There has been a lot of commotion around the cessation of Australian manufacturing and the death of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.
But there’s another big Aussie six-cylinder sedan that the nation will say goodbye to soon – the Toyota Aurion.
Sure, it doesn’t have the heritage of the aforementioned Aussie-made rivals. Nor does it have the cult following – except, perhaps, among senior buyers.
The Sportivo model introduced in mid-2015 heralded the dismissal of the SX6 and ZR6 variants (and suffixes), and it also brought with it a subtler styling package than the model it replaced, but bigger wheels, 18s as opposed to 17s on the pre-update version. Read the full Toyota Aurion pricing and specifications story.
Those 18s are wrapped in 55-profile tyres that are 215mm wide, and, being totally on-trend for try-hard ‘sports’ models of today, the rims are glossy black. The Aurion Sportivo also rocks a bodykit, lowered sports suspension and a revised steering tune when compared with the regular Aurion models.
Thankfully the Aurion’s 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with 200kW of power and 336Nm of torque is more than adequate when it comes to offering the driving thrills expected of a sporty-badged car.
The engine is, quite frankly, excellent. It could well be the best six-cylinder powertrain in any large Australian-made car, with brilliant power during roll-on throttle application and lovely linearity to the way the engine revs.
This is a surprisingly potent drivetrain, given the aura that surrounds the Aurion. It offers creamier power than a Commodore 3.6-litre V6, and is markedly more refined than the ancient 4.0-litre six-cylinder in the Falcon.
The fact the Aurion drives only the front wheels, though, is it’s biggest problem. There are traction issues when you’re taking off from a standstill, particularly in the wet, and yet despite that the thing is pretty fast – we measured a 7.3 second sprint from 0-100km/h on a damp surface.
The six-speed automatic gearbox generally does what’s expected of it, with smooth, barely noticeable shifts at speed and a level of intelligence when it comes to overtaking moves and hill climbs that means it never feels sluggish.
Fuel use for the Aurion is claimed at 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres, and over a mix of urban, highway and back road motoring, we saw 10.6L/100km.
What lets it down is its dynamics. Being front-drive, the Aurion not only has issues with traction, but also with steering precision and handling balance.
Toyota’s local engineers may have tried to make this vehicle sporty to drive, but in day-to-day situations it can be frustrating.
The steering loads up to be dull and heavy in corners, and then at times it can require more effort to turn than you’d anticipate. This is particularly annoying if you approach a roundabout at a fluid pace.
If you’re doddling around town the steering is slightly less problematic, but because the front wheels have to deal with the direction and the propulsion of the car, it simply isn’t as precise or accurate as the likes of the Holden or Ford.
Admittedly, on the right stretch of road, you can have some fun with it. Lift off the throttle as you approach a tight corner and there’s a little bit of oversteer to be offered before the traction control system intervenes and steals power away. That’s great for the vast majority of people, because while it is aggressive, safety is probably a higher priority for an Aurion buyer than thrills.
That sports suspension is decent at helping you throw the Aurion around, should you so choose, but the trade off is that the ride can be sharp and cause the body of the car to shudder over broken sections of road. The large wheels fall into bumps, and the low profile tyres throw quite a bit of road noise into the cabin, but on smooth roads it rides quietly and competently.
The interior of the Aurion – as is the case with the four-cylinder Camry upon which the Aurion is based – is dated.
Admittedly, the 2015 update brought inclusions such as clearer instruments and a new media system, and those elements do liven the cabin up somewhat. But it still doesn’t feel as modern as a Commodore, let alone a competitor from the mid-size set such as the Mazda 6, Subaru Liberty or Kia Optima.
That new infotainment system is generally very easy to use, with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming that works well, but these connect only when stationary, and you can’t input phone numbers on the move. The stereo – a six-speaker system – lacked quality, with tinny high-end notes and a lack of substantial bass. Never before has Kendrick Lamar sounded so lame.
But if you buy an Aurion, you might not care quite so much about sound systems as you would about space and comfort. Luckily, the Toyota delivers on those fronts.
The front of the cockpit is roomy, and with electric operation for both front seats the Aurion betters some competitors, which offer manual adjustment for the passenger.
There are a few storage pockets up front for loose items, as well as cup holders between the seats and door pockets with bottle holders. The plastic trim across the dash, which is clearly trying to look sporty, fails.
There are seemingly acres of rear seat real estate, with enough room for three adults to fit across the flattish back bench without hassle. There’s a flip-down armrest, and bottle holders in the door pockets, as well as air-vents – and those up front can offer those in the back a little extra coolness by way of a retractable sun shade that covers the rear windscreen.
However, there are no height adjustable rear headrests, and there are no ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.
The back seats can be folded down – though not folded flat – to allow through-stowage of longer items. Annoyingly, you can only fold them flat from the boot-mounted levers, but the boot is generous and flat. The gooseneck hinges aren’t as smart as piston style hinges, and our dark blue car had some poorly mismatched paintwork on those metal sections, too.
The Aurion comes with seven airbags fitted as standard (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee ‘bags), and while it does have a standard reverse-view camera with a crisp display that is complemented by rear parking sensors, it misses out on some of the high-tech additions that rivals now offer. There’s no autonomous emergency braking system, for example, nor is there a blind-spot monitoring system.
Toyota has the bare minimum warranty for its buyers, with three years/100,000km of cover – though it also has one of the strongest reputations for reliability on the planet. Capped-price servicing is offered for five services on the Aurion, priced at $140 per visit, with maintenance due every nine months or 15,000km.
On the whole, the 2016 Toyota Aurion Sportivo can’t match the best large sedan in the business – the Holden Commodore – on many fronts. Indeed, at this price point, buyers would be better off considering either that rival or any of the aforementioned mid-sizers that offer excellent value for money, even if they don’t have a big six under the bonnet.
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