Toyota's perennial Camry has been the best selling medium sized car in Australia for 18 straight years.
But like other Toyotas it has come under increasing pressure, particularly the Koreans who have delivered some outstanding competition in the past year or so. Toyota has tried to get back to basics with the new, seventh generation Camry.
The emphasis is on quality, reliability and durability, not to mention an effort to make the car more fun to drive. It goes on sale this month but you'll have to wait until early next year for a new hybrid, petrol-electric version.
The 2.4 has been replaced by a larger, mor powerful 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine with 0-100km/h taking 9.3 seconds. It's technically more advanced with dual VVTi but still misses out on the benefits of direct injection.
Power is up 13 per cent to 133kW and torque has increased by six per cent to 231Nm in the Altise, with slightly more output in Atara models which feature a free-flowing dual exhaust system.
Despite the power increase new Camry uses less fuel, down 11 per cent to from 8.9 to 7.8 litres/100km. We saw between 9.1 and 10.8 litres/100km during the launch. Engine emissions have been reduced 25g to 183g/km.
It's the same physical size but weighs 35kg less. The line up consists of four models starting with the Altise followed by the Atara S, Atara SX and Atara SL. Altise looks different from the other three, with a different grille and apron and is targeted at the price conscious fleet market.
The more expensive Atara models feature a mesh grille and three-piece apron and are aimed at the private buyer. S replaces Ateva, SX replaces Sportivo and SL replaces top of the line Grande.
There's no manual and the five-speed auto has been replaced by a six-speed with steering wheel mounted shift paddles in higher grade models. Steering is now all electric, with a firmer, heavier feel that stays centred without the need for constant driver input. It also adds weight in corners to help prevent over correction. The traditional handbrake has been replaced with a foot operated brake.
The top of the line model comes with high beam that dips the lights automatically. It is also equipped with a blind spot warning system and adds a DAB+ digital radio.
Hasn't been crashed tested yet but has been designed to receive five stars. Comes with seven airbags including a driver knee bag and full complement of safety aids. A reversing camera remains a $500 option on the entry Altise - standard with the rest.
You get all this for the same starting price of $30,490, with a four year-warranty that includes fixed price servicing at $130 a pop for five services. Atara S is $33,490, Atara SX is $35,990 and Atara SL is $39,990.
It has a solid, big car feel. Nice and smooth and quiet. Sits nicely on the road and corners flat with plenty of grip. Local suspension tuning and the recalibrated steering have been designed to produce a more engaging drive.
Drop a wheel in the dirt and the stability system quickly sorts it out. Conversation is easy even on coarse bitumen and the car we drove had adjustable lumbar support. Both the i45/Optima and Accord Euro deliver more power, but 133kW is more than adequate for the job, especially in combo with the smooth-changing six-speed tranny. There's a 15mm bigger gap between seats and rear passengers benefit from 46mm more legroom.
2012 TOYOTA CAMRY
Price: from $30,490 - $41,490
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Safety: 5-star ANCAP (predicted)
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 133-135kW/231-235Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body: 4-door sedan
Dimensions: length 4815mm, width 1825mm, height 1470mm, wheelbase 2775mm
Thirst: 7.8L/100km, 91RON, CO2 183g/km