- Published: Saturday, 18 April 2015 08:59
Sharp new clothing for the Toyota Camry gives it fashionable looks but underneath, its personality has stayed the same…
SINGAPORE — The more things change, the more they stay the same. That must be the principle that Toyota’s engineers tattoo on their foreheads before getting to work on revamped a Camry.
We Camry drivers want nothing more than continuity from our cars, after all. Yes, I said ‘we’. I drive a Camry every day. It might seem like a strange choice for a motoring journalist, but I have formal duties to perform from time to time.
I have VIPs to pick up at the airport. I have to drive to Kuala Lumpur for meetings and then back home again in a day. I have to look sensible, dependable, reliable.
Those are all jobs the Camry excels at, and yes, I do like what it says about me: I drive a Camry, so you know my stories are never late. Just ask my editor.
If driving a Camry suggests dependability, then it shouldn’t surprise you that the new model is essentially the same girl in new clothes, or in industry terms the work of a heavy facelift.
That rings more true for the Camry 2.5, which is pretty much mechanically unchanged over the pre-facelift model. The basic recipe is retained: big, boxy body, plush seating capable of accommodating vast behinds, smooth 2.5-litre engine and an even smoother six-speed auto.
It’s all packaged in new styling that is fairly aggressive, particularly up front where you’ll find a huge trapezoidal air intake, and big lashings of chrome on the grille and metres of the stuff running along the bumper.
New headlamps add LED daytime running lights, while over at the rear there are new lamps and a big strip of chrome running across the rear to link them.
Inside, the changes are less dramatic. The wood trim is darker now, and there’s a new touchscreen satnav and entertainment system that takes ages to boot up.
Probably the most noticeable difference is a new 4.2-inch TFT screen between the main instruments, that flashes up all sorts of driving data.
My favourite is fuel consumption, because I like to keep an eye on how much the theiving oil giants are siphoning from my wallet.
Blue seems to be the colour that the Camry’s engineers find the most pleasing; the instruments radiate a cool electric hue, and at night the cabin is now subtly lit in the same tone.
The driving experience is another way the Camry prefers not to surprise. As before, the main emphasis seems to be to isolate the driver from all manner of unpleasantness. The engine is hushed unless you work it hard, and the suspension isolates you well from road imperfections.
At idle there are no vibrations on the steering wheel, and as you pick up speed the gearbox slurs its shifts perfectly, as if it were lubricated by French butter. Roll along on the highway, and pretty much the only sound that reaches your ears is from the tyres — the one thing that Toyota had the least say in designing.
This makes for a pretty unexciting drive, as you’d expect, although up to a point the Camry 2.5 does have its naughty side, like an uncle who sneaks beer to the kids at Chinese New Year.
The acceleration feels faster than the stopwatch suggests, and the engine actually seems to like being revved hard. The steering is pretty direct so you can heave the big Toyota into bends with some aplomb, but soon enough its starts to understeer gently, calling a halt to any delusions that there is a racing car underneath.
Overall, in a Camry the going is usually steady, but it doesn’t have to be slow.
Indeed, it’s the Camry 2.0 that has gained a bit of muscle with this facelift. It gets a new engine with a tricky cylinder head that gives it direct fuel injection and variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust — those are meant to save you fuel, but they bump up power to 164bhp, pretty close to the 2.5-litre’s 178bhp.
The 2.0 model also gets a six-speed now (a big improvement over the previous one’s four-speeder), so in performance terms the two should feel pretty close.
So why bother with the 2.5-litre? Because it only costs $4,000 more, for starters, and apart from the bigger engine it comes with a bit more equipment: seven airbags (instead of four), ventilated front seats with memory for the driver’s chair, a pop-up rear sunshade, auto-folding wing mirrors and 17-inch wheels.
More to the point, the 2.5-litre is probably better able to deliver the sort of experience the Camry drivers want, that of smooth, unruffled and understated motoring that seems to be an ancient Japanese art.
Mind you, Camrys are probably a tough sell to people who look for flair from their cars, but I suspect that those who know what they want will home in on the car. I wonder how many Camry drivers want a bit of change in their lives, only to end up with another Camry.
That because sometimes the more things change, the more you wish they stayed the same.
NEED TO KNOW Toyota Camry 2.5L
Engine 2,494cc, 16V, in-line 4
Power 178bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 231Nm at 4100rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 210km/h
0-100kmh 9.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Price $164,888 with COE