|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
For starters, the all-new Camry looks the part: it’s sleeker and more youthful than before. The wedge-shaped profile exudes confidence and class without being too cheesy and overbearing. It’s timeless and cohesive, devoid of any design mishmash. There are no useless lines, no criss-crossed creases and such. Everything on the Camry’s skin serves a purpose even down to the side mirrors which feature a small fin designed to reduce air turbulence. And as an added bonus, the profile is very reminiscent of Lexus—an excellent complement indeed. What’s more, even for the mid-range 2.5 V, it already looks and feels like a complete package. HIDs are standard and so are 17-inch alloy rims shod with 215/55 R 17 tires. Plus, the 2.5 V has actually got something the top-of-the-line 3.5 Q doesn’t: LED tail lamps.
Inside, the story pretty much echoes the Camry’s sharp exterior: it’s well designed and executed with top-notch materials and equally excellent fit and finish. The dash features a nicely chiselled look with a leather-like material sewed on top of the instrument binnacle and upper dash. Add that to the fabric-covered A-pillars and it makes for a luxurious first impression. The 2.5 V features a two-tone cabin with seats and lower dash covered in beige leather and carpeting which scores high for airiness but low for managing dirt and scuff marks. There may be a small amount of aluminum-look plastics near the audio system, but for the most part the Camry is covered in wood grain paneling extending even to the steering wheel and shift lever.
With an exterior which has barely changed from the previous model dimension-wise, the all-new Camry has added some precious centimeters of interior room thanks to an improved design to its headliner, pillar caps, center console, and door panels. Sitting in the front seats though makes you hard-pressed to discover the added room, but it nonetheless feels roomy and spacious. The situation though is different from the back, where the rear occupants have noticeably added knee room. The outboard seats also offer electronically adjustable seat backs matching those of Business Class aircraft seats. And speaking of accommodations, the 2.5 V now boasts of rear side sun blinds aside from the electric rear sun blind for utmost comfort and security. Aside from the multitude of blinds, the Camry offers a three-zone climate control and USB audio input complemented by a clear and crisp six-speaker system.
Going back to the front though, the Camry is now an ergonomic delight with a comfortable driving position. The four-spoke steering wheel features a tilt/telescopic adjustment while powered front seats (including lumbar support for the driver) simply complete the package. The instrument panel looks quite daunting to use at first considering there are no less than four analog needles and three LCD displays, but it does offer all the information you’ll need in one glance. The middle LCD screen is quite interesting featuring average speed, fuel consumption, range, elapsed time, vehicle settings, and even a fuel economy “game” all accessible via the steering wheel mounted MID button. There’s even an Eco coaching light built in. The only gripe about the Camry’s controls is the use of green lighting on everything but the gauges. If Toyota was really serious about going luxury with the Camry, they should have opted for white lighting instead.
Now to the most important aspect: driving. As mentioned, no one’s denying that the Camry’s a comfortable and plush sedan. However, the new one’s learned some athletic moves to keep things a bit more interesting on the road. It’s still no sports sedan, but the Camry now offers perceptibly better road manners than ever before. First, the revised interior provides excellent sightlines for all-around optimal visibility. Despite the small-looking rear view mirrors, the Camry is one easy car to pilot around city traffic. Second, the straight-line stability is effortless with 120 km/h feeling something like half the speed. There’s almost no wind, tire, or road noise—the interior is a serene experience. Third, the electric power steering may be light on effort and low on feedback, but it’s tuned to be responsive, delivering a safe and confident handling experience without flop or push. Lastly, the brakes have been improved with better bite and feel than before. On the downside, torque steer maybe a rarer occurrence than before, but it still happens on the 2.5 V during full throttle. This is because Vehicle Stability Control or VSC still isn’t standard equipment (and neither are curtain airbags).
Propelling the all-new Camry 2.5 V is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with 178 horsepower and 231 Nm of torque. These impressive numbers are backed up by continuously smooth acceleration without undue noise or vibration. This engine is then mated to a six-speed automatic which offers equally smooth progress and excellent fuel economy. A week’s worth of driving returned 8.1 km/L which is comparable to some compact sedans. The six-speed automatic also features a manual gear override via a bump on the shifter console, but because of the delays between inputs and actual gear selection, it’s best to leave it alone.
At P 1,681,000 (P 1,696,000 for the Pearl White model tested), the 2.5 V is now on the higher price range of the executive car market. New entrants especially from Korean automakers are vying for some market share relying on “bang for the buck” or swooshy designs to lure would-be buyers. Indeed, some will view the Camry as too conservative. But before judging the Camry, the sleeker sheet metal, excellent list of comfort features, and now, the surprisingly good road manners should make people take notice. The Camry’s got the goods to still take the crown in the executive sedan segment.