Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Toyota Camry Atara SX with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
If you are reading this after the year 2017, then it has happened. All car manufacturing in Australia has ceased. Yes, people of the future, there was a time when Australia made and even exported cars, unbelievable as that sounds to you now with your flying cars and what not. Ford finished making its Falcon in October 2016, Holden stopped growing its own Commodores in 2017 and the final Toyota Camry rolled off the Altona production line at the end of that year, too.
There will be much fuss made over Holden and Ford finishing up, but the unsung hero will be Camry which has been the number one selling mid-sized car in Australia for the past 22 consecutive years.
The Camry first came to Australia in 1983 and we started making it ourselves from 1987 and exporting it to the world. Since its arrival more than 890,000 Camrys have been sold in Australia.
Now in its seven generation of the car underwent a major update in 2015 which brought a different look and new technology.
As the last of the Camrys roll onto the streets we have road tested a pretty special one – the Atara SX. The SX is a standalone variant and the baby of Toyota’s Australian engineers who conceived and developed the package.
The Atara SX sits under the top of the range Atara SL and above the Atara S.
Oh and if you’ve wondered where the name Camry comes from, which of course you have, it’s derived from the Japanese kan-muri which means ‘crown’.
The enormous update to the seventh generation in 2015 saw Toyota change or re-engineer 800 parts on the Camry. Every body panel apart from the roof is different and the car now looks more aggressive and sporty with its wider, deeper lower grille and the wrap around head and tail-lights.
The Camry is 4850mm from end to end. To put that in perspective, a Commodore is about a metre longer. Compared to its main mid-sized rivals there's almost no difference in lengths, well the Camry is 5mm shorter than the Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata and 5mm longer than Subaru Liberty. But it’s what’s inside that counts right? And the wheelbase is a big factor in terms of cabin space – the Camry’s is 2775mm which is 5mm more than the Mazda6, but the Sonata trumps them all with 2805mm.
The SX is striking looking, for a Camry. There’s the 18-inch black alloy wheels (a Camry has never been offered with rims this big before) with low-profile rubber, a black mesh grille, sports body kit, rear lip spoiler and a black rear diffuser which looks great with the twin exhaust tips.
The update brought with it two new colours, too - Indigo and Ocean Mist.
If the Camry SX had a middle name it would be Gerald and it would also teach Year 10 maths and coach cricket, but if it could have another middle name it would be Practical. The boot is a whopping 515 litres and that beats the cargo capacity of the Mazda6 with its 474 litres, the Subaru Liberty’s 493 litres and the Sonata’s is 510 litres.
For the military operation that is a family picnic to the park we could fit our pram, soccer balls, rugs, an esky and the baby change bag. Then on the way home we still easily managed to fit in a week’s worth of supermarket shopping.
Storage space throughout the cabin is excellent with two cup holders in the fold-down centre armrest and another two next to the gear shifter up front. The rear doors have three small bottle holders and the front doors can take a large bottle.
Cabin space is great with a roomy cockpit up front, while in the back there’s plenty of space even for all 191cm of me to sit behind my driving position.
Price and features
The price of the Camry Atara SX is $31,990 making it $5,500 more than the entry-spec Altise. So what are you getting for your money? Well you get everything on the Altise and this includes a 6.1-inch touch screen, reversing camera, and dual zone climate control and then everything on the Atara S like the power adjustable driver’s seat and Toyota Link media system. The SX adds sports suspension, the 18-inch alloys, sat nav, leather sports seats, sports pedals, the rear lip spoiler, rear power sun shade and a reversing camera with guidelines.
Compared to its rivals the price gap is enormous, with Hyundai asking $36,990 for its mid-spec Sonata, Mazda wants $37,290 for the Mazda6 Touring and Subaru’s Liberty Premium is $35,990.
The price of our test car came to $34,990 thanks to optional extras such as the Graphite paint colour for $450 and the $1950 sunroof.
It must cheese-off Toyota’s rivals so much that it can somehow price the Camry this low.
Engine/s and transmission/s
All Atara grades get a 135kW/235Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and that dual exhaust actually adds more power to the engine – another 2kW over the base spec Altise’s output.
There’s no manual gearbox option, you’ll have to make do with a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission.
Toyota says you should get an average combined fuel economy of 7.8L/100km. We saw recorded 12.0L/100km, but our driving was limited to the city and has a style that couldn’t be called conservative. The good news is the Camry is a cheap date and is happy drinking 91 RON.
Toyota calls the SX “a true driver’s car”, which is rubbish. The Toyota 86 is a driver’s car, the SX isn’t, it’s just sporty a Camry. That’s not to say it isn’t pleasant to drive – it is – and the sports suspension tune really does give this Camry better than average handling for a mid-sized front wheel drive sedan.
We drove the SX back-to-back with the Camry Hybrid Atara SL and the ride in that car felt far more comfortable but that would be due to the SX’s low-profile wheels and firmer sport suspension.
Around town the A-pillars either side of the windscreen presented a bit of obstruction and the steering felt a little numb.
The cabin is a comfortable place, the front sports seats are wide and supportive, while the driving position is good with the hips placed low.
All Camrys have a five-star ANCAP crash testing rating. There's seven airbags, ABS, plus traction and stability control and EBD.
There’s three top tether child seat point and two ISOFIX mounts for child seats.
Toyota has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Services must be done at nine-month /15,000km intervals with the first five services costing from $140 each in the first four years or 75,000km.