Sex sells, they say. But so does the Toyota Camry, which still flies the flag for safe and smart choices. Here we say farewell to the Australian-made version in the shadow of an all-new model.
You’ll excuse us if we leave cliched references to cardigans by the wayside while publishing what might be our final review of the current-generation Toyota Camry.
Not only are such allusions lazy writing, they’re also facetious. Australia’s biggest-volume automotive export wins no prizes for glamour, but it deserves a fond farewell.
In October this year the current iteration of the Camry will die – at the same time as Toyota closes its Melbourne factory. In its place a brand new version will arrive, sourced from Japan.
But that’s then, and this is now, and we wanted to spend a final stint at the wheel of a car that got none of the plaudits its fellow Australian-made Commodore and Falcon models did, despite the Toyota often being produced at a higher scale.
It’s no great secret the Camry relies principally on sales to large-scale business and government fleet operators (some with buy Australian policies). And anyone who uses taxis or Uber will know the car well.
In the Camry's 34-year history in Australia, sales have surpassed 920,000 cars including 690,000 four-cylinder petrol models, 42,000 hybrids and 169,000 V6 variants. It has been Australia's best-selling mid-size car for each of the past 23 years.
If there’s anything the Camry represents, it’s a defiantly average offering that’ll ‘do the job’ without giving fuss or eliciting fervour. A steady-handed constant amongst the ebbs and flows, high and lows.
It also happens to be nothing short of a bargain for anyone who wants a reliable, solid, spacious and comfortable sedan, and who sees cars as a means to an end. We’re not strictly an enthusiast publication here at CarAdvice, and therefore we see the value in that.
Here we’re in the ‘sporty’ Camry RZ which you can pick up now for $29,990 drive-away before haggling, thousands cheaper than more fashionable rivals like the Mazda 6. Zero per cent finance too. and unlike the $3000 cheaper Camry Altise it doesn't look like a taxi.
That’s not much for a 4850mm long sedan that’ll comfortably seat four adults or five at a pinch, and a handful of travel cases in the 515-litre boot, more if you fold the back seats. A mid-range Honda Civic or Subaru Impreza doesn’t do it as easily…
We do wish there was a full-size, not temporary (215/60 R15) spare wheel under the floor, though.
The Camry RZ is the ‘sporty’ one because you get black 18-inch alloy wheels, a firmer suspension tune and some stickers that say ‘RZ’. Laugh, but in fact the 2015 Camry re-skin has actually held up well. It’s even handsome from some angles.
Under the bonnet of our tester is the familiar and basic 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol unit making 135kW of power at 6000rpm and 235Nm of torque from 4100rpm, sent to the front wheels. If you want the meaty V6 you’ll need to buy an Aurion, also a bargain.
As the graphs suggest, it needs to carry revs to feel its best, but it responds rather sweetly to throttle inputs and lugs its 1500kg body around just fine, thanks in part to the non-intrusive and anonymous six-speed automatic transmission.
Toyota claims 91 RON combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km, which squares comparatively well with our return of 9.1L/100km.
Other versions of the Camry can also be had with a petrol-electric hybrid system to cut fuel use dramatically, of especial interest to those who shop using a calculator to work out cost-of-life figures.
The Camry won’t win any awards for dynamism. The suspension in this guise makes the body a touch fidgety over sharp inputs without really sharpening the body control in turn, and the rack-and-pinion steering has a touch too much low-speed resistance.
However, it’s generally a fairly quiet and comfortable place to be, with good damping at highway speeds, decent body stability and reassuringly safe, predictable turn-in. There’s MacPherson strut-type independent suspension all-round.
It lacks the Mazda’s flair and the Volkswagen Passat’s plushness, but neither of them can hammer over speed humps at 50km/h without scraping the nose, and we wouldn’t subject either of that pair to the hardships faced by your average Camry…
The interior follows the trend of ‘simplicity done well’, with an old world design but near-flawless ergonomics. There’s ample seat and wheel adjustably, idiot-proof buttons and dials and acres of space. We don’t like the foot-operated park brake much, though.
Everything is screwed together well enough to give you faith in Victorian manufacturing after all, and the plastics and fabrics scattered about lack tactility but are durable as hell. Compare a four-year old Camry taxi to a FG Falcon and see which rattles less…
Standard features include seven airbags, two-zone climate control, dusk-sensing halogen headlights, a rear-view camera with all-round parking sensors, cruise control, DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth that re-pairs right away, and a touchscreen with satellite navigation.
The screen’s graphics are old hat, sure, but Toyota’s home screen that shows your map, shortcut tiles to your four favourite contacts, and your radio station or multimedia player, grows on you. The Camry is just easy, free of flair or fuss.
But take yourself out of the shoes of a motoring writer who drives everything new under the sun and put them into those of a consumer who couldn’t give a stuff about a car, and it offers exactly what you want.
From an ownership perspective the Camry gets Toyota’s modest three-year/100,000km warranty and 10,000km or six-month service intervals, though these visits are capped at $140 a pop. Once again, transparent and easy.
Those two words are what keep springing to mind as I write this copy, and did the same when I drove the car one final time. The VF II V8 Commodores and the FG X Falcons got the glory, but at the end of the road for Australian manufacturing, there’s another sort of pride here.
It’s pride that our country produced a car that has become a yardstick for a whole other segment, not because it’s especially brilliant, but because it’s essentially ubiquitous, and reassuringly ‘acceptable’ at everything it does.
For less than $30,000 on the road it’s an absolute steal if you want the maximum space for the least money. And while there’s no sex appeal or true Aussie identity to be found, the faithful Camry is still a profound vehicle for a lot of very solid reasons.