Despite increasing fuel prices and high costs associated with car ownership, manufacturers are keen to launch luxury cars in India. Of course in the grand scheme of things and compared to other segments, the sales of these cars is a small number but it’s not about the sales as its about brand building and increasing the premium image of the brand with having cars that people will aspire to have is important. Toyota for example has just launched the new ‘petrol only’ Camry in India – Yes, I can hear strong voices saying ‘no diesel’ and ‘too expensive’ , but there is a small minority of people who value comfort, refinement and brand over everything else and thus matters like what fuel the car sips sometimes is irrelevant.
It is for them that the Camry is aimed squarely at. This then is the new 7th generation Camry which promises to give the luxury car buyer a lot more value this time including sporting a ‘realistic’ price-tag thanks to the fact that it is assembled here. So, how does it fare against its rivals and does it set a new benchmark in its class? It took an exhaustive road test and a full day’s drive to find out.
The now last gen Camry was a radical departure over its predecessor, it was curvy and a lot more attractive. But sadly it did not do that well, because it’s not what the owners wanted. It was almost like the prospective buyers marched towards Toyota HQ and demanded a back to basics style redesign including removing those curvy lines and that i-pod like centre-console.
This new 7th gen Camry thus apes its grandfather in styling and is now more square-ish in looks and looks more like Toyota’s premium brand offerings, the Lexus ones. However the looks a pure Toyota and you cannot mistake it for anything else. Compared to rivals like the Honda Accord it is not as sharp to look at but manages to look extremely elegant. One thing for sure thanks to its size it looks bigger than the current one and has more presence. That’s what matters, respect on the road and the new Camry gives you that in truckloads.
The huge headlights and that big chrome grille make their presence felt easily and that bulge on the bonnet also accentuates the appeal of the car. Look at the side of the new Camry and its 4825mm length means it looks more like an E-Class rival and a more expensive car than it actually is. The rear styling is keeping with the rest of the design theme of the new Camry which is angular and devoid of curves. Those big tail-lights and lots of chrome further add to the ‘luxury’ factor.
Step inside and again its back to the old days. The leather, faux- wood finish all look pure luxury and nothing else. The basic are all there, gadgets, lots and lots of space and a sense of calmness that is so important to have in cars like these. The design of the interiors is conservative but it’s all high quality and the sense of solidity and luxury is maintained all throughout the cabin. The four spoke steering is covered with faux-wood finish and also features controls for audio and Bluetooth.
The dash houses a touch screen DVD display and audio with CD/MP3, USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth connectivity. Other goodies include keyless entry, push button start/stop, rain-sensing wipers, rear AC vents, front and rear parking sensors, smart entry system and dual zone climate control. The buttons on the centre console are logically laid out and are easy to use. When it comes to comfort the new Camry is also well equipped in this area. The large comfy front seats are 8 way adjustable electrically and are perfect for long journeys and driving in chaotic traffic.
A neat feature in the new Camry is that the passenger front seat has an extra set of buttons so that it enables the rear passenger or the driver to move the seat when no one is sitting without reaching for the controls placed lower in the seat. This system is similar to the VW Vento but the difference is that it is done electrically in the Camry.
Now to the bit that matters- the rear seat. Thankfully for Toyota its good news though, as customers will be happy with the amount of legroom on offer. In this segment it is given that most are chauffeur driven and this is where the new Camry scores a big plus. The rear seat has perfect under thigh support and headroom too is excellent. You can really stretch out and relax here. The foldable centre arm rest also acts as a storage place but what is disappointing is the lack of controls at the rear. This might put off buyers more than the fact that it’s only in petrol! Overall the new Camry is a very nice place to be in because of its calming effect and the old school luxury touches.
The new Camry is powered by a 2.5 litre four cylinder petrol engine producing 180 bhp @ 6000 rpm and 233Nm of torque @ 4100 rpm. The last gen Camry had 166 bhp in comparison. The new Camry is all about a silent and relaxed drive. The 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth and wonderfully adapts to the nature of the new Camry. The gearbox has ‘D’ and ‘S’ modes. No surprise for guessing we left it in ‘D’ mode nearly all the time. If you want proper driving thrills get a BMW 3-Series.
However there is enough power at all times and power delivery couldn’t get any smoother. So good and relaxing is the new Camry to drive that you do not notice some big numbers cropping up in the speedo. Should you ever be late for a board meeting and chauffeur has taken leave, the 0-100 km/h of about 10 seconds will mean you will not be late. Plus it will do 200 km/h with ease and it will sit on big speeds all day long without breaking into a sweat.
The new Camry also has an Eco drive indicator, which gives update whether we are driving in Eco mode or not. We tried driving in eco mode for some time but the temptation to whip the 2.5 litre engine was too much to ignore. However in our ‘Eco’ driving time we managed 7.5 kmpl. Not that many owners will care and all that…
Ride quality is of high importance to customers in this segment as they don’t want to spill their coffee (in morning) and champagne (at night) when sitting at the back thus this is what they most look forward too as all that space at the back is wasted if you are bouncing all over the place. The good news is that it’s far from that, the ride is simply fantastic and the soft suspension just swallows everything in its path. In terms of handling, it’s actually very good for a large and heavy car. The steering is just as you expect- light and direct.
The new Camry is a very good saloon and is significantly better than the one it replaces as it does exactly what the customer demands. The biggest stumbling block though is the lack of a diesel something which rivals like the Skoda Superb and VW Passat have. As I have said before however Toyota is saying that it is marketing the Camry differently and that customers want reliability and comfort. The new Toyota Camry certainly has that and backed by its huge dealer network, you can be rest assured and have peace of mind when you buy one of these. In fact its peace of mind that you will get when you get a Camry, it has a fantastic ride, comfy interiors and the Toyota reliability means that you can pass it on to your children if you want to.
Priced at 23.8 lakhs (ex-showroom, New Delhi), the new Camry is not cheap (blame the weak rupee, it could have been cheaper) and not short of credible rivals but look closer and it’s the perfect luxury car to have from one of the most reliable brands in the world.