2015 Toyota Camry review and road test | Sporting swansong
MY husband, a successful businessman, is mad for a Camry. It is, of course, not the only car that jostles for room on our driveway, but it is the one he will bet the house on.
For him the appeal lies in the practicality and reliability and the fact that it is uncomplicated both at the mechanic's and at the bowser.
He is not alone in his admiration for this Toyota workhorse.
Our friends, an optometrist, pilot and doctor, are happy to wax lyrical about the Camry's greatness amongst sedans.
They too, are wowed by its relaxed nature, spacious interior and kindness on the wallet. In fact, so many times have I heard the phrase "Can't beat a Camry" at dinner parties that it is quickly becoming a mantra.
This kind of loyalty is at the heart of the Camry's success - some 18 million cars sold globally is something worth bragging about. Now, with the sportier Atara SX, Toyota is also hoping to attract buyers who are searching for driving pleasure and practicality, younger drivers who are making a passionate choice.
Prices have also been slashed across the range to add to the appeal as the Camry, Australia's top-selling medium sedan for two decades, pushes to cement its place in the history books.
While the exterior of the new Camry may grab the attention, the inside remains a creature of habit. The enhanced seat fabrics and cosmetic dash stitching is hardly noticeable but the three-spoke ergonomic steering wheel is and certainly feels nice and chunky in the hand.
The infotainment screen (15.5cm and 17.7cm) is lost in the vast expanse of the dashboard and the plastics, especially the lower plastics, are of the cheaper variety and will mark easily.
But the Camry continues to impress in all the areas you would expect it to - good small storage options, excellent head and leg room for all passengers and at 515 litres (421L in the hybrid) a boot that is delightfully spacious.
On the road
The twisting roads of Melbourne's Yarra Valley provided a mix of surfaces and challenges for this new Camry.
We spent a large chunk of our time in the Atara SX, the sportier model Toyota is hoping will attract conquest sales. The suspension is certainly firmer, not so much that ride quality is compromised, but enough that the car feels flatter and more solid on the road. Paired with a revised electric power steering system with a faster gear ratio than the rest of the range, the SX certainly is more enthusiastic around the corners, keeping pace through a series of dips and climbs with assured footwork on wet, debris-laden roads.
The SX is no speed demon but it offers a noticeably more engaging drive than the entry-level Altise, although the latter feels better cushioned.
What do you get?
With a price drop of some $5000, you would expect the entry-level Altise to show its bare bones, but it manages to do quite well and includes 16-inch alloys, six-speaker audio system with Pandora radio from the end of the month, Bluetooth connectivity and a 15.5cm infotainment system with reverse camera.
The Atara petrol models get paddle shifts, bigger wheels, voice control, electric driver's seats and parking sensors while the range-topping SL is equipped with a 10-speaker audio system with a 17.7cm touch-screen, rain-sensing wipers, power seats with memory function, automatic headlights, sat-nav and top-class safety inclusions like autonomous braking, blind-sport monitor, front sensors and rear-cross traffic alert.
The sporty Atara SX gets 18-inch wheels, and also has a body kit, rear lip spoiler and leather-accented sports seats.
All Camrys have a five-star safety rating supported by seven airbags, stability and traction control as well as anti-skid brakes with brake assist and EBD.
When you beat your nearest rival by 16,000 units, competition is hardly a word that brings fear.
Still, almost 65% of Camry sales come from fleet buys so Toyota will be hoping to lure customers away from the Subaru Liberty (from $29,990), Ford Mondeo (from $32,790), Nissan Altima (from $29,990) Hyundai Sonata (from $29,990) and Mazda6 (from $32,540) amongst others.
Frugality is a cornerstone for Toyota with the Hybrid boasting official figures of 5.2 litres/100km and the petrol models 7.7L/100km.
Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty with fixed-price servicing ($140 each) for four years or 75,000km with one of the best dealership spreads in Australia.
Well, the Camry is nothing if not practical both for families and as business cars. Space, reliability and service costs have done much to cement its place as an Australian staple and the addition of sportier models combined with better looks and a cheaper price will only add to its credentials.
It would be nice to have the option of sat-nav and state-of-the-art safety features in models other than the top spec and perhaps even a bigger infotainment screen and better quality fixtures and fittings. Two seat pockets instead of one would also keep the kids in the back from whinging.
The improved exterior is probably the most exciting feature of this new Camry. Some 800 parts have been redesigned or changed in this bumper-to-bumper upgrade with the roof the only sheet metal to survive from the previous edition. The design is now bolder and more expressive, sleeker, more stylish with flowing dynamic lines.
A new grille - black honeycomb in the SX - dominates the front with sharp-looking headlights, a new bonnet and a muscular front fender complementing the low, athletic stance.
Each grade has unique alloy wheels with the 18-inch gloss black alloys with chunky spokes on the SX the standout.
This Camry is without doubt an important release for Toyota, its manufacturing swansong in Australia. It is all those things you expect from a Camry - practical, reliable and frugal - while the sleeker design and sportier option also offers something apart from the usual.
Model: 2015 Toyota Camry.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive medium sedan.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 133kW @ 6000rpm (135kW in the Atara grades with dual exhaust) and peak torque of 235Nm @ 4100rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: Altise $26,490, Atara S $29,490, Atara SX $31,990, Atara SL $37,440.
What matters most
What we liked: Price cuts, better looking exterior, practical performance.
What we'd like to see: Better quality interior, sat-nav option across range.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km warranty with capped-price servicing for 75,000km which is $140 each service for four years or 75,000km. Services are scheduled every nine months or 15,000km.
Verdict: 4 stars