It’s amongst the first of the last from the Australian manufacturing arm of Japanese goliath, Toyota. To say the Camry has had a facelift is to say the Burj Khalifa is a tall building. Effectively, every single component externally, bar the roof and the window line, has been redesigned, re-engineered and rebuilt. The 2.5L engine stays at the same capacity and offers two different peak outputs, depending on which Camry you buy. A Wheel Thing drives the top of the range Atara SL, wondering if a cardigan was required and was pleased to find out the answer.
It’s Toyota’s venerable 2.5L four, offering 133 kW or 135 kW (with the dual exhaust model) at 6000 rpm. Most drivers, of most cars, will never see that rev limit, which makes this number irrelevant. What is relevant is the torque, at 4100 revs of 235 metres of Mr Newton’s best, up four over the single exhaust.
There’s enough to get the 1505 kg (dry) Camry up and rolling deceptively quickly yet, oddly, doesn’t feel as if there’s anything there when the go pedal is asked to do something.
Toyota claims 7.8L combined cycle economy over 100 kilometres using 91 RON unleaded….A Wheel Thing saw a best of just over 10L per 100.
The transmission is a six speed auto, a smooth and quiet one at that. It works hand in hand with the engine, for the most part, with barely noticeable shifts under most throttle applications. Under a heavy foot, needing acceleration, it drops back, one, two ratios and there’s a fair bit of noise coming from under the Camry’s scalloped bonnet. Forward motion seems to not increase rapidly although the tacho is right around, rev wise, where peak torque is meant to be.
If one was to place this alongside the preceding model, one would be hard pressed to see a resemblance, unlike Audi’s “new” A4 (unveiled June 2015). Apart from the roof and the windows, every other panel is new. And damn, it looks good. From a sculpted, scalloped bonnet, to the deep dish, inverted Vee shaped, front air intake, to stylish 18 inch alloys to the Lexus-like profile and tail lights, it’s possibly the best looking, nay, sexiest Camry we’ve seen.
From the front, head on, there’s no resemblance at all to Camrys of yore, rather the aforementioned inverted Vee, eagle eye headlights and LED driving lights set into the slopes of the Vee. In profile there’s a strong resemblance to a vehicle from Toyota’s luxury arm, whilst the windows are the only clear (no pun intended) carry over from the prior model..
The rear has a refinement of the angular lights whilst the bootlid opens up, via the lightest of touches on the pad, to reveal a chasm that seemingly (belying the actual 515L capacity) swallows the Grand Canyon and leaves room for a battleship.
On The Inside.
Yup, there’s plenty to like here too, but it’s not entirely perfect. There’s plenty of room, of course, comfortable seats and ergonomics are mostly well thought of. There is a clash of interior designs that are jarring to the eye, however.
The dash’s upper level has a stitched material look to it, but is hard to the touch. At either end there’s not a smooth blend into the door trim and they’re made of different material to the dash. There’s the same slightly bulbous look to the lower part of the forward console, with the result being a look that impacts on the legs and leg space.
The actual dash is a nice piece of engineering, with a smooth arched binnacle over the dials; there’s a four inch full colour LCD display, with an unusual layout to the information shown, plus a 6.1 inch touchscreen for the navigation and audio system (ten speakers for the Atara SL). Another oddity stands out, with the Atara’s dual zone climate control showing a light for when it’s off, not on…
The mix of colours is, to A Wheel Thing, a constant hindrance to being fully appreciated. The plastic alloy look is and always has been a cheap and chintzy add on, detracting from the otherwise pleasant enough ambience the cabin has. Except for the high visibility reflection of the dash in the windscreen…
The seats, in faux leather, are comfortable without a huge measure of support, with flat cushioning; the audio controls on the steering wheel (a clever nod in design, looking not unlike the Toyota emblem) double up on the search buttons, with seek and select preset leaving volume adjustment to be used separately, rather than leaving the seek to the touchscreen.
Safety isn’t overlooked for occupants, with seven airbags including curtain and driver’s knee. There’s pre-crash avoidance for the Atara SL, front and rear parking sensors (lower models get just two rear), blind spot and rear traffic alerts systems as well.
There’s a couple of nice touches in the Atara SL, such as an electric rear sunshade, auto high beam and digital radio but heating/cooling for the front seats didn’t seem to be readily visible. Keyless start is available for bar the entry level Altise petrol.
On The Road.
It’s surprisingly un-Toyota like like in its ride; it’s taut, firm, not plush, this Atara SL. Small bumps are dealt with, partially, and coming across those in turns has the nose feeling skittish, skipping across the road. That same tautness has the nose pushing into massive understeer in one roundabout, an unusual design that gives a driver a half figure eight entry and exit.
The steering ratio is quick (the column is also adjustable for reach and rake) with good response and feel through the system. It always felt communicative and was barely vague dead on centre, like so may are. The 215/55/17s help in feedback, yet, surprisingly don’t have a tendency to tramline, given the relatively thin footprint.
The torque of the 2.5L, being delivered so high, nevertheless sees the Camry moving to freeway speeds quickly, it’s when the high revs for the torque are called upon it feels as if it’s fallen into a hole. 235 Nm is a decent enough amount from a non turbo petrol engine, but it just doesn’t seem that it’s there. The lower ratios of the gearbox take advantage of the lesser torque nicely compared to the upper limits.
As expected, there’s good braking feel as well, with minimal travel before the foot begins to be told the pads are biting and it’s progressive, firmer, for the rest of the way.
Much like its Australian based competition, Ford and Holden, with their final outings also rated as being the best made, the Camry Atara SL stands tall amongst its brethren. The external looks may polarise, perhaps even put off traditional Toyota customers, but some would say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In a crowded market and against contenders such as the Mazda 6, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Holden’s failed Malibu, a bold move from Toyota may be what the Camry, a car long seen as needing its driver to be outfitted in a cardigan, needs for that cardigan entry token to be ditched.
For pricing and extra information, head here: 2016 Toyota Camry range
Toyota Camry Atara SL.
Engine: 2.5L petrol.
Fuel tank: 70 litres.
Economy: claimed (from 91RON) 7.8L per 100 kilometres combined.
Transmission: six speed automatic with paddle shift.
Power/Torque: 135 kW/235 Nm @ 6000/4100 rpm.
Weight (unladen): 1505 kg.
Dimensions: 4850 x 1835 x 1470 (L x W x H in mm).
Turning circle 11 metres.
Servicing: 4 years capped price (see Toyota for conditions).