27 September 2023

Old Family Values In Passat Wagon

Start the conversation

By Paul Gover.

For a long time the Toyota Camry was not much better than a four-wheeled refrigerator.

It kept you cool and it was as reliable as a Frigidaire, but there was no personality. It was as exciting as white goods.

Thankfully, the latest Camry is much more than just a two-door frost-free fridge, with some real style and enjoyment.

It feels more like a Lexus than a bog-boring Camry, with classy materials, an upscale interior, impressive economy and brisk performance with a 3.5-litre V6 engine.

People are queuing for months to get the latest Toyota hybrids, particularly the RAV4 and Corolla, but the latest Camry SL is proof that a petrol-electric powertrain is not the only solution for driving in 2020.

And, with petrol prices continuing their dive below $1.00, it’s a good time to have a silky-smooth V6 under the bonnet with the promise of 6 litres/100km highway cruising and solid overtaking with a 0-100km/h sprint time below 10 seconds.

So the Camry is good to drive. It rides very nicely and, for a family car, the cornering grip and balance is good.

After a week with a Volkswagen Passat, the Camry is more proof that SUV buyers are going the wrong way for everything but chunky styling.

Toyota has even – finally – joined almost all the motoring world in providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, after ignoring connectivity for far too long.

The Camry package is solid in every area, from seating for five adults to a big boot and well-tailor trim. Even the design has some elegance, unlike the earlier boxy Camrys and the over-done extravagance of top-end Lexus models.

The seats are supportive, the dash is well designed with a reasonably-sized infotainment screen – but not a match for the latest from Volkswagen – and the Camry has the usual intuitive and easy-to-use Toyota controls. The organisation of the infotainment can be a bit confusing, but it’s all there once you find it.

On the go, the Camry SL is smooth and responsive. And very, very quiet.

The V6 engine is a gem and there are even flappy paddles – although they feel very, very cheap and plasticky – if you want to talk manual control of the gearbox. Toyota probably feels that most owners will avoid the paddles, which is why they feel so nasty.

The car cruises easily, is not troubled by hills, and the corning grip is fine. It’s not a sports car, but that’s not the audience.

Sadly, the audience for cars like the Camry is falling as rapidly as SUV sales are growing. It was once a heartland car in Australia but these days even the government departments and company fleets that relied on the Camry have deserted the four-door sedan in favour of SUVs.

It’s a pity, because the latest Camry is the best car to have carried the badge. It does what it says, has one of the best reliability records on the road, and will be rock-solid on resale.

And, of course, the air-conditioning is just plain excellent.

Toyota Camry SL
Price: from $40,590
Power: 224kW/362Nm
Position: Mid-sized family sedan
Plus: best Camry yet
Minus: a bland reputation

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.