By Sandy Myhre
Toyota’s Camry seems to have been with us forever. The one I had stayed in the family for around 20 years can you believe? The off-spring acquired it and hung on to it during his university days and beyond, it just kept on going, and going well.
He installed Recaro seats and a racing wheel and from thereon it seemed to go better for some unfathomable reason. This tried and trusty Camry provided essential and reliable transport for both he and me for many years, a point probably not received entirely favourably by the Toyota new-car sales department but, well, it shows engineering competence.
Toyota recently launched the eighth generation Camry, all new body styling with the latest technology, redesigned from the ground up and with the reintroduction of a V6, 3.5-litre direct injection engine – reportedly delivering a 12 percent increase over the previous 3.5-litre V6. And it’s married to a new eight-speed auto transmission.
Don’t think of this Camry in terms of previous models. It really is all new and we don’t mean all new like the hyberbolic ‘all new’ sometimes given to face-lift models by enthusiastic motor industry marketing people.
Toyota have got so many things just right with this new Camry. Road handling is absolutely superb, and we didn’t merely indulge in city driving, we pushed it around the winding hills and dales of the Bay of Islands’ coastal roads, which is a very adequate test for any car.
Although the Camry is often referred to as an executive sedan in some quarters it would equally serve well as a family car. Or it could nicely play the role of a shared car for a couple or, if you don’t have to share a car with anyone at all. In other words, a car for all reasons.
This Toyota attracted a lot of interest from passers by when it was parked which speaks volumes for styling. The grille is far more dramatic than in previous models, followed by acute aerodynamic shaping through the sides and over to the rear end which, if it has to be compared to something, is reminiscent of Mercedes crafting. Toyota call this ‘emotionally-charged’ design.
It has plenty of get up and go, with brisk response from slow to quicker when needed. And very smooth and quiet.
Inside has been completely redesigned and it seems like Toyota have upped the game here, too, with high-quality fixtures and fittings. They haven’t scrimped or compromised on componentry, there’s a welcome feeling of luxury and class.
Seats are comfortable, nicely sculptured for eye appeal, and electrically adjusted. The only quibble – and it’s a minor one – is that while the seats are supportive, more padding would be welcome. It’s purely a subjective comment and others may not notice that at all in the overall scheme of this car.
There are two models in the range – the entry level GL at a tad under $36,000 and (the tested model) GX V6 at $47,990. The grilles and a few other add-ons distinguish them from each other.
Camry Hybrid ECTV.
Almost the same in style and appearance but, of course, quite different in the power plant department because of the dual fuel option.
The petrol engine is 2.5 litres coupled to six-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid system is described officially and wordily as ‘a Dynamic Force engine couple with Toyota’s Hybrid System Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor powered by a Nickel Metal-Hybride (Ni-Mh) battery’. The electric power plant offers a 60k range and you could go over that with careful driving management.
The hybrid battery, incidentally, has been moved from the boot in the old model to under the rear seat which means boot space has been improved quite dramatically.
If you live in the regions, a fully electric car can be problematic or, at least, requires attention to distance because in New Zealand some of the regions are still not fully supplied with public rapid charging units. It’s no wonder this Hybrid Camry is gaining in popularity. It’s the practical choice given those regional and rural circumstances and with all the comforts and appointments of a higher-priced car.
One thing Toyota have managed to achieve with this hybrid version of the Camry is to perfect the balance between fuel saving and the need for power. To give the impression of vigorous capability, you can change the drive modes (economy, normal, sport and electric) by shifting the continuously variable transmission ah la race mode from the steering mounted paddles. It satisfies the inner greenie without forsaking the latent Scott Dixon.
There’s a tell-tale graphic on the dash which lets you know what the battery is doing – charging or using. The effect is to think about your driving standards because there are ways to manually assist the car to conserve some of the electric capacity
At $42,990 the Camry Hybrid is the compromise between all-petrol or all-electric. You know you’re reducing your petrol consumption but neither do you suffer from electric range anxiety. Moreover, Toyota’s fixed price policy introduced last year, means that’s exactly what you pay. There’s no haggling in the dealership, it’s totally upfront pricing and another tool in Toyota’s marketing armoury.
Full marks Toyota for delivering the Camry goods yet again. It’s a safe bet that in a few years’ time it will surely retain its price value as a second-hand, pre-loved model on the used car market.