Toyota is known for making sensible family cars that can be a tad bland, but this Camry has broken the mould with some old-world grunt and class.
Toyota is known for making sensible family cars that can be a tad bland, but this Camry has broken the mould with some old-world grunt and class.

This Toyota isn’t what you’d expect

Nearly two out of every three Toyota Camrys sold today have a hybrid drivetrain, so where does that leave traditional V6 versions?

Our family of testers sample the range-topping Camry V6 SL for some old-world grunt and class.

The Camry SL is powered by a silky smooth V6.
The Camry SL is powered by a silky smooth V6.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Iain: A Toyota Camry V6. I am living out my middle management fantasy.

Jules: Put on your sharp suit and head to your sales rep gig. And don't forget the tissue box in the rear window. It's still a Camry.

Iain: But a fancy one. Look at the sporty styling, multi-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof and quad exhaust pipes.

Jules: This isn't Pop's old beige Camry. It looks really good - very un-Camry like - but much like beard wax, it's not really aimed at female buyers.

Iain: It's for the traditional suited-and-booted chap who wants value, luxury and performance. A proper 3.5-litre V6 you see; none of this hybrid nonsense.

Jules: Don't hybrids have about half the fuel consumption?

The SL looks a bit more flash than the regular Camry.
The SL looks a bit more flash than the regular Camry.

Iain: Well, yes, but they don't have a V6's silky power delivery. Besides, buyers of this Camry are on their way to important sales conferences and it's all on the company fuel card.

Jules: How much and what are its rivals?

Iain: This loaded range-topper is $49,000 drive away. An SL grade with less grunty hybrid setup is $45,085. Also consider a Honda Accord VTi-LX ($52,130), Mazda6 GT ($50,542), Kia Optima GT ($46,490) or wait for the all-new Hyundai Sonata later this year. If you want a V6, try an ancient Subaru Liberty 3.6R ($49,400) or even a Holden Commodore.

THE LIVING SPACE

Jules: Oh yes, this is quite business class. Ventilated power leather seats - but strangely, no heating - dual-zone climate control, satnav and wireless phone charging. Boxes are ticked.

Iain: These flagship SLs are feature-packed and cabin plastics are soft touch everywhere, but don't expect that true luxury feel of prestige brands.

The SL has a plush interior.
The SL has a plush interior.

Jules: It is in places. I looked up the dash trim and it's called Tiger's Eye garnish - fancy. I really like how the giant panoramic roof fills the cabin with light, and the touchscreen's nicely flush in the angular dash.

Iain: That screen's only 8-inches though, and while having Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is good, it feels dated and a bit clunky versus many rivals.

THE COMMUTE

Jules: I get the feeling a Camry V6 is at its happiest on the fast lane of the highway riding someone's bumper.

Iain: It shines as a rep's car. Effortless, creamy V6 power, cosseting ride, impressive sound insulation and radar cruise control. Plus I can hang my suit jacket on the rear grab handle ahead of my important meetings.

The Camry SL is ideal for chewing up big kilometres on the motorway.
The Camry SL is ideal for chewing up big kilometres on the motorway.

Jules: I like the massive digital speedo, and how good's the head-up display? It practically takes over the entire windscreen.

Iain: It's a 10-incher - that'll show those pesky Germans.

Jules: It's really easy to drive and I get the V6's appeal. The power doesn't come on rapidly, but it gives a lovely shove when it arrives.

THE SHOPPING

Iain: Its 524-litre boot space is more than most medium SUVs, but smaller than the excellent Toyota RAV4.

Jules: Parking sensors front and rear are nice, but being greedy, I'd like a 360-degree parking camera too.

Iain: I wish the boot lid had a bit more weight to it. Overall this Camry SL's a classy offering, but little things like a lightweight lid remind it's a Toyota and not a Lexus.

THE FAMILY

Jules: Oodles of space for the kids in the back, plus rear air vents and two USB points. The boot's no use for two kids' bikes though.

Iain: The value of a panoramic roof for long journeys was noted. It feels less claustrophobic in the back with that overhead light source.

There is plenty of room for the kids.
There is plenty of room for the kids.

Jules: The Camry steers back into your lane if you hit a white line, and the warning if a car's coming when you're reversing is ingenious.

Iain: The first five years of servicing costs just $975. That's exceptional. But fuel use will sting. We averaged 8.9L/100km and it needs pricier 95 fuel. The hybrid version, uses 4.5L/100km.

SUNDAY RUN

Jules: Toyota Camry? Sunday drive? There's a joke in there somewhere.

Iain: Not for these newer, sexier Camrys. When I was a kid if you saw a car with four exhausts it had a Ferrari badge.

Jules: This is still a Toyota …

Iain: But a damn good one, and rich with old-school driving joy. I'm blown away with its competence in the steering and handling departments. Use the paddle shifters, keep the revs up, and that V6 sings and pulls beautifully.

THE VERDICT

Jules: Okay, I'm quite sold on the Camry, but I'd need it to have this V6 rather than a hybrid. Hybrid's the sensible choice but it would bore me to death.

Iain: Although I love that V6, give me the hybrid. It's a class-filled, sensible, all-round family car. I must be getting old.

TOYOTA CAMRY SL VITALS

Price: $49,000 drive away

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/u'ltd km, $975 over 5 years

Engine: 3.5-litre V6, 224kW/362Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB with pedestrian detection, lane-keep, active cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear traffic alert, head-up display

Thirst: 8.7L/100km

Spare: Space saver

Boot: 524L

 

Originally published as Why this Toyota isn't what you'd expect


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