By Samuel Ee
What was once Singapore's best-selling mid-sized sedan has since been overtaken by high COE premiums but the new Toyota Camry is banking on its grander, more Lexus-like styling to retain some of its loyal fans.
The seventh generation of this popular saloon model used to dominate the mid-sized saloon segment until the tight COE quota benefited more premium offerings such as the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, although anecdotal evidence points to the smaller Mercedes-Benz C180K with its 1.6-litre supercharged engine as being the model which has lured most ex-Camry owners.
But with the latest edition of this evergreen sedan, Toyota has engineered further refinement and luxury to try and keep the Camry relevant. The new car looks smarter and tighter with more well-defined lines. There is a big and shiny Lexus LS-type front grille and a GS-esque rear and tail lamps. But despite its enhanced road presence, the Camry remains conservative by automotive design standards. It retains largely the same overall dimensions - 4,825 mm in overall length with a 2,775 mm wheelbase.
But the use of high-tensile steel has made its body lighter and more rigid. Kerb weight is now 1,445 kg, when it used to be between 1,470 and 1,530 kg. Inside, the interior packaging has been revised to create more space and in particular, excellent rear legroom. The cabin is more plush, with a redesigned dashboard featuring a 6.1-inch touchscreen that is used to operate the navigation system and six-speaker audio system. The monitor also displays an iPod's album covers, with auxiliary and USB ports now conveniently located on the fascia. A reverse camera is standard for all three variants of the Camry - the 2.0, 2.5 and Hybrid.
The 2.5 has a new engine and new six-speed auto gearbox, while the 2.0 carries over the previous engine to drive the front wheels but modified with the latest low friction technologies. Together with a smoother shifting four-speed automatic transmission, the Camry 2.0's fuel consumption is cut from 9.6 litres/100 km to 8.7 l/100km.
And to aid efficient driving, there is a new Eco indicator, an eco-driving bar and a fuel economy meter in the instrument cluster. But the most significant improvement has to be the smoothness and refinement of this new entry-level Camry.
|Toyota Camry 2.0
|Price:$163,488 (with COE)
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Max Power: 148 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max Torque: 190 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
0-100kmh: 12.5 secs
Top speed: 187 kmh
Fuel consumption: 5.8 l/100 km
CO2 emissions: 204 g/km
Distributor: Borneo Motors 66311188
For one, the ride comfort has increased noticeably with the optimised suspension.
The old Camry had a choppy ride but the new car is more confident and now glides over road irregularities.
As a bonus, the new Camry also gets electric power steering that is more well-weighted as well as more responsive at speed.
Whether the market accepts Toyota's positioning of the new Camry as a mid-range premium car remains to be seen. But it's not difficult to see that the new sedan is much improved even as it continues to project that familiar Toyota look and feel.
This article was first published in The Business Times.