2016 Toyota Camry RZ Review

Rating: 7.5
$16,280 $19,360 Dealer
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In one of the last Australian-built versions of the Camry we'll see, the RZ is a sportier take on the platform, with only 1100 examples to be built. Does the limited-edition status make it worthwhile?
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You’ve all met that one person at work or school. You know, the one who knew you played tennis, for example. “Mate, you better be ready. I’m going to whip you. I’m a tennis star. I’ve been playing forever. Bring your A game 'cause I’m into my sport.”

Then, when push came to shove, you whipped them. 6-1, 6-1. That kind of one-sided thrashing. Not quite as sporty as they claimed, then…

That's a similar situation to the 2016 Toyota Camry RZ. The styling, blacked-out wheels and badging hints that it might, in fact, be sporty – a sporty sedan, of which there aren’t many successful examples. Alas, the RZ isn’t actually sporty at all. But it is in fact, a better Camry, which is no bad thing at all.

So, unlike the tennis star at school whose game was a three out of 10 in reality, the Camry is, as it’s always been, a solid seven to eight out of 10. False sporting pretensions aside.

First off, the 2016 Toyota Camry RZ is cheaper than all but one of the conventional Camry range, despite being a well-equipped limited edition model. At the time of writing, the Camry RZ was a hard to believe $29,990 drive away. That compares to the Atara S at $30,990 and the Atara SX at $34,990 drive away, making the RZ seriously good value.

RZ is based on Altise, which was $27,990 drive away at the time of testing, but Toyota reckons there’s $4000 worth of extra gear to counteract the $2000 hike in asking price.

Built in Altona, the RZ will be one of the last special models to be manufactured in Australia and just 1100 will be sold, ensuring you won’t see too many of them out on the road. Don’t mix the RZ up with the Atara SX that Matt reviewed in July, even though the RZ shares the same 18-inch wheels, which have been painted black in this application.

In addition, RZ gets sports suspension, low profile rubber, a twin exhaust system and a slight climb in power and torque.

We’ll get to the suspension in a minute, but power is up by 2kW and torque by 4Nm, to figures of 135kW and 235Nm. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with the ADR fuel claim at 7.9L/100km. On test, we saw an indicated return of 10.2L/100km.

Outside, there’s a sports mesh grille, revised mirror covers, headlight inserts, boot-lid spoiler and a diminutive rear diffuser. The RZ also gets logos along the flanks so you’re in no doubt as to the nomenclature, as well as front and rear parking sensors.

Revisions have extended to the cabin, with an upgraded HVAC system, which brings dual-zone automatic climate control, a premium steering wheel and trip computer, as well as keyless entry and engine start, plus RZ branding on the floor mats.

Thud the door closed and it’s ‘as you were’ inside the Camry’s cabin. Familiar, yet of a higher quality, it’s just like a well-worn cardigan. The cabin is quiet, well insulated and built to a high standard. The leather trim doesn’t feel cheap, the switchgear has that unbreakable feel Toyota does so well, and the layout of the controls is sensible and uncluttered.

It confounds us that Toyota continues to persist with such ageing infotainment technology, at a time when Apple CarPlay/Android Auto actually simplifies the requirements of the in-built system. Aside from a quality screen, smartphone compatible systems are pretty basic in design. Yet, here we are once again with an infotainment system that really doesn’t cut it in 2016.

It works, and things like the Bluetooth phone connection and audio streaming function reliably, but it could be so much better with more advanced tech inclusions. That alone might lift the Camry half a point in our overall rating system.

There’s so much room in the cabin, the Camry makes a mockery of its position in the ‘medium sedan’ segment as mandated by the FCAI. There’s no doubt the Camry really is a large sedan. Up front, there’s room for even the tallest drivers, while in the second row, you’ll easily accommodate three adults, even with tall occupants up front.

The centre console swallows a heap of chargers, and other gadgets, while there are sensibly placed cup and bottle holders. We know numerous reps who spend plenty of time on the road, and reckon the Camry interior is as good as it gets when it comes to efficient storage. The boot is likewise enormous and will easily hold two large suitcases.

With the engine a known quantity, there’s not really that much to expand upon what we’ve already said in previous Camry reviews. The extra power and torque isn’t something you can feel, but the engine is smooth, effortless and efficient in the real world. The gearbox is also unobtrusive at all speeds, and works nicely to keep the 2.5-litre bubbling along where it’s happiest.

There’s a bit more chirp from the twin exhaust outlets, but remember, the RZ isn’t a sports car so don’t expect a sports car soundtrack. The RZ driving experience is best described as relaxing. You won’t get tired behind the wheel if you cover long distances like so many Camry drivers do. Every aspect of the relationship between driver and vehicle is easy.

The steering deserves mention around town too, where it is light enough to make the Camry feel more agile than it rightly should, but also weights up nicely at speed. The suspension is an area where Toyota has made significant improvements that you can actually feel. We haven’t tested the new RZ back to back with the old model, but reading our tests of that vehicle reveal no one in the CarAdvice office was impressed by the suspension package.

Rather than a properly designed local tune, the old RZ simply seemed as if it had been fitted with super stiff springs and non compliant shocks. In other words, the ride was bloody awful. It crashed over bumps, was way too sharp, seemed to bottom out regularly, and basically battered the inhabitants of the cockpit for no real benefit – it didn’t handle well when asked to work hard either.

Now, though, the RZ is a lot more compliant and comfortable around town, while handling well enough to do what most buyers will ask of it. We think it’s a perfect compromise for this platform and makes all the difference to the current RZ.

A crisp rear-view camera and parking sensors ensure tight parking manoeuvres won’t raise a sweat, and the Camry is the perfect urban shopping centre vehicle, with oodles of space inside, but exterior dimensions compact enough to slot into just about every commercial carpark space. It’s another factor to consider for the reps around Australia, who negotiate underground carparks as a matter of course.

The Camry RZ is covered by Toyota’s standard three-year/100,000km warranty as well as a capped price servicing plan that covers the first four years or 75,000km. Over that period, there are five capped-price services, which cost only $140 each.

As we mentioned above, this is one of the last Camrys we’ll be able to buy that has been built here in Australia. Toyota claims the next generation Camry will be sourced out of Thailand, and between now and then, we might only see some minor tweaks to the existing model – and only then specific models within the range.

That makes this one of the last Australian-built new Camrys, which is a bit sad really. It’s a solid car, hence the 7.5 rating overall and as always with any Camry, it does everything well enough without ever being spectacular. Once again, a large sedan has proven that it is versatile and still a choice buyers should be considering.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.