Toyota Camry, we have all heard about it. Some say it’s the ultimate “white good on wheels”, others think it’s soulless and boring. If excitement and fun-to-drive is what you are looking for, Camry would be the last word in your dictionary.
But yet, Toyota has managed to move over 22,000 Camrys in Australia last year alone, the figure is a staggering 16,000 more than what its nearest rival, the Mazda6, could achieve in the same period.
In fact, sales of the Camry are so dominant that it is in its 22nd straight year as Australia’s best-selling mid-size car.
Surely, the world’s largest carmaker must have got something going for it.
Toyota says owners love the durability, quality and value that the Camry represents, but they are looking for a little more style and performance.
So, the 2015 Camry gets a major facelift that sees every exterior panel of the car redesigned, with only the old car’s roof carried over.
The massive trapezoidal lower air intake that merges somewhat with the grille seems to have been inspired by sister company, Lexus’ spindle grille, and is aggressively in-your-face.
Things are a lot more generic at the other end. The new Camry gets larger taillights that taper into the boot lid and are connected by a chrome number plate garnish.
The side has been heavily reshaped with sculpted surfaces replacing the old bland and edgy panels.
The new car is slightly longer by 45mm (1.8 inches) and features a 10mm (0.4 inches) wider track.
Underneath that most daring exterior yet of any Camry, the chassis and body structure have been bolstered with additional spot welds for better rigidity.
Changes to the interior are minimal, with a new three-spoke steering wheel and minor upgrade to cabin materials and the instrument panel. It now features a 4.2-inch TFT screen nestled between the three-dimensional Optitron gauges.
The cabin sits five comfortably, with generous head and legroom for all occupants. However, its design is starting to age and despite the updates, the quality of some materials is still not up to class standard.
Disappointingly, Toyota didn’t change anything under the bonnet. Power comes from the carried over Otto cycle 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that develops 133kW at 6,000rpm and 231Nm of torque at 4,100rpm in the Camry Altise, and 135kW and 235Nm on the dual exhausts Atara models.
They are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and return a claimed 7.8L/100km on the official combined cycle.
The engine offers the same old pulse-calming character that gives the Camry such broad appeal (or heavy abuse from enthusiasts). While it’s responsive, smooth, quiet and fairly economical, the drivetrain is falling behind more advanced units in key rivals, lacking direct injection, automatic idle stop/start and turbocharging.
Hybrid Camry variants use the high-efficiency Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre four-cylinder paired with a 105kW electric drive motor for a combined output of 151kW. It is connected to an electronic continuously variable transmission (E-CVT) and returns a claimed 5.2L/100km.
Again, the petrol-electric powertrain is unchanged from before but that’s good news because this unit still performs favourably in terms of refinement and power delivery. It’s also impressively efficient in the real world and impeccably reliable.
Further suspension fine-tuning by Toyota’s Australian development team means the new Camry is now more confident and capable to drive than before, with improved damping and less roll in corners. There’s also less forward and backward pitching during hard acceleration and braking.
Despite the tweaks, ride quality is not jeopardised, as the mid-size sedan feels plush and compliant across most surfaces.
Camry’s five-star ANCAP safety rating is supported by standard fitment of seven airbags, a reversing camera, vehicle stability and traction control, and anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
For the first time, uniquely styled alloy wheels distinguish each grade – 10-spoke 16-inch rims for Altise, 10-spoke 17-inch for Atara S, 15-spoke 17-inch for Atara SL and the 18-inch wheels for Atara SX (optional on Atara SL).
Altise hybrid has keyless entry and ignition and auto dual-zone air-conditioning. From Atara S upwards, all variants adopt these features as well as a power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-accented steering wheel and two rear parking sensors.
All Atara petrol grades employ paddle gear-shifters mounted on the steering wheel and dual exhausts. Atara SX’s sporty nature is further highlighted by its sports mesh grille, rear lip spoiler, leather-accented sports seats and dark diffuser on the rear bumper.
In a first for Camry, Atara SL is equipped with a suit of safety technologies including pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, lane departure alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and automatic high beam.
The range-topping variants also offer leather-accented power-adjustable front seats with a memory function, premium audio with a seven-inch screen, satellite navigation and front clearance sensors.
While the Camry’s bold new design is a step in the right direction, beyond the sheet metal, there’s still not much to get excited about Toyota’s bread winner.
The Camry is still how we know it – a comfortable, cheap-to-run A to B mid-size sedan that will guarantee years and years of trouble-free motoring and not much else.
Oh, did we mention also the Hybrid is still the most affordable in the segment?
2015 Toyota Camry price and specification
|Price (excluding on-roads)||From $26,490|
|Warranty:||3-year or 100,000km|
|Servicing interval:||15,000km / 9 months|
|Engine:||2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol 133kW / 231Nm or 135kW / 235Nm (Atara models)|
|2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol-electric 151kW / 213Nm (hybrid)|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic or CVT (hybrid only)|
|Fuel Consumption (Combined):||7.8L/100km (claimed); Hybrid: 5.2L/100km (claimed)|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4850mm, Width: 1835mm, Height: 1470mm, Wheelbase: 2775mm|
Mazda6, Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Subaru Liberty, Holden Malibu, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 508, Hyundai i40, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima