection 3.5litre 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 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.
Big wheels, low-profile tyres and firm suspension 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 stiff and at times harsh, with excessive front end thump and bump, while the Dunlops make a racket on coarse bitumen.
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.
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 kms.
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.
The new V6 is a beauty, though low revs and high gears expose its 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.
Verdict: Sporty Camry is an oxymoron. But the SX is bargain-priced and the V6 is easy to love even if it’s ultimately a car that’s trying to be something it’s not.
It’s a Toyota Camry, but not as you know it.