Toyota Camry now sourced from Japan

TOYOTA CAMRY: Hybrid option as well as four-cylinder and V6 variants.

Not all is lost with the demise of the Australian motor vehicle manufacturing industry, Toyota has simply reorganised its resources and has Aussie-type product landing on our shores.

The car I’m talking about mostly is the Camry, for 30 years it arrived here from the Altona factory in Melbourne. A new Camry has just landed, and it is now sourced fresh from Japan.

It is also a classy vehicle, almost bordering on the luxury car market, yet it has all the values of its predecessor, the big sedan is here with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine as well as a 2.5-litre hybrid, much the same configurations as previously. However, there is one major change, today’s Camry also gets the choice of a V6 engine, gone is the old Aurion, Toyota’s big V6 sedan is now badged Camry.

The latter is here in one specification only, and tops the range at $47,990, it is the subject of this evaluation and I’m hooked. I’ve always liked Camry, and Aurion, and the newcomer epitomises all the things I’ve liked about it in the past.

While the engine’s basic design could be deemed a carryover from Aurion, Prado and a lot of Lexus models, it has been used for in the past, there have been a lot of improvements in terms of power and efficiency. It now produces 224kW and 362Nm (up 24kW and 26Nm) and is now rated with a 8.9-litre per 100km (32mpg) combined cycle fuel usage rating – a four per cent improvement.

I expect the latter to be quite achievable, my time with the test car produced combined figures of around 10l/100km (28mpg) with an instantaneous figure of 7l/100km (40mpg) available at a steady 100km/h cruise, the engine spinning leisurely at just 1400rpm.

As its power and torque figures suggest, it is also a strong engine, it is capable of propelling the Camry to 100km/h in 6.8sec, and that’s pretty quick for a 1595kg car, and one which isn’t deemed to be a sports sedan. In my opinion it is a sporty car, and that’s probably why I’m drawn to it, the engine is delightful, it is smooth, silent and willing. There are also driver-selectable drive modes to enhance or subdue its behaviour through sport or economy settings.

Drive is channelled to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It, too, is the epitome of smoothness, the changes are almost undetectable and the ratios are structured for all purposes.

I took the test west to Hororata utilising the tricky corners heading out the Waimakariri Gorge. The Camry handles flat and balanced, there is a strong feel of grip through sport specification Dunlop tyres (235/40 x 19in), accuracy and steering feedback are assured.

The spring and damper rates are set for fluid in-cabin comfort, along with the delicate firming you need to arrest body movement and gravitational force. Of course, the suspension is a quality fully independent front-strut/rear-double wishbone system and if you combine all of these elements you have an amazing chassis capable in all driving situations.

The Camry also looks spectacular, it has edgy styling and looks which ooze character. That’s no surprise, if you take a look at any of the Toyota/Lexus designs these days you will find a vehicle which has strong focal points. The Camry V6 with it is big wheels, discreet rear spoiler and quad exhausts looks desirable.

It is also specced well. I’m hoping to have drives soon of the four-cylinder models which start at $35,990, but in the case of the V6 it arrives with most of the trim and features you’d expect in a $48k car. However, I searched everywhere for seat heaters, it was cold in Christchurch over the five days I had the evaluation car, and there’s nothing more off-putting that jumping into that cold leather. I can only imagine that their omission is simply an ordering oversight.

Of course, the new Camry gets a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program safety rating.

Not only has Toyota shifted production of its many vehicles destined for New Zealand, at a local level they are changing the way they sell cars, there’s a lot more emphasis on making decisions, especially on price, easier. That being the case, the journey to the Toyota dealership should be in their terminology a ‘happy’ experience.

I’d certainly be happy to drive home in a new Camry V6, in the age when electric/hybrid power is at the forefront of a lot of buying decisions it’s great to get behind the traditional V6 petrol engine. The Camry is a smart piece of kit, and it looks spectacular. Just as well it has the performance to match its looks.

Price – Toyota Camry, $47,990

Dimensions – Length, 4905mm; width, 1840mm; height, 1445mm

Configuration –  V6, front-wheel-drive, 3456cc, 224kW, 362Nm, eight-speed automatic.

0-100km/h, 6.8sec

Fuel usage – 8.9l/100km