Toyota Camry


Debut: 2017
Maker: Toyota
Predecessor: Camry (2011)



 Published on 18 Jul 2017
All rights reserved. 


Following the company strategy, Camry has switched to a radical styling.


Toyota Camry has always been high on practicality but short of charm. Its main selling points are comfort, reliability and value for money, but on the downside it looks and drives boring. In fact, many Toyotas are just the same. However, there are signs of change in recent years. Under the leadership of Akio Toyoda, Toyota group has shifted its design strategy towards the radical side. New cars like Prius, Mirai, Aygo, C-HR, Lexus IS, NX, RX, RC and LC are all deemed to be the most radically styled cars in their respective classes, washing away the conservative image traditionally associated with the group. This radical theme now extends to its best-selling family car.

With a total sales number of 389,000 units, the Camry was still the best-selling car in the USA last year, a title it held for the last 15 years. However, that number represented a 9.5 percent decline, so the new generation comes at the right time. Like the new Lexus LS, the new Camry is made much lower, sleeker and sportier. Its nose is slimmer, its back faster and its roof is lowered by 30mm. The car gets 20mm wider and 10mm longer. The bonnet is set as much as 40mm lower than that of the old car, while the waistline is also lowered. Drag coefficient is lowered slightly from 0.28 to 0.27. The design details are sharper and more aggressive, especially the big and wide whale mouth. Again the sport models (SE and XSE) employ different front end design, extra aero kits and larger, 19-inch wheels shod with wider tires. Will average American families prefer it? We have to see, but we definitely do. It might not be as beautiful as Mazda 6, Ford Fusion/Mondeo or Kia Optima, nor it is as graceful as Volkswagen Passat or Renault Talisman, but it has an upper hand going against its arch-rivals Honda Accord (especially the 10th generation just unveiled last week) and Hyundai Sonata.



The bonnet is set as much as 40mm lower than that of the old car, while the waistline is also lowered.


The new car is benefited from the TNGA platform of new Prius. It is not only lighter but most importantly has the rear struts replaced with double-wishbone suspensions in a bid to improve handling and ride. The body is strengthened by 30 percent which helps refinement, while center of gravity is lowered to enhance handling. The wheelbase has been lengthened by 50mm to 2825mm to match the new class norm. Fears about the lower roof can be relieved by knowing that the seats are also mounted lower, by 25mm and 30mm front and rear respectively, so both headroom loses only 13mm. Disappointingly, despite the longer wheelbase, rear legroom is reduced by 23mm, mainly due to the multi-link suspension instead of the more compact struts of the old car. That said, it is still roomy enough for the class.

Inside, the dashboard design is certainly more interesting than the bland one on the old car. It is served with updated infotainment system with larger touchscreen. Although the mass-selling Toyota family car still uses conventional instrument dials, they sandwich a more sophisticated 7-inch color trip computer screen (admittedly, base model comes with a less appealing 4.2-inch unit). Overall the materials and build quality are quite good without threatening premium brands, although the large gaps between the dash and door panels look unimpressive. As expected for a Toyota, ergonomics is good as switches are logically placed and the center touchscreen is positioned high enough. Thanks to a lower waistline, the cabin feels airy and affords good outward visibility.  Another good news is that the hybrid power model finally offers folding rear seats as its more compact battery has been repositioned under the rear seat. This also gives its the same trunk space as other models.



Thanks to a lower waistline, the cabin feels airy and affords good outward visibility.


While Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and Hyundai turned to downsized turbocharged engines, Toyota Camry sticks with a long-stroke 2.5-liter four-cylinder for the base model and 3.5-liter V6 for premium models. However, both of them gain D-4S direct and port injection system to enable higher compression ratio hence more power. Called “Dynamic Force”, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder is an all-new design, with a longer stroke, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, on-demand water and oil pumps to achieve 26 percent lower fuel consumption. Its thermal efficiency is a Prius-matching 40 percent, thanks in part to the ability to run on Atkinson cycle at lighter loads. When it reverts to Otto-cycle, peak output reaches 203 hp (or 206 hp with sport exhaust) and 184 lbft of torque, up 25 hp and 14 lbft from the old engine.

The 3.5-liter V6 is also capable to run in either Atkinson or Otto cycle. It produces 301 hp and 267 lbft, up 33 hp and 19 lbft. Save the more expensive Ford Fusion V6 Sport, this is the most powerful car in its class. Both engines mate with a new 8-speed automatic transmission, replacing the outgoing 6-speeder for better fuel economy.

The Camry Hybrid uses an Atkinson-cycle version of the 2.5 engine, whose higher power makes up the smaller electric motor for a combined output of 208 hp. A planetary CVT is again responsible for combining the two power sources. Sadly, there is no plug-in hybrid version for the Camry, although the TNGA platform does allow that.


Obviously, priority has been shifted from pleasing women or elderly to those demanding more involvement.


On the road, the new Camry retains the comfy ride and low noise level traditionally associated with the nameplate, but it gains a lot in driver appeal. The new rear suspension, lower center of gravity and stiffer chassis combined to result in tighter body control, no matter in corners or over undulations. It also resists understeer strongly. The electric power steering is still no model for feel, but now it weighs up noticeably in corner to give you more confidence. The brake pedal is also more adequately weighted, no longer featherweight. Hybrid model no longer suffers from a non-linear brake pedal feel. Obviously, priority has been shifted from pleasing women or elderly to those demanding more involvement. While it is still no match for, say, Mazda 6 or Ford Fusion for sporty handling, the new found balance between handling and ride is refreshing to Toyota’s customers. More important, such a change of character can be found across the range, not just on the Sport models as their suspension settings are largely the same – only the wheels, tires and bushings etc. are different.

The V6 is smooth yet powerful, but predictably its extra weight results in less agility and mushier steering feel, while a hint of torque steer is inevitable under heavy throttle. The long-stroke 2.5 engine does the job perfectly in everyday driving situations, but when being stretched it could sound coarse. Compared with its rivals’ turbo motors it needs to be revved harder to deliver the same performance. Meanwhile, the Hybrid's CVT still suffers from rubberband effect, which hampers refinement under acceleration. However, it is no deny that Toyota’s naturally aspirated engines usually deliver better fuel economy than rivals’ turbocharged motors in the real world. They are also likely to be more reliable and cheaper to repair.

Thanks to the new direction by Akio Toyoda, this is the first time in my memory that Toyota Camry achieves a 4-star rating. With a sportier look and driving experience, it deserves so. However, is it outstanding enough to better the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Fusion/Mondeo, Mazda 6 or Skoda Octavia? I don’t think so. It is more competitive than ever for sure, but to be a class-leader, it takes more.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine

Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Camry 2.5
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4895 / 1840 / 1445 mm
2825 mm
Inline-4, Otto/Atkinson-cycle

2487 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
203 hp
184 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: double-wishbone
-
235/45R18
1515 kg
137 mph (est)
7.9*
20.5*
Camry Hybrid
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4895 / 1840 / 1445 mm
2825 mm
Inline-4, Atkinson-cycle + electric
motor
2487 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
176 hp + 118 hp = 208 hp
163 lbft + 149 lbft
CVT
F: strut
R: double-wishbone
-
235/45R18
1610 kg
130 mph (est)
7.9*
19.3*
Camry V6
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4895 / 1840 / 1445 mm
2825 mm
V6, 60-degree, Otto/Atkinson-cycle

3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
301 hp
267 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: strut
R: double-wishbone
-
235/40R19
1620 kg
150 mph (est)
5.7 (est)
-




Performance tested by: *C&D





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