I purchased my 2017 Camry RZ due to the pure fact that it’s a lot of car for $30,000, and the zero per cent finance that the Australian-built Camrys were selling with was a drawcard that turned out to be too good to resist.
It looks sporty, and I get a few people looking at me as I drive past (which is odd as it is a Camry). Being under 25, I wanted something sensible that I could afford to insure, with the promise to myself that I would purchase a properly fun car once I turned 25.
In my opinion this is a pretty good-looking car – and the RZ pack only accentuates the good looks. The black lip spoiler, black mirrors and black 18-inch wheels definitely exude a sporty attitude, especially when combined with the graphite colour that I bought. However, combined with my dark tinted windows, I do get mistaken for an undercover cop car more than I’d care to admit.
The interior surfaces are put together well with good quality materials. Looking at some of its rivals, I found their dashboards a bit on the cheaper side. The Optitron gauges (backlit in blue) look fantastic and are easy to read. The lack of digital speedo is a small gripe, but not really something to cry about, although the TFT screen between the gauges features trip computers and fuel consumption readings, as well as a compass. It will even display navigation instructions as it is connected to the sat-nav.
That said, you can tell the RZ is just an Altise with a few more bits. It features the basic, manually adjusting seats from the Altise, which while very comfortable for everyday driving, especially long-haul stuff, could have been more bolstered in line with the 'sporty' persona this car exudes (but I must remember I only paid $30,000 for this car).
The standard Toyota infotainment unit does its job adequately. While some might bemoan the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, I don’t mind so much personally, as I really only use the mobile phone functions for phone calls and listening to music, which the Bluetooth connection does very well. The sound system is good for a basic six-speaker system. Part of me wishes I sprung another $4000 for the Atara SX that would have given me the premium JBL sound system, though.
The smart entry and push-button start are great features, meaning I never have to pull the keys out of my pocket to get in and start the car. The sat-nav is competent and fairly up to date, and I have activated the feature that warns me of school zones, speed cameras and the like, which is a big plus in unfamiliar areas. The aforementioned screen in the gauge cluster that displays sat-nav directions and what street you are on is a godsend for someone like me, who has a poor sense of direction and location.
The servicing is capped for my first five services at $140 each every nine months, which is very cheap, with longer intervals than most Toyotas.
The driving experience is good for what the car is. The suspension tune is great in some respects and not so great in others. On the one hand, it corners competently, and better than you’d expect a front-wheel-drive family sedan to perform. It’s actually pretty fun when pushing it through some mountain roads or catching the apexes of your suburb’s chain of roundabouts.
On the other hand, it does transmit more of the consequences of harsh roads through the suspension – it crashes over some bumps. On the whole it is quite smooth, but a luxury car this is not.
This car is extremely quiet. The noise insulation is absolutely fantastic, topping most other cars that I’ve ever driven (there’s even noise-suppressant material in the wheel arches that is almost akin to carpet!). That said, road noise is minimal.
The engine and transmission combo is well-matched to the car and its purpose, but not the most exciting. The 2.5-litre inline-four needs to rev to around 4000–4500rpm to get truly moving, but once there it does surprise you with its capability. This isn’t a hot hatch or sports car by any means, but you can embarrass a few people from the lights or through some corners.
After 17,000km, the engine is well and truly run-in, and the six-speed automatic has learned my driving habits – which means it is more than happy to drop gears and rev when pushed. That said, the engine has learned to act this way – early on in my ownership, the engine would only begrudgingly rev or downshift, but I wouldn’t expect any different from a family sedan.
The 2.5-litre motor averages around the high nines to mid-10 litres per 100km, based on mostly urban travel, which is pretty average for a sedan of this size with this sort of motor (I also have a heavy right foot). If you are after fantastic economy, one of the hybrid models might be more your ticket (which funnily enough have more power than the petrol-only version).
This car has had no mechanical dramas, which is pretty standard, one would hope, for a new car. It’s been in for a warranty claim for a replacement rear wing, as the adhesive used to bond it to the car was peeling off the boot. The car does stay in the sun all day and I grab the boot by the wing to shut it, which could be potential causes of this problem, but Toyota happily replaced the wing for me under warranty, so it was no skin off my back.
In terms of practicality, it is brilliant for transporting four adults with no dramas whatsoever. I have transported an IKEA flat-pack couch in it with much cramming and pulling items out of boxes, so while it isn’t as practical as an SUV, I don’t use my car for carting large items often (and I despise SUVs so I would never own one).
In my opinion, a move to a lower displacement, forced-induction engine (perhaps the 2.0-litre turbo from the Lexus range with 180kW?) would suit a car like this better, lowering the fuel consumption while upping the power and torque outputs. It’s a bit annoying that Toyota has carried over this engine into the new-model Camry, instead of using the new Dynamic Force engine that features in the hybrid and US market models, or the aforementioned 2.0-litre turbo.
I wish it was rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, but then it would have been far more expensive. Also, Toyota, seriously, just add CarPlay already – if for nothing else but to stop the motoring journos whining.
Should I have waited for the new model? If I weren’t financing the car I’d say definitely yes, but I do feel a bit patriotic owning one of the last Aussie-built cars, even if it is a humble Camry.
I do still wish I bought an SS, though, and put up with the higher running costs…