What are the first words that come to mind when you hear or read ‘Toyota Camry’. You are probably associating it with words such as dull, boring, average, reliable, taxi. But that’s okay, because it’s definitely what the Camry was known for a couple of years ago, so is the new range topping 2019 Toyota Camry SL V6 bringing any excitement along with it’s new platform. We think so.
Growing up in South Africa, the Toyota Camry was a fairly common sight (as it is here in Australia) and they were bought because long before there were SUVs and Dual Cabs clogging up the roads, the biggest sellers were sedans. My Grandmother still has hers to this day, it’s clocked up around 450,000km and still gets driven daily, with everything still working. Toyota had a few things going for it over their competitors, but the biggest draw card for most people was the quality, durability and reliability of it. In fact, Toyota’s slogan in the 80’s and early 90’s was “Everything keeps going right, Toyota” and it did, Toyota’s entire bulletproof reputation was founded on that slogan from 1973.
With great success however, comes a stereotype it appears. The Camry was known as your grandfather/grandmothers car. You could get them in any colour you want as long as it was uninteresting white, or boring beige. They became the poster car for the pensioner. The ultimate companion to keep you going, until you don’t anymore. Through the years Toyota tried to “spruce up” the Camry, such as 2014 and 2017 with the RZ, which brought some gloss black highlights everywhere and subtle bodykits, but it still wasn’t enough. It wasn’t exciting, looking at it nor driving it.
Fast forward to 2018, Toyota reveals the new Camry on a whole new architecture platform (TNGA – Toyota New Global Architecture) . At long last, it appears Toyota has injected some youth and soul into the Camry! It’s definitely better to look at, from any angle, and in the range topping guise that we’re testing here with the mighty 3.5-litre V6, it’s pretty fun to drive around too. Toyota has finally succeeded in making the Camry a genuinely interesting and exciting car. So let’s go over the changes.
The exterior design is an absolute winner, sporting a very hard to miss, just the right amount of aggression front grille that gives off the effect of massive air intakes on either side. Swoop around to the back and you have a very sporty style diffuser with vents below the tail lights, and quad exhaust tips! On a Camry! If anything, to any motoring enthusiast, Quad Exhaust tops will always get your attention and a smile. If you think it looks bigger than the previous model, you’d be right. The eighth-generation Camry is 55mm longer (4905mm), 5mm wider (1840mm), and 25mm lower (1445mm) than the outgoing model.
Inside the cabin, you’d immediately almost think you’re sitting in a Lexus. There is a seriously premium feel about the cabin in the SL V6, which has been draped in a plethora of soft-touch materials on the dash and doors, along with a crystal clear touchscreen with crisp new graphics, and some of the most comfortable (and ventilated) seats you will ever sit in. There is also a panoramic full glass roof, electro-chromatic interior mirror, 10-inch colour head-up display, powered steering column and an electric parking brake. There are also three USB ports and a wireless phone charger pad.
The infotainment screen itself measures in at 8.0-inches and is a full colour touch display. There is also Digital Radio and Bluetooth Connectivity, Mobile Assistant with Siri® Eyes Free and Google Now, voice recognition and Satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates.
The Camry SL V6 also has you covered from the safety aspect as well, coming standard with Toyota Safety Sense, including features such as Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision Safety System with pedestrian detection, Automatic High Beam and All-SpeedActive Cruise Control. There is also Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control, Hill-start Assist Control and Brake Hold, Reversing camera with moving guidelines, 7 SRS airbags – dual front, front side, full length curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag and a Five Star ANCAP Safety rating. There are also ISOFIX points for the two outward seats in the rear.
Space is another important factor for the family man, and the Camry doesn’t disappoint with 524L of boot space, and the ability for the second row to fold down for extra room when you may need it. Occupants seated in the second row are also treated to two USB power outlets, along with air-con vents at the back of the centre console.
Here is where the interesting part comes. The drive. Toyota have made a big fuss about this new V6 Camry, and so they should. The 3.5-litre V6 develops 224kW at 6600rpm and 362Nm of torque at 4700rpm, mated to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic sending power to the front wheels. It’s a really pleasant driveline, and manages to haul the mid-size sedan with a decent amount of enthusiasm and eagerness. Fuel Consumption is claimed by Toyota to be 8.9L/100km. Our real world testing returned an average of 10.5L/100km with a mix of city and highway driving.
It’s also a much more pleasant drive as a whole, with the re-tuned suspension feeling like it’s trying to assist and work with you, rather than just “being there”. It’s not perfect or as sharp as a 3-Series BMW, but it is abundantly better than any previous model Camry. The ride is smooth and compliant, with little body roll or reluctance to change direction. The steering is light, making it super easy for navigating small roads or the car park at your local Woolies or Coles.
Toyota now also offers up a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, so you’ve also got some pretty cheap and typical Toyota worry-free motoring ahead of you. Servicing is $195 every 12 months or 15,000km for the first five years or 75,000km.
Toyota have really done well with this new Camry and pulled off a fair sized achievement, placing the Camry firmly in contention among mid-sizers. Sure, the price has increased by several thousand, but for a vehicle that has improved this much, those new prices feel like a pretty sharp deal.
And yes, we know the Camry is no longer an Australian built car, and whilst that does bring sadness to some (and we completely understand that position) we have to be honest and say, we’re glad. Why, you ask? Simply put, Toyota have been released from bearing the costs of manufacturing cars in a small and inefficient market, with those costs now being re-invested back into engineering, and this Camry SL V6 proves that. This Japanese built Toyota Camry is a absolutely fantastic car and one we’re more than happy to recommend to buyers.
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Output: 224kW@6600rpm / 362Nm@4700rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: Front & Rear: 18×8.0, 235/45/18 Tyres
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1595kg
Power-to-weight: 7.12:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.9L/100km
Economy during test: 10.5L/100km
Fuel Capacity/Type: 60L/95 RON
Priced from: $43,990 (plus on-road costs)
We won’t lie. We weren’t expecting to be overly impressed – but we most certainly were. The new Camry SL V6 is generations ahead ahead of the previous model, with a mammoth amount of standard features inside and out, and the return of that punchy V6 engine. It’s an incredibly comfortable ride that handles itself well and has enough space and comfort for five passengers, with a decent sized boot for all the luggage.
What we liked:
That V6 engine – smooth, refined and powerful.
Next level luxury interior.
New bold exterior styling.
What we didn’t like:
Fuel economy can be a bit on the thirsty side, but for some it’s a worthwhile trade off.
Infotainment can be a bit slow to react at certain times, not a fan of the lock out feature when the vehicle is moving so not even a passenger can operate it.