In recent years, the Toyota Camry, the undisputed boss of cars for bosses, has had its share of challenges and challengers. Others have begun to offer better tech, better looks and better efficiency after the previous Camry was launched in 2006.
Could this new Camry the bar once again? Let's find out.
Well, for one, the looks are indeed dignified. Actually, if you look close, you'll see plenty of details and cues that point to the Camry's more upmarket siblings at Lexus. Recognize the grille? It's strikingly similar to the L-Finesse design language found in the likes of the Lexus LS, as well as those tapered, rhomboid headlamps and foglamp bevels. Character lines and creases on the bumper, hood and the side profile lend a proper sense of class and presence that the Camry deserves.
Open the doors and a more modern interior is revealed. The old Camry (we drove the 2006 and 2010 3.5Q variants) had a rather old school interior that, matter of factly, was a bit plasticky especially with that rather tackily bright “wood” panelling. Not anymore.
The new model's dashboard, like the front end, is more Lexus; simpler and straightforward without the silver plastic panels. Instead the designers have gone with plain black and a deeper shade of “wood” panelling that gives a better sense of class. I do wish they used a piano black finish instead of a matte finish and perhaps an option for graphite trim instead of the wood, but this is certainly better than the old model... besides, the more senior target market of the Camry probably appreciates the trim as is.
The front seats (both power adjustable) seem to feel better than the previous versions that we drove before, but still, the back seat is where it's at. Being a “V” variant means that this Camry gets the premium leather treatment, along with a power sunshade for the rear windshield (which retracts automatically when in reverse) and a pair of pull-up window shades for the back row. The rear seats also recline with the push of a button on the rear armrest, and likewise has controls for the 3-Zone (driver, front passenger, rear) climate control system. As an added bonus for the boss in the right rear seat, the front passenger has buttons on the backrest to move it completely forward with a fold function for the headrest so he/she can see out front. No other car in its class has this.
There's also a significant improvement in tech over the old model, giving the car a right to go up against the younger competition like the Mazda6 and the Hyundai Sonata. The stereo in this 2.5V doesn't have the screen as the 3.5Q does, but it does have plenty of functions along with iPod/USB input, Aux input, 6-speakers and is controllable via a 4 way button pad on the steering wheel. Cruise control, HID headlamps, push button start/stop, smart entry, a multi-information display (trip, fuel eco, etc) are all standard. Also, a new gauge on the right of the instrument binnacle has a needle that points to the average fuel economy as well as a line of lights that indicates current fuel economy.
The strange thing is that when we published the launch story a few months back, several comments pointed to the boring nature of the market. Normally, I would be inclined to agree as, after all, the Camry has always been more oriented as a car to be driven in (read: chauffeur, or Manong driver in many cases), not one to be driven by the owner. That, thankfully, has changed quite a bit for this 2.5V model.
Looking around the cabin, several signs point to the chauffeur-driven nature that many examples will undoubtedly be destined for, but sitting behind the wheel and putting it through its paces, the Camry V is actually a balanced drive.
The new engine, a 2.5 liter unit with Dual VVT-i (intake, exhaust), produces 178 PS (old 2.4L: 170 PS) and 231 Nm of torque (old 2.4L: 231 Nm). It's mated to a new 6-speed gate-type automatic transmission; a significant improvement over the old 2.4 liter variant's 5-speed auto. As such, fuel economy is better than expected, averaging 12.4 km/l on the highway (100 km/h average, 3 passengers) and upwards of 9.5 in the city if you're giving fuel economy a real shot.
Around town, the Camry is expectedly comfortable and suppresses noise and harsh concrete roads quite well. I only got a chance to drive the 3.5 liter versions of the previous Camry, but AutoIndustriya Ed-in-chief Brent Co actually remarked that the ride of the 2.5V Camry is a significant improvement over the previous 2.4 model that his dad owns, so I'll take his word for it.
The competition in the executive car class (especially in the 2.4 – 2.5 liter variants) have really upped their game significantly. Hyundai has their Sonata 2.4 Premium with that high tech look, sporty drive and incredible amount of features like that glass roof. Then there's Mazda6 is there to provide real thrills for the exec who wishes to roll up his (or her) sleeves and drive. The Nissan Teana is at the opposite end of the spectrum, paying premium attention on comfort and ride.
The new Camry 2.5V strikes the middle ground again; providing a comfortable ride, a dignified sense of style, better economy and a surprisingly fun drive for a relatively big car. And, as an added bonus, compared to the old 2.4V, the price is again just right at PhP 1,681,000, though PhP 15,000 was added for the White Pearl finish for this unit.
Meet the new boss... better than the old boss.