The new Camry may not be very different from the previous version, but it is a substantial improvement on Toyota’s tried-and-tested formula

The premium price is what has stood between the Toyota Camry and its success in our country. This meant that one of the best chauffeur-driven cars went largely ignored.

But unlike the old, the new Camry is assembled at Toyota’s Bidadi facility and all its components are put together here, thereby attracting lower duties. But the surprising thing is that Toyota has kept the pricing at a premium and at Rs. 23.8 lakh, it is a good Rs. 2.3 lakh more expensive than its nearest rival, the Skoda Superb. But Toyota feels that the Camry’s new engine, revamped looks and overhauled interiors might get Indian buyers to take a second look that too in the absence of a diesel motor.

Design features

The radical changes on the new Camry are on the surface. With a complete revamp of the sheet metal, the new Camry looks like a Lexus and thisworks in its favour. The swept-back headlamps and the large chrome grille are the highlights of the nose and there’s more than a hint of sportiness in the protruding chin and fog lamps, which sit well inside the front bumper. The defining feature of this Camry though is the roofline. It swoops less than the old Camry’s and you can imagine the headroom this shape liberates on the inside. The rear of the Camry is dominated by those huge tail-lamps and that thick slab of chrome that Indians seem to love. It’s an uncontroversial shape and Toyota hasn’t taken any risks.

Ride comfort has always been a Camry hallmark and Toyota has heavily revamped the suspension on this Camry to improve just that. It carries over the MacPherson-strut layout in the front, but the multi-link set-up has been redesigned to improve body control. There’s more sound insulation stuffed into the wheel wells to keep out unwanted road noise and the stiffer bodyshell does its bit too.

Imagine what it’s like sitting on your favourite sofa — that’s how good the Camry’s rear seat is. The deep seat base makes for excellent thigh support and the squarish roofline makes for plenty of headroom. The seat back is perfectly angled and There’s enough place to stretch out and there are front-seat adjusters placed on the side of the seat, so the rear-left passenger can easily slide it forward for more legroom. The seats are also placed at a nice height, so it’s easy to slide in and out of them. The front seats are equally nice to sit in and both have eight-way power adjustability.

From the driver’s seat, the Camry feels wide and that’s partly because of the big dashboard. Interior quality is another place where the Camry has been substantially improved. All the bits that you experience first — the steering wheel, the gear lever and the controls — feel rich and proper, and we like the uncluttered layout and sufficiently big switches. Storage spaces are plenty. The glovebox in particular is huge, and there’s a big cubbyhole between the front seats. To improve cabin space, Toyota has used thinner door pads, and this probably explains why the door pockets are unusually narrow. The boot is much smaller too — this new Camry gets only 484 litres of space as against the old car’s 535 litres.

It’s pretty well-equipped though. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and go, fully powered front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors, cruise-control and a 2-DIN touchscreen audio system with aux-in and USB ports. There are some important features missing though — in addition to quite a few airbags, this Camry doesn’t get a sunroof or a reverse camera.

Under the hood is a new 2.5-litre, all-aluminium, four-cylinder petrol motor. Known internally as the 2AR-FE, it’s from Toyota’s AR four-cylinder engine family, which is very different from the 2.4-litre motor in the old Camry. Power and torque are up to 178bhp and 23.75kgm — a significant improvement over the old car’s 165bhp and 22.8kgm.

Thumb the start button and the engine comes to life and settles into a barely perceptible idle. Press the throttle and the way the Camry glides off the line sets the tone for the rest of the driving experience. Performance is measured and linear with no sharp spikes in the power delivery, the six-speed automatic slurs through its ratios, and the engine is impressively smooth and quiet. You can get more out of the engine by sliding the gear lever into manual mode. Here, you can hold the engine till its 6200rpm redline and it does give you slightly more control over gearshifts. Know that the engine gets a bit thrashy when it revs beyond 5000rpm – it’s never as smooth as a six-cylinder motor — and the Camry feels best when you gather pace in a relaxed manner. It’s undoubtedly the best way to drive it.

Smooth ride

The suspension is silent, bump-absorption is fantastic and the Camry rides like there are pillows between the tyres and the road. Speaking of which, the Camry comes with relatively high-profile 215/60 R16 tyres and these play a big part in the way it rides.

As expected, it’s not particularly nimble in town, but the light steering does help, and visibility isn’t too bad either. We just wish a reverse camera was part of the equipment list. It is rather necessary as the Camry’s rear overhang is quite long. The Camry’s 8.2kpl in the city and 12kpl on the highway are really reasonable, considering the size of the car. It is better than most of its rivals and this is partly down to the light weight of the car.

At Rs. 23.8 lakh, it is expensive, but as a relaxing way to travel, the Camry makes good sense.