Ask anybody that takes even a remote interest in cars about Toyota and the discussion quickly turns to utes and SUVs. Toyota’s 4x4 models could be called the brand’s bread and butter, we will happily argue models like the LandCruiser and HiLux are cars people aspire to park in their driveway.
While the 4x4 range can wave the desirable flag, the importance of Toyota’s passenger cars can’t be understated. The Corolla and Camry are the sales leaders of their respective segments and have often been the gateway for owners to begin an association with Toyota.
Which brings us to the all-new eighth-generation Camry, which now comes to us from the Land of the Rising Sun.
From the outset, this is one of the few occasions when the term ‘all-new’ can be used without turning red. Countless aspects of the Camry have changed, however, it still possesses all of the traits that have struck a chord with many a new car buyer.
Our tester is the 2018 Toyota Camry Ascent Sport, it’s a variant we think is the best entry point to the range. At $29,990 plus on-roads, it’s a price point that will capture the attention of family buyers.
Stepping up one trim level in the petrol range adds a larger 8.0-inch infotainment screen with satellite navigation, a 7.0-inch multi-information display housed in the instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, powered driver’s seat, premium steering wheel, stainless steel scuff plates and a little extra exterior punch courtesy of a sports body kit. It’s a fair haul for the extra $2300.
The new Camry is also safe. Pleasingly, all variants get new technology including autonomous emergency braking and lane departure alert with steering assist. These inclusions have contributed to a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Headlining the changes to the Camry is the use of Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA) that was first used on the C-HR. The new platform has opened up new opportunities for designers and engineers to broaden the car’s appeal. The Camry is the first sedan to make use of the new underpinnings.
Designers have certainly held up their end, the TNGA has unleashed styling flair that isn’t often associated with Toyota. The new Camry is a good looking car that easily eclipses the unadventurous exterior of the outgoing model.
The arrival of the C-HR reset the rules for Toyota design, we were concerned it was going to be a one-off, however, the new Camry along with the upcoming Corolla and RAV4 have proved Toyota’s newfound design confidence is here to stay.
It’s a similar story on the inside, the cabin layout and styling represent a significant leap forward. There’s a premium vibe courtesy of the extensive use of soft-touch materials. It doesn’t feel like a Camry.
Across the dash and centre stack, everything is well sorted and carefully positioned to elevate the ambience. The new driver’s display that rests between the dials in the instrument cluster is a brilliant addition. The only thing missing is smartphone mirroring tech.
One of the Camry’s greatest virtues is its interior packaging. The wheelbase has grown by 50mm meaning the amount of space is remarkable, especially in the second-row.
Eagle-eyed family buyers will notice the now default choice of a midsize SUV will not lay a glove on the Camry when it comes to roominess. The commodious interior will easily allow five adults (of the burly kind) to travel comfortably.
Ergonomically, the only issue is the footrest, my size 14 hoof didn’t agree with the angle Toyota had set it at. Those who make do with regular sized feet are unlikely to have the same problem.
Now to the drive. The Camry has never had a reputation for being a driver’s car, it’s always been more of a statement of common sense and strong value. This is something of a double-edged sword. The Camry has always been popular and as a result of its success, it doesn’t leave Toyota with much room to move to tinker with the car. Widening the car’s appeal is the goal but not at the expense of the existing customer base.
The Camry Ascent Sport is equipped with a 2.5-litre petrol engine which has been matched to a reworked six-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain moves the car around without issue. Low down, there’s prompt torque delivery to get the things moving.
The TNGA platform also brings a lower centre of gravity and greater torsional rigidity which sharpens up the handling. It’s nicer to push through corners and the steering is far more purposeful when compared to the old car.
It’s a versatile car that’s equally at home in town or on the highway. The Camry has always been a refined car and it remains true to form.
What lets the package down is the overly soft suspension calibration that bounces far too much over bumps. There’s too much hang time at the top end, it’s like a basketballer who refuses to let go of the ring after a dunk.
The rear of the car feels overly busy even over minor undulations. It’s surprising given the Camry’s rear suspension is new, the dampers arms and bushings have all been updated but the result is too soft, some additional granite is needed to smooth things out.
After a week behind the wheel that saw the Camry cover the best part of 650 kilometres, we returned a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.8L/100km which matches the official number.
Thankfully, the new platform has seen the Camry’s service schedule updated. Gone are the ridiculously short six-month maintenance intervals. The new Camry requires fresh oil every 12 month/15,000km. Toyota offers capped-pricing of $195 for the first five trips back to the dealership.
There has been no change to the Camry’s warranty, Toyota is sticking with the increasingly outdated three year/100,000km coverage. Not that it matters, Toyota’s reputation means more to buyers than the time written in the warranty booklet.
Most experts (and we use that term loosely), are quick to dismiss the Camry, however, there is a place for functional, practical and economical motoring.
This isn’t the most exciting drive in the Camry range. Keen drivers who are contemplating a move into a Camry should head straight to the V6. The additional power, eight-speed automatic and the significantly more purposeful suspension setup is well-worth the extra coin.
The new-generation four-cylinder Camry won’t lose any fans, in fact, the new looks and improved value will only increase the car’s following. Toyota’s newfound design flair will put the Camry on more shopping lists, it no longer looks like the automotive equivalent of a comfortable cardigan.
Sharp looks aside, it’s the Camry’s impressive value credentials that continue to cement its place with considerable authority in the new car market.
2018 Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Specifications
Price from $29,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol Power 133kW @ 6000rpm Torque 231Nm @ 4100rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.8L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Length 4905mm Width 1840mm Height 1445mm Wheelbase 2825mm Performance 0-100km 10.4 seconds Turning Circle 12.2m Kerb Weight 1505-1560kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty three year/100,000km
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