New Toyota Camry review, test drive
The new Toyota Camry is better looking, better equipped and more comfortable, albeit a little on the expensive side.autos Updated: Dec 05, 2012 15:17 IST
A success in America but a damp squib in India, the fully imported and completely built-up Toyota Camry failed to make an impact here because of its exorbitant price. But there is no denying that it was one of the best cars to be chauffeur-driven in.
Unlike the old Camry however, the new one is assembled at Toyota’s Bidadi facility and hence, attracts lower duties. It’s surprising then that Toyota has chosen not to pass this advantage onto its customers. The Camry remains one of the most expensive cars in its class.
There is no diesel engine on offer, which puts the Camry at a natural disadvantage. And, at Rs 23.8 lakh for this 2.5 G version, it is Rs 2.3 lakh more expensive than its next rival, the Skoda Superb. However, Toyota seems confident about the Camry’s appeal, what with the new engine, revamped looks and overhauled interiors and equipment. But is it worth the asking price?
The chassis of the new Camry (codename XV50) is pretty much the same as the earlier one (XV40) — they share the same wheelbase and have similar overall length. There’s nothing spectacular about the greasy bits either — it’s a transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive platform that uses independent suspension all around.
The radical changes on this car are on the surface. With a complete revamp of the sheet metal, the new Camry looks like a Lexus and this works in its favour. The swept-back headlamps and the large chrome grille are the highlights of the nose and there’s more than a hint of sportiness in the protruding chin and fog lamps, which sit well inside the front bumper. You could argue that the nose is quite generic, but it does look quite attractive in the flesh.
The defining feature of this Camry though is the roofline. It swoops less than the old Camry’s and you can imagine the headroom this shape liberates on the inside. The rear of the Camry is dominated by those huge tail-lamps and that thick slab of chrome that Indians seem to love. It’s an uncontroversial shape and Toyota hasn’t taken any risks.
Despite its size, the Camry’s wheelbase isn’t as big as you would expect. However, this isn’t as big an issue as it sounds — the Camry’s interiors are really well packaged.
Ride comfort has always been a Camry hallmark and Toyota has heavily revamped the suspension on this Camry to improve just that. It carries over the MacPherson-strut layout in the front, but the multi-link setup has been redesigned to improve body control. There’s more sound insulation stuffed into the wheel wells to keep out unwanted road noise and the stiffer bodyshell does its bit too.
In a bid to keep costs down, the Indian Camry comes with just two airbags and no traction control. This is not good in a segment where six airbags and some form of electronic stability program are par for the course. ABS is standard though.
Imagine what it’s like sitting on your favourite sofa – that’s how good the Camry’s rear seat is. The deep seat base makes for excellent thigh support and the squarish roofline makes for plenty of headroom. The seat back is perfectly angled and there’s enough place to stretch out. There are front-seat adjusters placed on the side of the seat, so the rear-left passenger can easily slide it forward for more legroom. The seats are also placed at a nice height, so it’s easy to slide in and out of them. Toyota knows the Camry’s strong point is its rear seat and so, has left no stone unturned to make sure this new Camry’s seats are the best. The front seats are equally nice to sit in and both have eight-way power adjustability.
From the driver’s seat, the Camry feels wide and that’s partly because of the big dashboard. Interior quality is another place where the Camry has been substantially improved. All the bits that you experience first – the steering wheel, the gear lever and the controls – feel rich and proper, and we like the uncluttered layout and sufficiently big switches. The interior may not have the sheer solidity of the Skoda Superb’s cabin, but it’s not far behind. The stitched-leather effect for the top half of the dashboard is nice, wood finish is quite convincing and the Playstation-like steering-mounted controls are interesting. We did think the rear air-con vents were a bit cheap-looking, but that’s the only serious complaint we can level at this cabin.
The Camry’s dash strikes a nice balance between pleasing design and functionality. We particularly liked the multi-layered dials with the real-time fuel consumption indicator and a meter that shows you how economically you are driving.
Storage spaces are plenty. The glovebox in particular is huge, and there’s a big cubbyhole between the front seats. To improve cabin space, Toyota has used thinner door pads, and this probably explains why the door pockets are unusually narrow. The boot is much smaller too – this new Camry gets only 484 litres of space as against the old car’s 535 litres.
It’s pretty well equipped though. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go, fully powered front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors, cruise-control and a 2-DIN touchscreen audio system with aux-in and USB ports. There are some important features missing though — in addition to quite a few airbags, this Camry doesn’t get a sunroof or a reverse camera.
Under the hood is a new 2.5-litre, all-aluminium, four-cylinder petrol motor. Known internally as the 2AR-FE, it’s from Toyota’s AR four-cylinder engine family. It has variable valve timing, on both intake and exhaust camshafts, a variable length intake tract and new tumble control valves that enhances combustion when the engine is cold and helps bring the catalytic converters up to operating temperature faster. Power and torque are up to 178bhp and 23.75kgm – a significant improvement over the old car’s 165bhp and 22.8kgm.
Thumb the start button and the engine comes to life and settles into a barely perceptible idle. Press the throttle and the way the Camry glides off the line sets the tone for the rest of the driving experience. Performance is measured and linear with no sharp spikes in the power delivery, the six-speed automatic slurs through its ratios, and the engine is impressively smooth and quiet.
It can be quick though. Floor the throttle and wait a bit as the gearbox kicks down. There’s strong performance as the engine crosses 3000rpm, and it pulls with growing eagerness right up to 6000rpm, where the gearbox will execute another smooth shift and repeat the process. It doesn’t have the ballistic top-end of the Honda Accord motor or the buttery smoothness of the Superb’s TSI, but manages to find a nice balance between the two.
The Camry hits 100kph in 9.2sec, which is just 0.1sec slower than the fastest-in-class, the Skoda Superb. This tells you how it behaves when you are decisive with the throttle; there’s enough responsiveness and grunt for effortless overtaking as well. Part of this is down to the Camry’s impressive 1475kg weight. The Camry is the lightest car in its class by a fair margin.
You can get more out of the engine by sliding the gear lever into manual mode. Here, you can hold the engine till its 6200rpm redline and it does give you slightly more control over gearshifts. Know that the engine gets a bit thrashy when it revs beyond 5000rpm – it’s never as smooth as a six-cylinder motor – and the Camry feels best when you gather pace in a relaxed manner. It’s undoubtedly the best way to drive it.
Five minutes in the back seat is all it takes to know the focus of the Camry’s dynamics. The Camry isolates you beautifully from even the sharpest of bumps. The suspension is silent, bump-absorption is simply fantastic and the Camry rides like there are pillows between the tyres and the road. It comes with relatively high-profile 215/60 R16 tyres and these play a big part in the way it rides. The best part though is that this soft ride doesn’t come at the expense of stability. Rebound damping is excellent, and the Camry settles down almost immediately after it hits a bump, and it doesn’t bob about. Sure, it’s not as rock solid as a Superb at high speeds, but Toyota has found a very nice compromise nonetheless. Worth mentioning is how little road noise enters the cabin – there’s barely any tyre and wind noise, and the suspension works very silently too.
Show it a set of corners though and the Camry fails to engage. The electrically-assisted steering is numb and there is quite a lot of roll. Turn into a corner enthusiastically and the car will run wide, there’s plenty of tyre squeal and the absence of traction control becomes apparent, as there’s no electronic nanny to cut power and keep the car in line.
As expected, it’s not particularly nimble in town, but the light steering does help, and visibility isn’t too bad either. We just wish a reverse camera was part of the equipment list. It is rather necessary as the Camry’s rear overhang is quite long.
The Camry’s 8.2kpl in the city and 12kpl on the highway are really reasonable, considering the size of the car. It is better than most of its rivals and this is partly down to the light weight of the car.
Barring a few exceptions, Toyota’s not known for being too adventurous with experimenting. And the new Camry has received the same treatment. It’s a good car not because of it offers different things than other cars but because it is based on a tried-and-tested formula. The Camry’s core strength lies in giving you a relaxing experience and every bit of the car, from the gearbox to the suspension, converges to do just that. It is not a particularly engaging car to drive and it isn’t exceptionally exciting, but it does what it’s supposed to do extremely well. At Rs 23.8 lakh, it is expensive, but as a relaxing way to travel, the Camry makes good sense.
What it costs Ex-showroom (Delhi) Rs 23.8 lakh
Warranty 36 months/1,00,000km
Installation Front, transverse
Type 4cyls, 2494cc
Compression ratio 10.4:1
Valve gear 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Power 178bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 23.75kgm at 4100rpm
Power to weight 120.6bhp per tonne
Torque to weight 16.06kgm per tonne
Type Front wheel drive
Gearbox 6-speed auto
Wheel base 2775mm
Ground clearance 160mm
Chassis & Body
Construction Foor-door saloon, monocoque
Spare Full-size alloy
Front Independent, MacPherson struts, stabiliser bar
Rear Independent, dual-link stabiliser bar
Type Rack and pinion
Typeof power assist Electric
Turning circle 10.8m
Front 296mm ventilated discs
Rear 281mm ventilated discs
Tank size 70 litres
Range at a glance - Engines
Petrol Petrol 2.5-litre 178bhp Rs 23.8 lakh