You can stop squinting your eyes. It’s the new Camry, I’m not joking. Yup, it looks good. Damn good. The librarian of the car world has drop its thick glasses for some party hats. How great is that?
A quiet revolution is going on at Toyota. After decades of churning out white goods on wheels, the Japanese auto giant is beginning to embrace bold and emotional design. It all started with the C-HR compact SUV, then came the Camry you see here, followed by the strikingly handsome new Corolla. Next year, the new RAV4 will be the boldest crossover on the road. The brand’s design is a major departure of what it used to be. And we like it.
Back to the Camry, this new eighth-generation model is the first fully imported (from Japan) Camry in Australia for nearly 30 years. The SX grade tested here is the second-from-the-top variant slotting below the range-topping SL. Both models can be had with either a 2.5-litre four-cylinder or V6 petrol engines, with the SL adopting a more comfort orientated tune and the SX given a more sporty flavour.
Priced from $37,290 plus on-road costs, the SX V6 is loaded with features and continues the nameplate’s value for money reputation. On the outside, you get striking 19-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights and a genuinely purposeful looking bodykit which includes a blacked out roof (if you ticked the sunroof option) and boot lid spoiler.
Inside, the mid-size sedan is equipped with dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, electric park brake and leather-upholstered sports seats with the driver’s seat being 8-way power adjustable.
For today’s digital connected families, there is the convenience of two USB ports in the rear to complement the one up the front and a wireless phone charging pad.
Centred in the stylish dashboard is an 8-inch infotainment display which includes navigation, digital radio and Bluetooth. The new-generation interface is an improvement over the old unit but still has a cumbersome menu structure and missing Apple Carplay and Bluetooth connectivity.
Fortunately, owners will be impressed by a thumping 6-speaker sound system which is one of the best stock systems around.
On the safety front, every Camry comes standard with seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, hill start assist with brake hold and a reverse camera.
The cabin is a big step up from before and arguably one of the best in the segment. What impresses most is the air of quality and premium feel within, with many switchgear and trim pieces inherited from the parts bin of Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus.
The dashboard, instrument panel, centre console and door trims all employ padded plastics and premium materials. And on the outside, it even gets single piece door handles – the type usually found only in luxury cars, Lexus included.
Toyota’s are well known for their impeccable build quality but a constant rattling behind the dashboard whenever our test car was in motion came as a surprise. This rather glaring fault aside, the car is solidly put together throughout with minuscule panel gap and near perfect alignment.
Of course, being a Camry there’s plenty of space inside. All passengers enjoy generous amount of legroom and the rear bench will accommodate three adults with no issues. As for headroom though, it really depends if a panoramic sunroof is fitted. The thick side rails required for the sliding roof do rob off some good amount of headroom, which means if you’re over six foot tall, chances are your head may be just touching the headlining in the back.
Like those from its luxury stablemate, the seats in the Camry are contoured almost perfectly to your body and superbly comfortable. Road noise in the cabin from those low profile tyres, however, can be better suppressed.
The 60/40 split rear seats tumble forward to expand on the 524-litre boot, though you’ll have to peel yours eyes for the latches.
The atmospheric 3.5-litre direct-injected V6 engine in our SX produces a healthy 224kW of power at 6600rpm and 362Nm of torque at 4700rpm. We commend it for its Lexus-like refinement and smoothness, as well as its linear and responsive power delivery. Driving the front wheels, there was also the surprise lack of torque steer and wheel spin off the line, given the big figures the V6 is generating. Instead you get strong acceleration from just about any legal speeds the moment you put your right foot down.
The new 8-speed automatic the V6 is paired to is another highlight of the drivetrain. It’s silky smooth and picks the right gear all the time. The extra ratios mean the engine is spinning at a low 1500rpm when cruising at 100km/h, keeping engine noise down and fuel efficiency up.
While the V6 Camry prefers things to be taken slowly, its grand touring demeanour can take on a more sporting attitude if desired by changing the drive mode to Sport. The gear shifts are sharpened, the steering weights up and the throttle becomes more responsive.
With a redesigned MacPherson-strut front suspension and an all-new fully independent rear suspension – both adopting a sportier tune exclusively for the SX variant – coupled with a lower centre of gravity thanks to a 10mm reduction in ride height, the large sedan is certainly not shy of corners. Turn in is impressively crisp, with the rest of the car remaining relatively tight and well controlled through the bends.
It’s no sports car but does certainly have the strong V6 grunt and neat handling to back its sporty looks. It’s the most engaging and dynamic Camry ever, at least in SX form.
While the SX has a slightly firmer spring rates than the rest of the range, the ride quality around town remains generally good, with most bumps and ruts rounded off nicely for a comfortable ride.
- Standout design
- Refined drivetrain
- Upmarket interior
- Fine ride and handling balance
- Tight rear headroom
- Cumbersome infotainment
- Higher than desired road noise
The latest Camry is the best effort yet from Toyota. It looks great, upmarket even, and has a stylish interior. The V6 SX model tested here backs it up with a strong powertrain and respectable dynamics.
Bland and boring? Not anymore.
2018 Toyota Camry SX V6 pricing and specification
|Pricing (Excluding on-road costs):||From $37,290
As tested: $39,690
· Metallic Paint: $450
· Sunroof: $1950
|Country of Origin:||Japan|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/15,000km|
|Engine:||3.5-litre direct-injected, V6 petrol:
224kW @ 6,600rpm, 362Nm @ 4,700rpm
|Power-to-Weight Ratio (W/kg):||140.4|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 8.7/Tested 10.4|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||60|
|Safety:||· 5-star ANCAP· 7 airbags
· Pre-Collision Safety System
· Autonomous Emergency Braking
· Lane Departure Alert with steering assist
· LED headlights with LED DRL
· Auto High Beam
· Active Cruise Control
· ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, Brake Hold
· Reversing camera with guide lines
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,905/1,840/1,445/2,825|
|Turning Circle Between Kerbs:||12.2|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,620|
|Boot Space (L):||524|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 1,600/Unbraked: 500|
|Entertainment:||· 8-inch touchscreen with Toyota Link· 6-speakers
· AUX and USB
· MP3 capability