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Toyota Camry gets aggressive with design and performance

S Muralidhar | Updated on February 14, 2019 Published on February 14, 2019

The new interiors get leather and soft-touch plastic elements. - S MURALIDHAR

From the predecessor’s unruffled, Zen-like experience, the eighth gen model offers that and a bit of edginess for the hands-on amongst us

Few cars have the kind of loyal following that the Toyota Camry has. Many owners prefer to replace their existing Camrys with a new one. And then there is the big Indian diaspora, which influences Camry buying in India directly (when they return back) or indirectly (friends and relatives here) because of the excellent ownership experience they have had with the car while they were in places like the US or Gulf countries.

The Camry’s appeal comes from its solid reputation as a consistent, trouble-free performer with all the traits of a refined premium family sedan; not so much for its stunning design or rocking performance. But even Toyota has been changing with the evolving tastes of buyers in Asia, and its designs are attempting to appeal to a more modern aesthete. The new eighth generation Camry gets into the act and after two previous rather similar looking models, the 2019 version gets more aggressive ‘on the face of it’ and on many other fronts too.

Design

Launched 17 years ago in India, it was one of the earliest sedans in its segment; and has had four major model changes in that time. For a model that has sold 19 million worldwide since its introduction, 11,425 units in India since 2002 might seem small, but in its segment that is still a big number. The outgoing model’s Hybrid version has made brand Camry synonymous with Toyota HEVs, so the new model simply gets one trim variant, which is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol-hybrid powertrain.

Sporting the fourth generation of Toyota’s Hybrid system, the 2019 Camry is based on the Japanese brand’s new modular platform called Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). The focus for this Camry has been to make the ride more refined, to boost comfort for the rear passengers, but also to deliver even more power and performance at the hands of the driver, if the owner does decide to get behind the wheel. All of these have been packaged into a new design that is proportionately bigger and in parts spells much more aggression than the predecessor.

It is still quintessentially a Camry, and can be identified as one even if the badge was to be taped over. But it is clearly bigger in size and younger in outlook. The new 2019 Camry is 35 mm longer, the wheelbase is up 50 mm, and it is also 15 mm wider. For more practicality, the ground clearance has been raised by 20 mm to 105 mm. But, in keeping with its sportier profile, the roof has been lowered by 25 mm, the bonnet line is down 40 mm, and centre of gravity has been lowered. The new Camry is also about 30 kg lighter than its predecessor thanks to the new TNGA platform that has boosted the use of high tensile steel.

The Camry’s front design is now dominated by a fender, which with its half a dozen slats running across, what seems like, one massive air-intake makes it look like a whale mouth. A prominent skirt runs across the lower part of the fender and adds some more character. The bonnet grille is a simple, classic Toyota design; but the headlamps feature three-layered LED DRLs that give it some more sportiness.

The bonnet slab also features more radiating creases than the predecessor giving the front a muscular finish. Special 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome lipping for the window line makes the side profile interesting. The outside rear view mirrors have been mounted on the doors instead of the quarter glass next to the A-pillar to reduce blind spot. The Camry’s rear design is simpler, featuring a stubby bootlid and an LED-rich pair of tail-lamps. In addition to the Hybrid badging, the blue-tinged Toyota logo identifies the car’s special status.

Cabin

The new model’s cabin gives off a plusher vibe with a higher mix of leather and soft-touch plastic trim. In line with the international model’s dashboard orientation, the design seems driver-oriented with its Y-shaped centre console and attempted isolation of space. But, in keeping with Indian user profiles, the rear passenger seats get a lot of additional features too. The seats can recline by eight per cent to offer a more relaxed position and the centre armrest features touchscreen controls, so that the owner stays in command while being chauffeured. There is also a rear power sunshade to keep out the glare and the heat, which also conveniently retracts if the driver engages the reverse gear. The seats feature a mix of real and synthetic leather with contrast stitching; and with big cushions and bolsters feel very comfortable to sit in. Front seats feature eight-way power adjustment, memory settings and with perforated upholstery are also ventilated. The eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system at the top of the centre console offers navigation, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity.

It does offer other types of connectivity options and even a unique call-operated concierge service. The music system is a nine-speaker JBL system that offers fairly rich reproduction with inbuilt Clari-Fi tech for enhancing audio quality. There is also a HUD (head-up display) that projects key information on the windscreen at the driver’s eye-level. Rear passengers also get access to fore-aft controls (mounted on the side) for the front passenger seat.

Performance

The new Camry is powered by a 2,487 cc, four-cylinder, petrol-hybrid engine, with an e-CVT gearbox (continuously variable transmission) sending power to the wheels; and the powertrain sees the combining of the hybrid system’s output from the electric motors. The Camry in India continues to be offered with a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack, though the sedan is available in other markets with Lithium-ion batteries. The refined petrol engine’s output is marginally higher compared to the predecessor’s and now offers 178 PS of peak power and 221 Nm of peak torque. The 245 V battery-electric motor’s output is now marginally lower at 120 PS and 202 Nm. But, the combined output is higher at 218 PS; of course we have to remember that peak torque from the electric motor is available instantaneously.

The hybrid system works standalone in EV mode, using battery power exclusively till 40 kmph speed. Then it behaves like a parallel-assist system offering up the combined power and torque of the engine and electric motors. Even more than the previous generation Camry, this one feels sprightly; acceleration feels effortless and power delivery is also very linear. There are engine modes to choose from — Eco, Normal and Power, with the last one being the most sporty to drive in. But even in Eco and Normal there is no feeling of sluggishness or algorithmic suppression of performance. There is also the possibility of manually choosing gears using steering-mounted paddles. Brake energy regeneration helps recuperate battery charge and the rated fuel efficiency is a high 23.27 kmpl.

The steering in the new Camry feels more precise and direct. With the new platform’s torsional rigidity being up 30 per cent, despite the lighter chassis, the car feels much more confident during swift lane changes and while cornering. The 235/45 R18 Bridgestone tyres that my test mule had also offered good grip. The double wishbone rear suspension nicely evens out bad roads and in general helps the Camry keep its composure. There is mild body roll, but the ride is comfortable and with an excellent NVH package, the cabin is one of the quietest and calmest you’ll find in the segment — something that the Camry has been good at for generations.

 

Bottom Line

The 2019 Camry has bettered its predecessor’s mark in various parameters. It is sportier to drive, and yet more focussed on its traditional mandate of keeping the rear passenger comfortable. It is also much more focussed on safety with nine airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, tyre pressure monitors and a vehicle stability and traction control system on offer.

The new Camry is priced at about ₹37 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which is on the higher side, but then we have to remember that this is a hybrid. Overall, this could be the one for you if being chauffeured and getting behind the wheel on weekends is your routine.

Published on February 14, 2019
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