New to Wheels Car of the Year?
Read the COTY 101.
CAMRYS have been innovative (1983 original), insipid (2002), and occasionally even incognito (Holden Apollo anybody?). But mostly, Camrys have been inoffensive. For today’s eighth generation, we can also add improved. Vastly so.
Replacing its Altona-built predecessor, this latest version of Toyota’s US-market-focused mid-sizer is a ground-up redesign that aims to address past foibles, mostly related to comfort and refinement.
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What’s surprising is how monumentally competitive the Camry remains, even though it’s now out of Japan (again), with heaps more standard safety (including AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and auto high beams), backed up by a substantially stronger body and quieter cabin. All from a staggering $27,490. For that we’d put up with a plastic wheel, hard materials and monochromatic trim.And only $2300 extra for the (more highly specified) hybrids that slash fuel consumption. Value be thy name.
For all that, we can thank the snappily titled ‘Toyota New Global Architecture’, resulting in a longer, wider and lower platform, ushering in manifold packaging benefits, comfier seating, a better driving position, greater vision, higher quality fittings … the list goes on.
Carryover engines abound, with a revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder atmo and six-speed torque converter auto combo providing totally sufficient acceleration and that almost unburstable feel Camrys are renowned for.
Better still is the hybrid version, bringing more forceful responses, especially in the mid-range, where the electric motor’s contribution is most appreciated. Toyota has also tuned the CVT for smoother, more ‘normal’ operation (though low-speed brake modulation still feels weird).
Together, a combined average of 4.2L/100km is possible. Astonishing efficiency from such a large sedan. Plus, its boot is no longer compromised by battery packs. Progress.
So, where’s the ‘but’? Well, it’s coming, though also noteworthy is just how planted the four-cylinder Camrys are when driven hard, with a composure and control hitherto alien to the species. A relaxing ride adds to the Toyota’s dynamic prowess. Oddly artificial steering aside, no longer is it a poor cousin to better mid-sizers like the Mazda 6, Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat.
After all that – here comes the but – the V6 is a disappointment, seeming barely any quicker, despite offering more power for the price than anything else on the market. Plus, the handling is a little nose-heavier and the ride seems stiffer than the others, and it isn’t as economical.
As it turns out, the Camry is probably the most complete new-gen Toyota yet, promising a rounded and competent family car package in ways that the series hasn’t managed in decades.
While it doesn’t fundamentally push class boundaries, and has a crummy three-year warranty that’s out of step with much of the industry, the 2019 Camry’s high value and excellent hybrid economy means it can add impressive to its CV.