2007 Toyota Camry Sportivo Road Test

$7,860 $9,350 Dealer
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2007 Toyota Camry Sportivo – Road Test

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On road price: Around $37,800 but Toyota plays in the volume game with Camry, so it would pay to shop around.

Warranty: Standard Toyota 3 Years, 100,000km. It’s not the industry leader, but with reliability a core brand value of Toyota, you shouldn’t have any worries.

Where the car sits: The new Camry comes in four varieties and the Sportivo sits ahead of the softer riding Altise and Alteva but under the lush, Grande variant.

So successful have they been in fact, that the famous Harvard Business School has written a number of papers trying to work out why Toyota is so successful at building cars in comparison to their US counterparts.

Camry has been part of that success for many years, reaching 10 million units in 2005. The model can also boast as the top-selling car in the United States for eight of the last nine years, and that’s no mean feat in the land where ‘made in America’ stands for patriotism.

You’ve got to wonder as to who’s buying large family cars like the Commodore and Falcon these days, given the high cost of automotive ownership usually proportional to size, both body and engine size, that is. Toyota has aimed Camry squarely at the medium segment which in reality is probably the new ‘large’ segment in Australia.

It goes without saying, Toyota seems to have impeccable timing when it comes to launching new models and they’ve hit the jackpot with the new Camry. With recent fuel prices at record highs and a per litre cost steady at $1.10 plus, Toyota releases their new family size Camry as a four-cylinder econo-model only. Touché

I’m sure you’ll agree that we as Australians are pretty careful when it comes to money. I mean, we appreciate value for money, and that’s exactly what you get with Camry. We’ve been getting that deal from Toyota for more than few years now, but what we haven’t been getting from them, is style and good looks which the European car makers provide in spades. Finally, Camry has delivered the gold standard when it comes to affordable family cars. We can probably thank Toyota’s super-premium Lexus division for the some of the design accents on the new model, but with this car, you get the whole box and dice, particularly with the Sportivo.

There’s no mistaking the Sportivo with its distinct black honeycomb-style grille, aero body kit, 17 inch alloys, tinted headlight covers, rear lip spoiler and chrome exhaust tip. It’s interesting to note though, that in the US, the equivalent Sportivo version (SE) is also lowered by 10mm providing a more serious stance to the car.

This car is rock solid over poor roads with absolutely no rattles and a ride quality beyond its price point. Of course, you can’t have everything, and with increased handling capabilities you’ll have to forfeit some practicality and do without the 60:40 split fold rear seats, much like Mitsubishi’s 380. All this added suspension work means the Sportivo tracks well and provides excellent steering feedback and is a vast improvement over the previous model.
There’s even a dose of Toyota Formula One built into the Sportivo. The car’s underbody has been designed with aerodynamics in mind and is relatively flat, providing increased downforce and excellent high-speed stability which is a good thing if you jump on our highways every now and again.

It’s a pity that Toyota chose not to increase the power of the Sportivo over the Altise and Alteva, even slightly, as the chassis is clearly capable of dealing with a few more Kilowatts. It’s not quite ‘all show and no go’ in fact, once underway, the Sportivo has plenty of ‘go’ for general duties, but has to work hard if you need to move quickly from a standing start.

It’s quiet too. Even under load, this car seems well insulated from engine and road noise and at highway speed limits, the car is surprisingly quiet and smooth, given its four-cylinder powerplant.

Multiple-speed auto transmissions are all the rage these days with Lexus taking first prize with its world’s first, eight-speed automatic transmission which it employs in the super-luxury LS460. The Camry Sportivo gets a new five-speed auto transmission which along with the electronic throttle, provides quick shifts and smooth gear changes. The transmission is mated to intelligent control software which allows the driver the option of driving in the ‘D’ mode or manual style using the gated shift.

The “new” Camry styling continues inside and while the interior won’t leave you breathless, you’d have to say its “nice” and highly functional. There’s a generous dose of patterned metal highlights throughout the car, including front stack and doors, which provide an upscale feel. Clearly, there’s been some intelligent thought into the design of even the basic features. I particularly like how the power window controls are angled toward the driver (and passengers) and the fact that the digital clock is mounted high on top of the dash allowing a glance without losing site of the road. It’s also easily read in extreme sunlight.

You won’t need to tick many options boxes on the Sportivo, it comes with all the good stuff! For starters, there’s a six disc in dash CD changer with MP3 capability and six speakers (although an auxiliary jack receptor to plug an iPod into would seem fair play these days). Nonetheless, it’s a clever system, with good quality sound and you'd be excused if you thought a reasonably sized sub-woofer was on board given the strong bass. No subwoofer, just Psychoacoustics, and that alone simulates a decent base sound.

There’s power everything as you expect these days, with the added bonus of power seats for the driver and front passenger. The Sportivo also wins a multi-functional leather sports steering wheel that provides a good grip, as well as leather gear shift knob and park-brake handle. Auto on/off headlights is standard across the Camry range and a tick for that, although for me, the auto wipers-on function which is standard on the Grande, should be part of the same package, given the safety benefit of that particular function.

Sadly, rear parking sensors are not standard on any of the new Camry’s, not even the lush specked out Grande. In fact, they are a $900 plus option! After market parking sensors can be purchased for as little as $150 for four, and require about an hour’s labour to install. So come on Toyota, how about rear sensors with the next facelift to protect that investment.

With comparatively inexpensive family cars like Camry setting the benchmark for automotive creature comforts by providing so much standard equipment, we tend to be a little spoiled. As such, I’m hoping Satellite Navigation might find its way into the next Camry Sportivo. Well why not, when Aldi supermarkets are advertising portable GPS systems with all the bells and whistles for $399!

The leather Sports seats in the test car look no different to some of the premium Recaro seats on the market, although for some strange reason, I couldn’t get quite comfortable in them. I suspect that this was more to do with the lumbar adjustment than seat design.

Head and leg room are more than sufficient in the new Camry which has more front seat adjustability and travel than the previous model. In fact, the new car offers more overall interior space but with similar proportions to the car it replaces. That’s clever packaging, as the worldwide trend away from large cars looks set to continue for some time yet.

Storage nooks and cup holders of various sizes are plenty, front and back, with a couple of useful little pockets large enough for phones etc mounted each side of the centre stack. There’s also heaps of lighting in the car with illuminated glove box and boot along with map reading lights which are all very convenient and help make this car very easy to live with.

Best to avoid accidents altogether though, and on board all new Camry’s is “Active Breaking with intelligence (AB-i) which combines Anti-skid Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). What this all means, is that under emergency braking, this car should stop in the shortest possible distance while at the same time, allowing you to steer away from the object you are heading towards, even with your foot hard on the brakes.

The top-spec Grande also gets Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRC) but these are two systems I’d like to see on the Sportivo given its sports driving DNA.

At 1470 kg with the automatic transmission, the Camry Sportivo is not a heavy car in comparison to the likes of Commodore and Falcon, which weigh considerably more at close to 1700kg. The advantage here of course, is petrol consumption, and the Sportivo will give you back 9.9 L/100km without really giving anything away to the other cars, other than more power through the gears, but you pay for that privilege every time you fill the tank.

My opening statement stands fast!

Click to view the full specifications of the 2007 Toyota Camry

Anthony Crawford