The Toyota Camry has come in for a mid-life facelift, and the changes are more than skin deep.
Beyond a subtle redesign of the front bumper, the 2021 Toyota Camry range will gain more advanced safety features, a tablet-style infotainment screen in the middle of the dash, and hybrid versions will get a lithium-ion battery pack.
The Toyota Camry has been Australia’s favourite sedan since the death of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore – and our best-selling medium-size car for the past 26 years in a row.
It has also carved out a sizeable slice of the hybrid market; more than half of all Toyota Camry sedans sold in Australia so far this year have petrol-electric power.
Externally, the changes are hard to spot. Toyota has clearly decided not to mess with the best-looking Camry of all time.
Mid-life facelifts usually involve subtle changes to the front and rear appearance, with new headlight and bumper designs. In extreme cases, mid-life updates can get a complete reskin, as was the case with the previous generation Toyota Camry.
But with the latest generation Toyota Camry reaching new levels of popularity globally – in part due to its daring US-based design, and in part due to rivals falling by the wayside – wisely, very minor changes have been made at the halfway point in its model cycle.
The sporty versions have slightly larger fake air ducts in each corner of the front bumper, and the mainstream versions have a different bend in their super-wide louvres.
Inside, the integrated infotainment screen in the middle of the dash has been replaced by a more upright, tablet-style design. As with the current model, it will continue to be embedded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In Australia, all Toyota Camry sedans since the current generation was introduced in November 2017 have the full suite of advanced safety tech, including radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and speed sign recognition.
The 2021 Toyota Camry retains these safety features, but has expanded the ability of key features.
At cruising speeds, the radar cruise control will now provide an initial increase in acceleration in preparation for changing lanes – if the system detects the driver has activated a turn signal and started to gently move the steering wheel.
When cruise control is active, the 2021 Toyota Camry will be able to match the vehicle’s speed – by accelerating or braking – to the posted limit, after detecting the signs.
The suite of advanced tech, called Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, also enhances pre-collision warnings, and can detect – and avoid – more obstacles.
“It is now possible for the system to help detect not only the vehicle ahead, but also a preceding bicyclist in daytime and even a preceding pedestrian in low-light conditions,” said a statement from Toyota USA.
“At intersections, the system may detect an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when (turning at an intersection) and may provide audio/visual alerts and automatic braking in certain conditions,” the Toyota USA statement continued.
The upgraded tech is also able to “stabilise the driver’s emergency steering manouvres within their lane while avoiding a … pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle,” the company says.
The upgrade to the Toyota Camry’s hybrid battery pack will be fitted to the current model as a running change from next month, and will flow into the 2021 model.
The current 245V nickel metal hydride battery pack (paired to a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine) will be replaced with a new more efficient 259V lithium-ion battery pack and will take up no more space than current arrangement.
However, it is unclear if the regular, non-hybrid four-cylinder versions of the 2021 Toyota Camry sold in Australia will be upgraded to an eight-speed auto.
In the US, the Toyota Camry four-cylinder and V6 petrol variants are backed by an eight-speed auto. In Australia the four-cylinder has a six-speed auto and the V6 has an eight-speed. The hybrid has a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
The eight-speed auto would deliver brisker acceleration and even better economy to four-cylinder versions.