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Toyota Aurion Sportivo ZR6

 

The Aurion is still essentially a V6-powered version of the humble Camry, albeit with a lot of styling differentiation

Base price: $52,990.

Powertrain and performance: 3.5-litre petrol V6, 200kW/336Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 9.3 litres per 100km.

Vital statistics: 4835mm long, 1470mm high, kerb weight 1555kg, luggage capacity 515 litres, fuel tank 70 litres, 17-inch wheels on 215/55 tyres.

We like: Build quality, fast and frugal V6, lots of equipment for the money.

We don’t like: Cheesy styling detail, wayward handling under duress, it’s still a Camry.

How it rates: 6/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

Toyota’s Australian-built big sixes have never really looked like threatening the Ford and Holden establishment, but the Japanese brand has persisted with them anyway. Even when the establishment is crumbling, as it has been doing for the past five years.

You might remember the days when we had a Camry four and a Camry V6 in New Zealand. Well, we still do. The Aurion is still essentially a V6-powered version of the humble Camry, albeit with a lot of styling differentiation.

Toyota Australia also persists with the notion that it can out-SV6 a Commodore with sportier versions of the Aurion. Here’s the latest: an even better-specified version of the Aurion Sportivo called the ZR6.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Fast. If it’s wet, a bit feral.

Toyota’s 3.5-litre V6 engine is a brilliant piece of work: no doubt about that. It produces big power and torque and gives the Aurion an astonishing turn of speed, yet take it easy and it can be relatively economical.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Aurion is still front drive and there are issues in putting all of the power to the ground. If you’re at all enthusiastic with the throttle from a standstill, you are guaranteed chirping tyres and stares of disapproval from the footpath. Plus torque steer and the odd ‘moment’ if you are not prepared.

In the wet, it would be fair to describe the Aurion as a slithering mess. Not in a dangerous way, for the traction/stability control keeps things in check. But the front tyres really do struggle to keep contact with the tarmac unless you’re extremely careful.

The Aurion Sportivo/ZR6 has a sports suspension package that ties the car down quite well without ruining the ride. Toyota has wisely avoided the temptation to put massive wheels on the car, instead sticking with 17-iunch rims.

The ZR6 can be hustled through corners but it’s not a lot of fun. A big front-drive car can never have the fluidity of a rear-drive one and the Aurion is hard-pressed to put a smile on your face the way that a Falcon or Commodore can. Unless it’s a traffic-light drag race.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

The ZR6 is loaded. Over and above the Aurion Sportivo it boasts active/smart beam headlights, a blind-spot monitor, parking sensors front/rear (with camera), a larger touch screen information system with DVD capability, satellite navigation, premium JBL audio setup, power driver’s seat and even a powered rear window shade – little bit of Lexus luxury there.

All that gear is guaranteed to satisfy the buyer of what is still essentially a very mainstream sedan.

In some ways the Aurion is more honest than the Camry, which is pitched as a medium car but is really large. The Aurion (same dimensions of course) presents as a full-size sedan, with all the pluses and minuses that entails.

There’s plenty of space inside for five adults (or three child seats across the rear if that’s more important) and it remains a refined machine on the open road.

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

The market for large cars is shrinking. The market for large cars with front-drive – even those built in Australia – was already small anyway. Aurion sells at a rate of less than 40 per month here (less than a quarter the rate of the Holden Commodore), so buy one of these top-line Sportivo ZR6 versions and you’ll be in a fairly exclusive group.

You could certainly never call the ZR6 dull. The Stormtrooper body kit won’t be to everybody’s taste, but the powertrain is exceptionally smooth and extremely powerful – notwithstanding the difficulties in getting all of that grunt to the ground through the front wheels.

If you can live without the lurid acceleration, a top-line Camry is probably still a better bet: more composed, better looking. If simply must have a big six, the Aurion does offer the kind of build quality and polish – if not steering and handling - that owners of Aussie Fords and Holdens can only dream about.


EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Dual climate

Audio: CD, iPod compatible

Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Cruise control: Yes

Driver footrest: Yes

Head-up display: No

Keyless entry/start: Yes/yes

Leather upholstery: Yes

Parking radar: Front and rear with camera

Remote audio controls: Yes

Satellite navigation: Yes

Seat height adjustment: Power

Split/folding rear seats: 60/40

Steering reach adjustment: Yes

Trip computer: Yes


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