The significantly updated Toyota Camry — the final iteration to be made in Australia — launches today with a significantly expanded and improved range of offerings that are up to $5000 cheaper than before.
The big price cuts, alongside the significantly reworked styling and extra features such as pre-collision assist, are designed to keep Camry volumes steady as the total mid-sized segment declines in the face of SUVs, thereby keeping local manufacturing output at a sufficient scale.
So bold are the changes and the price cuts, Toyota Australia claims this latest model is in fact the “best value car” you can buy. It’s the cheapest launch price on a Camry in 18 years.
The opening price of $26,990 (or $28,990 drive-away) is $4000 cheaper than before, and closer to the special campaign pricing the company has regularly offered in recent times. That also undercuts most rivals by thousands.
The decision to reduce the price ‘walk’ to higher-spec cars will also give the brand a healthier sales mix, something Mazda excels at.
It may be launching only a few years since the launch of the previous Camry, but this is far more than a typical mid-life update, which usually bring only tweaked lights and bumpers.
Billed as “radically different” to its predecessor, the updated Camry features entirely new panels with the exception of the roof, more than 800 new parts (20 per cent of the total) and a more upmarket cabin. There’s even more local content than before.
There’s also the addition of a sharper and more dynamic Atara SX version with model-first 18-inch wheels, plus specific suspension and steering tunes developed in Melbourne. There’s also a greater proliferation of petrol-electric hybrid offerings.
Toyota says its decision to offer the Camry Hybrid in three spec levels rather than two is a result of the growing “normalisation” of this technology. Sales of the hybrid should climb above the present 20 pr cent.
The US-designed Camry range has been given such a substantial tweak because Toyota admits it needed a sharper design to compete with a number of desirable rivals globally, and to fit its new corporate direction towards creating more attractive and characterful vehicles.
Of perhaps most import locally is the fact that this Camry will be the final version made in Australia. The company has been building Camrys here since 1987 — four years after the badge was introduced — and has made about 1.8 million units since then, 860,000 of which were sold locally.
As we know, Toyota will close its Victorian manufacturing plant at the end of 2017, at which time it will become a full-line importer. The Camry name will continue under this arrangement.
By reducing the pricing and its subsequent margins, Toyota aims to ensure demand remains high enough — the Camry owns more than 40 per cent market share in its declining segment — to keep local manufacturing output sufficient enough in scale to keep Altona strong through to the end.
The redesign contained within it a number of manufacturing changes — in fact, the re-tooling at Altona cost $108 million. It would be hard to envisage a bigger commitment from Toyota that it will honour its pledge to make cars here until the end of 2017.
Toyota Australia will produce about 90,000 cars per year over the remaining three years, close to 80 per cent of which it will export, most notably to the Middle East. Cars made here have locally-developed cooling systems, dust-proofing and headlights.
Camry remains a vital car to Toyota Australia, no matter where it’s made. For 21 years it has been this market’s top-selling mid-sized car. In 2015 so far, it owns almost 41 per cent market share in its steadily declining segment, smashing the likes of the Mazda 6 and Subaru Liberty on volume.
Of course, much of this is because Camry has long a fleet favourite on account of its running costs. Now, the creation of the new Atara SX exclusively for Australia is designed to lure younger buyers, and more private buyers alike. Nevertheless, in raw volume, the SX will be a small portion of the mix.
This aim is to continue a trend that has seen the Camry’s demographic fall in age in recent years. Somewhat humorously, Toyota Australia says more than half its Camry buyers are now under 50 — veritable spring chickens.
At present, private sales (as opposed to fleet) make up only 35 per cent of Camry registrations locally. The company aims to increase this. About 20 per cent of sales are hybrids, and the vast majority are entry Altise variants. Likewise, the company wants to change these ratios.
The new Camry has a more confident style with an aggressive-looking front bumper and grille, pronounced side character lines and low-profile headlamps with standard LED daytime running lights. Interiors are more refined with freshened upholstery and new three-spoke steering wheels across the range.
There are revised instruments and an upgraded multi-information display on all hybrids, while the petrol Atara SL flagship incorporates a full-colour 4.2-inch thin-film transistor multi-information display. The display’s colour animation conveys a wide range of vehicle functions and coordinates with the multimedia system to display audio, navigation, warnings and communications.
Toyota claims every Camry now exhibits smoother take-off, turning and deceleration on slippery roads and greater straight-line stability, particularly on rough roads, thanks to the adoption of a pre-load differential across the range.
Under the bonnet the engines are largely unchanged. The Altise petrol has an Australian-made 2.5-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder with 133kW/231Nm. A dual-port exhaust system on the Atara S, Atara SX and Attra SL outputs 135kW/235Nm. Both are matched to a six-speed auto transmission.
The 151kW petrol-electric hybrid iteration — which account for about 20 per cent of range sales at present but is expected to grow — remains. The CVT remains, as does the claimed fuel consumption of 5.2 litres per 100km.
Camry’s five-star ANCAP safety rating is supported by standard fitment of seven airbags, a reversing camera, vehicle stability and traction control, and anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
Altise hybrid has keyless entry and ignition and auto dual-zone air-conditioning. From Atara S upwards, all variants adopt these features as well as a power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather-accented steering wheel and two rear parking sensors. Toyota Link connected mobility apps will be expanded later this month to provide access to Pandora internet radio.
All Atara petrol grades employ paddle gear-shifters mounted on the steering wheel and dual exhausts. Atara SX’s sporty nature is further highlighted by its sports mesh grille, rear lip spoiler, leather-accented sports seats and dark diffuser on the rear bumper.
In a first for Camry, Atara SL is equipped with radar sensors and a windscreen-mounted camera at the heart of advanced safety technologies: the pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, lane departure alert and rear cross traffic alert. Extras include automatic high beam, rain-sensing wipers and blind-spot monitor.
The range-topping variants also offer leather-accented power-adjustable front seats with a memory function, premium audio with a seven-inch screen, satellite navigation, and front clearance sensors.
The upgraded Camry is covered by Toyota Service Advantage with up to five standard scheduled services at $140 each during the first four years or 75,000km (whichever occurs first).
2015 Toyota Camry range breakdown
Atara S (above the Altise)
Atara SX (above Atara S)
Atara SL (Above Atara SX)
2015 Toyota Camry Pricing: