Test model: Toyota Aurion Sportivo ZR6
Options fitted: Moonroof and Satellite navigation at $4850 all up – these are the only options on the ZR6 and are good value when you consider some European car makers charge this much for Sat Nav alone.
Wheel and Tyre option you should have a peek at: You can get a set of “Kappa” 18” wheels fitted to the ZR6 with proper low profile 225/45 R18’s and at $1600 (wheels only) they really do set this car off. The standard 17” alloys on the ZR6 have been done to death by a number of car makers and don’t do the car justice.
Recommended retail price: $42,500 without the above options, but the Aurion range (with the same engine specs) kicks off with the AT-X at $34,990.On Road Price: Around $46,000 but it pays to shop around as you may be able to reduce the cost of the above options as I did with some dealers.
Warranty: 3 years or 100,000kms whichever comes first.
Where the car sits in the model line-up: second from the top with only the luxury trimmed Presara sitting above at $49,990.
“The competition includes Holden’s SV6 and Ford’s XR6, both good drives, but with 200kW, a healthy respect for fuel and Toyota’s badge of reliability, it would pay you to be a little more than curious”
It was never going to be a ‘shoe in’ for Toyota to compete in the large family car segment in Australia with the big six offerings from Ford and Holden given their domination in this sector for decades. It’s even tougher, when you are coming at the Aussie lads from the ‘performance badge’ side.But if you are Holden, Ford, Honda, Buick, Dodge or even Honda, Toyota is your worst nightmare when they decide to “really” go after a new market segment.
Quick Reference Guide:
By the end of 2007, Toyota will most likely be crowned the number one car manufacturer in the world edging out General Motors for the first time in history.
2007 (year only) projections indicate that by December they will have built close to 9.5 million cars and trucks worldwide. It’s truly a phenomenal figure when you ponder for a second or two and ask yourself how that’s possible when the company only started operations in 1938.
The reason is simple, they build the kind of passenger cars and commercial vehicles that the overwhelming majority of drivers think are the best value for money. And that brings us to the 3.5 litre V6 powered, 200kW Toyota Aurion. It essentially replaces the Avalon as a large car, capable of penetrating deep into Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon territory, something the vanilla flavoured Avalon was never going to do.
The Aurion Sportivo ZR6 which we tested, is the sports version which has been designed with similar principles to Ford’s XR6 and Holden’s SV6 in that they’re more about a sports ‘look’ than outright sports performance.
It’s not that any of these cars could ever be considered slow, far from it. It’s just that the power outputs on the ZR6 and the XR6 are the same across the model range while the SV6 gets a slight 15kW increase over the standard Omega 3.6-litre Commodore.
The Aurion was designed by Nick Hogios, an Australian who had ironically worked on the XR performance models of the BA series Falcon while at Ford Australia.
If you thought the Aurion looked a little like the Camry, you’d be spot on. In fact the doors, side windows, windscreen and roof panels are identical. The rest of the car’s panels though, are unique to the Aurion.
Toyota has decided that the Camry will be the four cylinder family car while Aurion badged cars will be V6 powered.
With 200kW and a respectable 336Nm of torque in a large five-seater car, the Sportivo ZR6 does measures up in a power stakes, no matter which way you dress it up. Its 5kW more than the SV6 and 10kW more than the Ford’s XR6 but more importantly, it weighs in at 1630kg which is significantly lighter than both its Aussie rivals.
With a large chunk of the initial advertising focused squarely on the 200kW figure, the first thing you want to do when you settle into the Aurion Sportivo ZR6 is well… see if it goes!
Dropping the accelerator pedal won’t push you back in the seat as you might have expected with this much power, but it will get you from 0-100km/h in just on 7.4 seconds with a definite urgency. The fairly average torque figure dialled into this car is one reason for the lack of instant surge down low, and the fact the full 336Nm is not available until you hit 4700rpm, is another. On the other hand, the Ford and Holden lads mentioned above, get their full dose of torque coming on song at around 2500rpm and 2600rpm respectively and that’s where the difference lies.
What is noticeable behind the wheel of the ZR6 is how smooth and unruffled the engine is under full load. Even better, when it’s mated to the Aurion’s velvety six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting. It’s as good if not better, than many of the European cars with similar outputs.
Occasionally though, when climbing hills, the gearbox will repeatedly kick down a ratio in the interest of maintaining a desired speed despite its artificial intelligence (AI) feature. It’s a characteristic common to quite a few multi ratio gearboxes these days, and again, usually due to not enough torque available at some throttle points.
It’s no big deal though, and can be dealt with effectively in the Aurion by using the sequential shift feature, which allows the driver to pretty much control time spent in each gear ratio which can be held to near redline, if required.
All this power in a relatively small engine means cutting edge technology. Up front, is a newly developed 3.5-litre Quad Cam V6 which has been developed to provide maximum power with maximum fuel efficiency. You can pretty much bank on this powerplant given that you’ll also find it (a version of at least) in the Lexus IS350 which will be available in Australia later this year.
Unlike many Toyota vehicles, all cars in the Aurion range comes packed with standard features which will put Falcon and Commodore on notice.
Standard luxury features in the ZR6 include; power everything (including front driver and passenger seats), Dual zone climate control air conditioning, Cruise Control, 6 speaker CD changer sound system with MP3 (but no auxiliary input jack for ipods etc – this system is average quality only), perforated leather Sports seats and door trim – these are particularly comfortable), Front and rear parking sensors, Smart entry and push button start (same as Lexus – so you just need to have the key fob on your person and then hit the start button).
There’s also a host of safety features built into the car and these include; Vehicle Stability control, Traction Control, Anti-Lock Brake System, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist along Dual front, side and curtain airbags.
You also get Sports LED taillights (super bright even in daylight), Optitron driver gauges (clearly visible in sunshine glare), Sports leather steering wheel and shifter, Alloy sports pedals with Sportivo front and rear metal scuff plates.
The ZR6 and SX6 representing the “testosterone lite” models in the Aurion line-up share an identical dress code with 17” alloys, a rear spoiler, different headlight and taillight designs, a sports body kit and grill along with underbody aerodynamics borrowed from Toyota’s Formula One knowledge.
Running 17” alloys is fine although, I thought these two sports models might be blessed with 18 inch rims but what is disappointing is that you have to live with not so wide 215/55’s, hardly a respectable footprint for a 200kW, ZR6 badge car!
These two sports models might have the look but there’s no additional power or engine modification. If you’d like that too, then you just might be in luck. Toyota has been previewing the Aurion Sports Concept. It’s a much more aggressively styled car that looks to be “all show and all go” with a supercharged 3.5-litre engine and a predicted power output of around 250kW. Whoosh!
Travelling as fast as you are legally permitted on our modest highway system will provide no cause to crank the volume up on the sound system – wind and road noise are non-existent at these speeds due to the refinement and build quality of this car.
Fortunately, the ZR6 is has been graced with some performance handling bits that ensure minimal body roll on turn in when negotiating twisty sections.
All Aurion models come standard with a rear brace behind the rear seat which adds welcomed body stiffness when cornering.
For additional rigidity, the two Sportivo models get additional underbody stabilising braces at the rear together with a rear floor undercover which helps keep the rear end on the road and out of trouble. One problem though. These braces mean that there is no 60/40 split rear fold feature, ditto on the Mitsubishi 380.
Naturally there are stiffer damper, springs and stabiliser bar settings which work in concert with some quality Micheline tyres around the 17” five-spoke alloys to provide the grip.
Although the ZR6 and SX6 have been given the sports suspension treatment you would hardly call it firm and that’s not a bad thing. I drove the car on a wide variety of roads and road surfaces at various speeds and in all cases, the car drove and cornered with confidence, never once becoming unsettled. The standard bumps and potholes were simply swallowed up by this suspension set up.
Steering is reasonably well weighted although it wouldn’t hurt to reduce the boost a little more on these sports models.
As a point of interest, some car makers now offer variable power steering settings which allow you to adjust the level of boost depending on the sort of terrain you are driving on.
Brake pedal pressure is surprisingly good in the ZR6 despite using single piston calipers front and rear although, there is a feast of brake assistance acronyms to pull this car up in the shortest possible distance in most conditions.
Previous Camry’s were sold on the back of reliability and resale values with buyers foregoing any inkling of styling. While we liked the new Camry, the Aurion Sportivo ZR6 adds some design tweaks that place it side by side or ahead of the SV6 and XR6.
Not the least of which are the large twin oval chrome exhaust tips and black mesh grille, which continues down onto the lower front air dam.
Also worth a mention are the turn indicator lights, built into each side mirror and similar to many European marques. I’m truly mystified as to Holden and Ford’s take on this popular styling cue, given its simplicity and air of prestige it adds to those cars and SUV’s which have adopted it.
Amazingly, Ford employs this feature on one vehicle only, the Escape SUV. Holden, not a whole lot more creative, have it on the top spec Rodeo (yes, the workhorse) and Captiva. Go figure!
The Stylemeisters have had their way with the Aurion’s interior too. Metallic accents are awash in this car along with a tasteful blend of reasonable quality plastics and fabrics, although still some way short of those found in most German cars.
The switchgear and blue tinted dash panels ooze quality and of course, it all functions flawlessly. I particularly like the Optitron instrument dials which are super bright and legible even in skin scorching sunlight. They were first introduced in Lexus cars a few years ago and have found their way into the Aurion range. Its one of the advantages Toyota has over other mass market car makers and frankly, the more Lexus bits, the better.
If you occasionally feel the need for some spirited driving, then you’ll enjoy the gear position indicator when using the sequential shift function hopefully on some deserted, winding road.
Not only will the Aurion accommodate 5 large adults in comfort, there’s a tonne of storage space throughout the car with the usual cup holders and hidden compartments front and back.
If you’ve been holding off on those Sunday drives with the family, you might just reconsider if you’re lucky enough to end up in an Aurion. Fuel consumption in this 200kW family express is rated at 9.9 litres/100km combined highway/city, which is exceptional given the car’s size and performance.
If I were buying on looks alone, I’d probably opt for Holden’s SV6. If on the other hand, if I wanted the best overall sports package – then my money would be on the ZR6.