The 2015 Toyota Camry Review

The 2015 Toyota Camry Review
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 This seems like the last of its kinds in its own world.

The night before getting behind the wheel of the Camry Atara S on test I drove the Camry Altise Hybrid home. And the realisation struck me that the Hybrid – for $1000 more than the admittedly better-equipped Camry Atara S – is the car to buy.

Just $1000 more for a car that rides nicer and will likely pay for the purchase price premium at the fuel pump within 12 months leaves you feeling like every Camry in the range should have been a hybrid for this series, the last generation to be built in Australia.

The Atara S, without the benefit of supplemental electric power but featuring an idle-stop system and a six-speed automatic, returned an unimpressive 10.9L/100km, during a school-holidays week of relatively gentle driving.

If the Camry didn't knock my socks off for its fuel efficiency however, it made a better showing with its power delivery when given a bit of stick. I found the engine to be refined, and – dare I say it – muscular in character. It pulled strongly from low revs right through to redline. While it didn't sound as charismatic as the Mazda6 petrol engine, it was more likeable than some mid-size passenger-car engines from other brands.

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The six-speed auto and the 2.5-litre four-cylinder made for a good combination, but just dawdling around town the automatic changed in a slow, lackadaisical way that almost came across like a CVT. Changes were responsive however, (without being sharp) when the lever was dragged across to sport mode and the driver shifted manually – either with the lever or the shift paddles.

Uniquely, with the cruise control set to a certain speed on a steep grade the transmission would shift back a gear and hold that gear in anticipation of climbing out of the valley on the other side. The downshift didn't limit the speed on the descent, unfortunately, but did maintain speed for the climb on the other side by holding the right gear in readiness.

In the wet the Camry Atara S would spin a drive wheel and invoke axle tramp. There was a hint of torque steer too, at times, although Toyota's engineers have done well to suppress this – courtesy of the pre-load differential – and the Camry's stability control system kept the car tracking neatly around a corner, even as understeer became prevalent and the driver was hauling more lock to keep it headed in the right direction. The stability control system could get a bit feverish (over) correcting understeer, and driving the tail of the car out but washing off speed at the same time.

Handling was otherwise safe but uninspiring, although adhesion was admirable. The Camry held on well in corners and under brakes, and displayed a respectable level of surefootedness in the wet. There was reasonable feedback through the wheel in corners, but less so at the straight-ahead. The brake pedal felt initially soft, but did firm up when pressed with a bit more force.

Ride quality was a bit fidgety over small bumps, which contrasted with the ride of the Hybrid, as already mentioned. On 17-inch wheels and without the hybrid model's weight distribution, the Camry Atara S just lacked the body control of the hybrid on its 16-inch wheels. This was particularly apparent on country roads. The Atara S would absorb heavier impacts well enough however.

During a week of inclement weather the Camry's coping mechanisms were up to scratch. It would splash through standing water without any directional waywardness. There were only four intermittent wiper dwell settings. Most of the time that was all that was really needed, although the longest delay setting was shorter than that of many other cars'. The headlights were mediocre at night, quite frankly, which may pose a problem for country drivers.

Reverse parking sensors wouldn't pick up obstacles behind until the Camry was quite close. And the angle of scan seemed to be very narrow, so they were less likely to alert the driver as the car approached a high gutter, as one example.

The Camry provided comfortable, well-shaped seating, helped by the welcome addition of power-adjustable lumbar support. They were unexpectedly supportive overall, without being a trap to leave.

The driving position was generally fine. Instrument calibrations were huge and effortlessly easy to read, leaving no excuse for speeding. On the right side of the instrument binnacle was an analogue fuel consumption gauge that reset with the trip meter wand that also resets the LCD trip computer in the base of the binnacle. The wand is a bit old-fashioned, when other brands are using a button on one or other of the spokes of the multi-function wheel. It's also hard to reset or scroll through the functions on the fly. The driver needs to lean forward to push the wand through the spokes of the wheel, which is far from ergonomically ideal while the vehicle is in motion.

The LCD display itself also incorporates the engine temperature read-out, which is a single black bar on a sliding scale – and that took a little while to get used to.

The transmission shifted through a gated detente, which I personally didn't mind, but wouldn't be everyone's cup of char. Less to my liking was the foot-operated parking brake where a clutch pedal would be. Once released it was out of the way and left room for the driver to park the left foot on the footrest, and it also liberated room in the centre console for more storage.

There was a deep bin under the centre armrest in the front, and two cupholders were located close to the front passenger's seat, with an additional storage bin under the centre fascia. This featured a lift-up lid that opened to reveal USB/aux porting. In the doors there was a bottle-holder annex to the storage receptacle for documents and other oddments. It was much the same situation in the rear, with decent storage inside the back doors.

There was plenty of rear-seat space, plus face-level vents in rear of the centre console. The large, fully-lined boot held a full-size spare (on an alloy wheel too) in a well under the floor. All points in the Camry's favour.

Although it might have eluded many, this new Camry is a major facelift of the previous model, not an all-new car. That's most apparent with the centre fascia, which is basically carried over from the previous model and works well enough, but looks out of place if you're familiar with the older model.

For build quality the Camry felt well put together, albeit from inexpensive materials. The doors closed with a muffled thud and the indicator and wiper stalks felt tight but softly-damped. Nevertheless the overall impression was a bit on the cheap side.

Ultimately however, the new Camry will find plenty of buyers. It's arguably the best looking Camry ever, and it retains all the hallmarks for which Toyota is rightly renowned. But if it were my money, I'd find it hard to ignore the compelling case that is the Camry Hybrid.

2015 Toyota Camry Atara S pricing and specifications:
Price: $29,490 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Output: 135kW/235Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel: 7.8L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 183g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP

What we liked:
>> Best looking Camry ever?
>> Dynamically safe
>> Effective power delivery

Not so much:

>> Ride/handling balance trails Hybrid's
>> Some ergonomic no-nos
>> Headlights literally lacklustre

Source: Motoring
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