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Cruiser on four wheels

autos Updated: Sep 28, 2012 01:23 IST
Sumant Banerji

The Camry is a global bestseller for Toyota. It is their biggest, most expensive car outside of the Lexus models, and is one of their better selling cars in North America, Toyota's largest market and the world's second-largest automobile market. Last year, Toyota sold more Camrys in the US than all the cars sold by Hyundai in India. Unfortunately, the car has not been able to replicate even an ounce of that success in India, for obvious reasons. The absence of a diesel powertrain and the high price - the Camry is imported directly from Japan and not assembled here - put it out of running for the value-conscious Indian consumer. The diesel drive is still lacking, but Toyota decided to finally start assembling the car here, timing it with the introduction of a new model. So, we take a look at the new Camry.

Exterior
The executive car segment is often viewed as the ultimate luxury for the middle class. For the nouveau riche it is the first step in extravagance. The cars in this segment are big luxurious saloons that hope to steal attention over a BMW or a Merc, with a "U name it we have it" attitude. True to form, the Camry is a big car, and the reinforced facia stresses this. The large chrome grille flows in from equally big wraparound head lamps completes a package that has more chiselled looks than the outgoing model. All around, the car looks sharper and fitter, as though draped in an impeccable Italian suit.

The new Camry sits high and has a wide stance, increasing its road presence while enhancing stability. Dimensions have not changed much as the platform remains the same. That title of the biggest in the segment stays with Honda's Accord. Like all Toyota cars, the Camry does not quite stand out, but a Toyota customer doesn't look to attract attention, either.

Interior
In here, the battle is really about how much one car offers over the other. Hyundai stepped up that game with the Sonata earlier this year, and Toyota has followed up. Step inside and you will be hard pressed to miss anything. There is wood, there is leather, a touch screen entertainment system, bluetooth, a multifunctional steering wheel - you won't have to lift your arm for anything. There is ample leg room and shoulder room, and a host of goodies. To top it all, the Camry also has the biggest boot - a Toyota forté. At nearly 600 litres, it makes the Accord's 400-litre look puny. For the record, the latter scores on rear leg-room, thanks to the larger wheelbase - though the Camry is not exactly squeezed for legspace. And yet, the interiors are not as striking as a Sonata or a Superb. Business like, not flashy.

Performance, ride and handling
Where do you draw the line between performance and comfort, luxury and sportiness? To be fair, they do go against each other, and the question has plagued even the Germans. The Camry has steered clear of this confusion and chosen comfort and luxury over performance and sportiness. So while the 2.5-litre dual VTi petrol engine now offers 181 ps power, nearly 7% more than the outgoing version, it does not change the car's character much. The Camry remains happy to cruise on endless highways, than being thrown around corners and pedalled hard in the city. The otherwise faultless six speed automatic gearbox underscores this. It is refined, polished, silent and at times also powerful but it will not give you the grunt of a Accord or Sonata, and you may long for a manual gearbox.

The handling, though, has improved and the new Camry does hold its line better than before, but this is not a track car. Difficult to not be impressed if you are being chauffeured around and difficult to be thrilled if you are driving yourself.

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