Tell people you drive a Camry and they look down their nose at you. There's some sort of stigma attached to the Camry name. That may change with the arrival of the new model which is a move away from being so "Camry."
It's generation seven of the medium size family sedan and brings a raft of changes that will win over plenty of drivers not the least being its 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine mated to a six-speed auto transmission.
We got hold of the base model Altise that sells for $30,490 and were pleasantly surprised by most aspects of the car. The only real jarring note is the rear end styling which looks unfinished particularly around the tail light area.
It's the "fleet" model but scores a surprising amount of standard kit including seven air bags, a Lexus style stitched dash that is one of the best in the medium car category, 16-inch alloys, aircon, Bluetooth streaming and multiple steering wheel controls. OI,OI,OI
Better yet, Camry is made in Australia to Toyota's high international standards, a point that is obvious as soon as you get behind the wheel. Toyota doesn't make mistakes setting up its cars for local consumption.
They are fully Australianised in terms of engineering and design to the point where you can actually feel it on the road. Hit a bump and the Camry simply absorbs it - unruffled. Do the same in many imports and they bang and clatter just about loosening your teeth.
Everything works properly - the wipers cope easily with torrential rain and ice, the lights are bright, the aircon is strong and the ventilation system and seals don't allow dust inside, the boot is large, there's a full size spare and so on. No wonder they sell so many.
Plenty of power comes from the new 2.5-litre twin cam petrol four cylinder engine with dual VVTi (variable valve timing) but no direct injection. That would be expecting too much but is probably unnecessary given the available performance of the test car and the fact that it returned 7.3-litres/100km - on regular unleaded. The engine is a lift from US Camry and is good for 133kW/231Nm - a little more in the higher spec' models with dual exhausts.
Perhaps the most telling thing is how well the six-speed auto operates - most of the time. It can be caught out and stumble but is generally smooth, predictive and there's even a sequential shift mode this far down the food chain. No manual `box is available or needed.
Ride and handling was equally as impressive as the engine - once again thanks in part to local engineering. It is comfortable and controlled but can display a sporty side if pressed - and do a good job of it. Electric power steering makes an appearance for the first time and has a positive effect on the car's dynamics and drive feel.
The test car had an optional large touch screen and rear view camera which should be standard for the money we reckon. Panel gaps are getting down to Lexus levels and the interior has been upgraded with better shaped seats, a split folding rear seat and more space. We really like the "eco" gauge in the dash that helps cut fuel use.
We really like the new Camry. It's a good, sensible, well built allround family sedan and the fixed price service program is icing on the cake.
Toyota Camry Altise
Price: from $30,490
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 133kW/231Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body: 4-door sedan
Dimensions: 4815mm (L); 1825mm (W); 1470mm (H)