Toyota’s new Camry is making a claim to sporting fame in its Atara SX variant. We find out whether it puts something extra into the ordinary.
Base price: $44,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.5-litre petrol four, 135kW/235Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 7.8 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 9.3 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4850mm long, 1470mm high, 2775mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 515 litres, fuel tank 70 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Engaging to drive, well-built, very spacious.
We don’t like: Lacks safety technology of hybrid version – and it’s slower.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? There are a couple of salient points to be made about the Toyota Camry Atara SX.
One is that this update of the Camry, which in Toyota terminology constitutes a ‘big minor change’ (true), is the last revamp of the model before Australian manufacture finishes in 2017.
That’ll make Toyota the last Aussie maker standing, as well as being the biggest: thanks to healthy export markets it makes about twice as many cars as Holden and five times as many as Ford.
The other important thing to note about the Atara SX is that it’s a model attempting to make the very mainstream Camry sporty, with unique styling, steering and suspension elements.
It’s not the first time that Toyota Australia has claimed to inject sex-appeal into the Camry, of course. It’ll certainly be the last.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? It’s easy to dismiss the Camry as being worthy but dull. However, the last few generations have been pretty well sorted and this one is no exception. Don’t expect anything radical under the bonnet. The SX has a bit more power and torque than the entry GL – but then so do the other two Atara grades.
The SX still isn’t the fastest Camry you can buy, though. That honour belongs to the hybrid, which romps to 100km/h over a second quicker than its sportier-looking sibling. So don’t judge a book by its cover!
What’s different about the SX is a unique state of steering and suspension tune, developed by the boffins at Toyota Australia. The changes are designed to make the SX more responsive and therefore attractive to keen drivers.
So ask not whether the Camry is sporty, because it’s not really. But rather, ask whether the SX is sportier than the other Atara models. Which it is.
The SX turns in with more alacrity than your average Camry and the suspension is noticeably firmer. There’s opportunity cost in that, with a fussy around-town ride – especially on this model’s larger 18-inch alloys. It’s not a deal-breaker, but the sports suspension is of dubious value all the same. The standard Camry is actually quite capable in the corners and much more comfortable.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? All Camry models feature updated instruments and upgraded trim in the cabin. The Atara SX gets a few touches of its own, such as mesh-look trim inserts and sports front seats in black leather with red bolsters.
Where Camry lags a little behind some of the competition is in its driver aids and active safety equipment. It’s not that features such as lane departure warning, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and pre-crash technology aren’t compatible with the Camry platform. It’s just that Toyota chooses to keep them exclusive to its flagship hybrid Atara SL. That might have made sense a few years ago when such technology was rare, but these days many of these features are fitted to small cars (Mazda3 for example).
One of the strengths of the Camry is that it’s a medium-four competitor with a big-six capacity for people and luggage. Which is why it translates so easily into its Aurion V6 form. Camry is a genuine five-seater with a truly generous luggage capacity of 515 litres.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? If the mission was to make a Camry that pleases the driver, then the Atara SX is a success. However, we’re not sure that it’s due entirely to the SX package. The latest Camry is pretty well engineered to begin with.
It’s actually newer than it looks: the only panel carried over from the old car is the roof and there are 800 new parts.
But it’s also newer than it feels: it’s a very complete package but the big-minor-change Camry still doesn’t push the segment forward in any significant way.
There still plenty of time to work on that. The Australia Camry is set to finish at the end of 2017, but the Camry as a whole will carry on. It’ll just come from somewhere else.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40