The Toyota Camry isn’t exactly renowned as a sports car of any kind. There have been varying sporty-skewed variants in the past, but none were really aspiring performance cars. Nor is the 2019 Camry SX V6 to be honest.
The positioning raises no issues either. It’s much harder to justify a relentlessly hard riding, uncompromising, razor-sharp sports sedan, than it is to trick up a mainstream model with larger wheels and a rear spoiler.
There’s more to the Camry SX than just tacked-on additions. Better still, it’s spacious, well equipped, mostly quiet and comfortable, and just the thing for covering off the kinds of big distances that lie between major Australian towns.
With a range that starts from $27,790 (plus on-road costs) for the entry-level Camry Ascent four-cylinder, the Camry family encompasses a number of four-pot, hybrid and V6 options. The cheapest way into the big-six brigade is this, the Camry SX V6 from $37,390 (+ORCs), or if you don’t see the need for quite so much grunt, a four-cylinder SX starts from $33,390 (+ORCs).
It’s no modest engine either. The Camry’s 3.5-litre V6 is shared amongst other members of the Toyota and Lexus family, as is the eight-speed automatic it’s accompanied by. Outputs are rated at 224kW at 6600rpm and 362Nm at 4700rpm.
The engine’s a real gem, too. It’s incredibly smooth throughout its rev range, and develops a rather lovely and precise yowl at high RPM. It’s also grunty enough to deliver strong performance throughout the rev range, not lacking for torque at lower speeds, even without the extra push available from a smaller turbocharged engine.
On the equipment list, the Camry SX boasts a solid array of standard kit, including dual-zone climate control, sports front seats with leather seat trim, wireless phone charging, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, CD player, keyless entry and start, powered driver’s seat, and a 7.0-inch digital instrument display.
Toyota trails the pack on infotainment tech by omitting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring for the time being. However, with the recent announcement that the RAV4 will adopt the tech from later this year, it’s likely to be added soon and potentially retrofittable to existing cars.
As it stands right now, the interior is clear and concise. Buttons are broadly spaced out, climate controls get their own simple interface instead of being grouped into the head unit, and the touchscreen itself, while not high-resolution or cutting edge, is still simple enough to decipher on the fly.
To give it a hint of sporting flair, the SX rides on 19-inch alloy wheels (the largest ever fitted to a Camry from factory) comes with sports-styled front and rear bumpers with gloss-black inserts, a low-line rear spoiler and quad-tipped exhaust outlets. The SX also picks up LED head- and tail-lights.
On the safety and technology front, the Camry SX delivers seven airbags, reversing camera, front and rear park sensors, lane-departure alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beam, and an electric park brake. The only major things missing are blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, which are available on the top-spec Camry SL.
Inside, the design is pleasant and treads the fine line between being familiar enough for previous Camry owners to acclimate to quickly, while also moving the presentation and quality up significantly over older models.
The asymmetric centre stack might be confronting to those with OCD tendencies, and the design also means that long-legged passengers lose a chunk of right knee room up front.
There’s enough space and a broad range of adjustment to accommodate most shapes and sizes up front. The front seats do feel a little on the high side, though it’s something you’ll adapt to with time, but at first the driver’s perch can feel a little lofty
Rear seat passengers should be equally as satisfied with the accommodation on offer. There’s enough room in every direction for everyone from the youngest members of the family up to adults.
Head room may not be quite as generous as an equivalent SUV, and fixed backrests without the ability to recline aren’t as configurable as you might otherwise find, but even on long hauls the Camry does an excellent job of rear seat comfort. Avoid the optional sunroof and there’s nothing to interrupt overhead space in the rear.
The boot, with a space-saver spare tyre under its floor, provides a handy 524L of luggage space, plus 60:40 folding rear seats to handle larger items. Amongst its peers, the Camry out-boots the 474L Mazda 6 sedan and 490L Holden Commodore liftback.
At the Camry’s core lies Toyota’s latest-generation chassis architecture called TNGA-K, which also underpins the RAV4 and next Kluger (due next year). It’s stiffer, stronger and safer than before, but Toyota has also invested real time and effort in ensuring the basic engineering hardpoints give better driving dynamics and improved comfort with reduced noise and vibration.
It’s an important distinction for the Camry, which over the generations has always been good enough, improving a little with each new model. It hasn’t ever led the midsize class in anything other than sales, though, with performance criteria seemingly given a lower priority.
The changes this time around won’t be enough to scare off loyal Camry owners, but buyers who crave the connected feel of a Mazda 6, or the refinement of a Volkswagen Passat, won’t feel alienated by the Camry this time.
In SX trim, the Camry deploys a slightly firmer sports suspension, and the difference is minuscule. Few will find the ride unpleasant. It’s smooth enough to deal with Australia’s plethora of broken road surfaces, and has enough travel to tackle towering speed humps or unexpected potholes without shaking occupants about.
The set-up also means the SX isn’t deathly afraid of a winding stretch of road. It won’t deliver the razor-sharp response of a dedicated performance model (which are few and far between in the mid-size sedan class anyway), but does have nicely weighted and predictable steering, inherent chassis stability, and a suitable level cornering attitude without becoming tiresome or hard to live with.
More importantly, the engine is quiet, smooth and utterly unobtrusive for zipping about the suburbs, with heaps of zing up its sleeve for highway overtaking.
Refinement is impressive, although the eight-speed auto can be indecisive at times, which creates a pause in power delivery. Nothing concerning, but a blemish in an otherwise impressive package all the same.
Given that the Camry packs in a fairly powerful engine and lacks stop/start or cylinder deactivation tech, official fuel consumption is rated at 8.9 litres per 100km, with 95RON premium unleaded specified as a minimum. After a week of mixed driving, a still decent 9.5L/100km resulted from the Camry’s time in the CA office.
Some of the sharpest service pricing in the market sees the first five 12-month or 15,000km visits capped at $195 per service. Toyota also covers its range with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
As a balanced all-rounder, the Camry, not just in SX guise but across all variants, really shines. Comfortable, spacious, stylish yet modest and safe – there’s not really much more an Aussie could ask for.
The Camry SX V6 adds rewarding V6 performance, a little visual heat, and handling that’s been tightened up without spoiling the comfortable conservatism that’s long been a Camry mainstay. It might not be a muscle-flexing high-performance monster, but for leagues of growing families with big-six aspirations, the Camry SX V6 provides equal measures of exuberance and utility.