Subaru Liberty 2015 review: road test
Alistair Kennedy road tests and reviews the Subaru Liberty with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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It's the beginning of the end for the Australian-built Toyota Camry but the family favourite has a parting shot for rivals
When Toyota wanted Australians to get emotional about the Camry, a swan song wasn't what it had in mind. The latest and last Camry will take the Australian automotive manufacturing industry to the end of the line.
Plans for the updated model were in place before the decision was made to close the Altona assembly line, which will be remembered as Australia's first and only factory to build a hybrid car.
Every panel except the roof has changed and there are 800 new parts
The Camry's bold new styling arrived earlier than expected because dealers in North America — the biggest market for the Camry — said the car released two years ago didn't differ enough from the previous model.
We now have the biggest change to the Camry in the shortest period in the model's 33-year history. Every panel except the roof has changed, there are 800 new parts but the interior and engines carry over.
The sixth-generation Camry made in Australia since 1987 was supposed to be a momentous arrival. Australia joined the seven other Camry factories around the world to take the updated model.
Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner, who came up through the manufacturing ranks at between 1988 and 2002, has mixed emotions.
"It's a bitter sweet experience," Buttner says. "Bitter in that it will be the last product we build in Australia...but the other feeling is of great pride, when you see the commitment and absolute passion and dedication of every worker on the production line."
Australians can feel proud of their investment. The new model cost $108 million to develop, including $23.6 million taxpayer dollars from the Federal Government and a smaller, undisclosed sum from the Victorian Government.
The Camry has been Australia's top-selling medium-size sedan for 21 years
Toyota says its 2500 factory workers are determined to go out on a high note.
"When the gates shut for the last time, I know I can hold my head high knowing I've done my best," says Robert Cook, a technical officer on the production line that will build 90,000 cars this year, about twice as many as Holden and five times as many as Ford.
Buttner can't speak for Holden and Ford on planned shutdown dates but maintains, "We are 100 per cent categorically, absolutely, committed to continuing production until the end of 2017."
The Camry has been Australia's top-selling medium-size sedan for 21 years but most of those sold locally are bought by fleets rather than families. Even so, the Camry has such a lead in the medium-size sedan segment that it still sells more cars to mum-and-dad buyers than any other model in its class.
Toyota has locked drive-away prices to just $2500 more than list prices
Book prices are down enough to cause headaches for rivals but the "major minor" Camry facelift still can't match the big discounts on the previous model. Toyota has locked drive-away prices to just $2500 more than list prices, from $26,490 for the base Altise to $40,440 for the top-spec Atara SL hybrid.
All models gain a new three-spoke steering wheel and Toyota Australia has adopted a pre-load differential to improve straight-line stability. A reversing camera is standard throughout and there's a 6.1-inch touchscreen to drive the infotainment system (seven-inch in the SL).
Interior updates are largely confined to new materials. Premium paint adds $450 and the moonroof option for the Atara SX and SL is $1950.
Local input means there's now a Camry that can corner.
The Atara SX is the result of the Melbourne engineering team fettling the ride and handling package by fitting 18-inch wheels, revising the suspension and quickening up the steering.
The results can be felt from the first turn of the wheel. The front end is faster to respond and more settled once it does, encouraging drivers to press on.
The SX steps up a notch by enhancing the "waku doki" (fun-to-drive) aspect
The downside is it is marginally busier over small surface ruts and bumps such as crack seals and road joins without ever threatening to be a vertebrae-jostling sports car.
That's not typical Camry behaviour. As Toyota technical centre head Max Gillard notes, the Camry now comes in two distinct flavours.
Core models maintain the neutral handling and inoffensive ride while the SX steps up a notch by enhancing the "waku doki" (fun-to-drive) aspect.
This sporty appeal — finally with more substance than a dress-up kit — gives Toyota scope to bring in younger drivers to help keep local sales at the 20,000 annual forecast for the next three years.
The SX is the only Camry not sold as a hybrid — it certainly could benefit from the electric motor's extra power and torque.
The hybrid set up remains as unobtrusive and responsive as ever, hustling the Camry off the line with decent pace and still showing thirst of just 6.6L/100km on a drive through the Dandenong Ranges.
The final fling looks good
Steering feel in the regular models hasn't changed and it will take a back-to-back test with an earlier model to see just how big an improvement the pre-load diff has made to straight-line stability.
Trainspotters will note the Altise's lower outputs compared with the Atara versions. The difference is simple — the Altise has one exhaust, the Atara twin pipes.
Vastly improved looks and a sporty variant keep the Camry contemporary in a segment being flooded with new models. For local Toyota production, the final fling looks good.
Not surprisingly, there aren't many changes. Pandora music streaming joins the list of approved apps and the top-end Atara SL gains pre-crash safety gear with low-speed auto braking, active cruise control, lane-departure warning and reverse cross traffic assist.
No changes here, given the engines and transmission carry over.
The handling tweaks are reserved for the Atara SX, which is now the sporty model in the range. The SX is more than just a dress-up kit, with 18-inch wheels, tauter suspension and sharper steering.
The slat grille on the Altise isn't going to set hearts racing, despite new daytime running lights and revised headlamps. The honeycomb finish on the Atara models is more impressive, as is the revised rear styling. There are redesigned tail-lamps and the fake window behind the rear passenger windows etches some of the width out of the chunky roof pillars.
|Altise||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$9,600 – 14,410||2015 Toyota Camry 2015 Altise Pricing and Specs|
|Altise Hybrid||2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$11,400 – 16,720||2015 Toyota Camry 2015 Altise Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|Atara S||2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$10,000 – 15,070||2015 Toyota Camry 2015 Atara S Pricing and Specs|
|Atara S Hybrid||2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,300 – 17,820||2015 Toyota Camry 2015 Atara S Hybrid Pricing and Specs|