Toyota Camry Atara : Review & Road Test
Review by Michael Tancredi - 15 September 2016
Toyota upgraded its Camry fleet recently, which followed on from a major relaunch and extensive revamp of the Camry in mid 2015. Most of the recent upgrades focused on their SX model but the balance of the fleet gained additional features as well, including, depending on the model, a full-colour multi-information display for its on-board computer, satellite navigation as standard, enhanced Toyota Link system, improvements and upgrades to the entertainment system, inclusion of sensor lights, and several optional extra packages and tweaks.
The Camry has a long and illustrious history in Australia with its launch in 1987 and has spent the last 22 years as Australia's as the top selling mid-sized car.
There are two models in the range, the Altise and the Atara (S, SX and SL) and it is available in both petrol and hybrid versions. The engine (whether petrol or hybrid), transmission, safety features and dimensions are the same, regardless of model with the differentiators being the additional features that attach to the particula model as you move up the range from the Altise to the Atara SL.
We had the pleasure of taking out an Atara S Hybrid out for a spin over several days recently and found it to be a very comfortable and easy car to drive.
The Camry Atara Hybrid is an extremely smooth, quiet and comfortable car to drive. It's 151kW combined engines power output provided more than sufficient acceleration in all situations. The handling is excellent and moving through traffic, turning corners and getting in and out of tight parking spots is effortless with its responsive and smooth electric power steering.
The Atara S was a very comfortable and effortless vehicle to drive. The driver has an excellent view in all directions as well as a clear view of all instrumentation. The vehicle provided a firm ride on all road surfaces and the suspension (front Independent McPherson strut, rear Independent Duel Link McPherson) handled unsealed roads with ease. Road noise up through the tyres was hardly noticeable at lower speeds but, as one would expect, as the speed climbed so did the road noise increase - but the noise remained within manageable limits.
The sculptured bonnet didn't present any visual distraction to the driver and provided clear forward vision therefore providing an unobstructed view when parking nose to kerb. The side mirrors were large and enabled a wide and clear view of approaching traffic either side.
The hybrid engine responded well under acceleration. Acceleration is sufficient to enable safe overtaking, assuming a reasonable wind up. Allow yourself a reasonable distance when overtaking at higher speeds. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) was smooth and moved up and down the range quietly and with a good ratios between changes. Swapping between petrol and electric engines was seamless and if you weren't monitoring the screen to determine which engine was doing what you wouldn't know, except, of course, for the lack of engine noise when running on battery.
Apart from the standard setting for normal everyday driving the Atara hybrid offers two additional modes Eco and EV. Eco is, as the name suggests, for achieving additional fuel economy and EV for low speed driving drawing on only battery power at speeds below 45kpm and for up to 2km.
We took the Camry over a mixture of terrains: freeways, suburban streets and up and down winding country roads. We pushed it into corners and accelerated out of bends and drove over sealed and unsealed roads. It performed well on all surfaces and when pulling out of bends or chicanes at speed. In the main, the vehicle held its line beautifully under hard and consistent braking (296mm front ventilated disc, 286mm rear disc) at various speeds on a range of surfaces.
Keyless entry and start were standard. The park brake is foot operated and can be a consideration if the driver has mobility issues.
The Toyota Camry comes in two engine options, a petrol or a petrol/electric (hybrid). The petrol version (code 2AR-FE) is a 2.5L, 4 cylinders, in-line, chain driven DOHC with variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder, two balance shafts, alloy block and cross-flow alloy head. engine. The engine has a maximum power output of 135kW @ 6000rpm and generates torque of 235Nm @ 4100rpm. The hybrid version is powered by the same 2.5L petrol engine but coupled with a series/parallel electric drive motor (and a nickel-metal-hybrid battery) has a maximum power output of 105kW and generates torque of 270Nm. Their combined power output is 151kW.
There are two transmission variations: a six speed automatic with sequential shift (or manual mode: change from [D]rive to [S]port) with the petrol engine versions or Electronic Continuous Variable Transmission (e-CVT) automatic with the hybrid engine versions. Either transmission version is extremely smooth and efficient.
The stated average fuel consumption for the Camry petrol version under controlled conditions is 7.9 L/100km and for the hybrid 5.2 L/100km. According to the on-board computer we clocked the hybrid at 7.6L/100km over suburban streets, highways and freeways and over a range of speeds and a variety of driving styles. Our actual consumption compared reasonably to that obtained under controlled conditions.
CO2 claimed emission under a variety of driving conditions for the hybrid is 121g/km and for the petrol version 183g/km. As a guide, the Australian national average carbon emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles was 192g/km [Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2013 : Information Paper May 2014*]. For those conscious of their CO2 footprint this represents a better than average result.
Recommended fuel is 91 RON.
(*The represents a 3.4% reduction from the results of the 2012 Guide.)
The Toyota Camry Atara is a neat looking medium sized sedan. It's most distinguishing feature is it's sculptured bonnet and beautifully styled and bold front profile. It's eye catching trapezoid shaped black meshed grill which dominates the front of the vehicle gives it a sporty look and helps it stand out from the crowd. This coupled with the stylishly shaped, wrap to the side, headlight array and recessed and curved LED running/park lights complete the picture.
In profile it presents a rather pedestrian sedan look and style with subtle swage lines running parallel across the top and bottom of the doors from the front wheel arch to the rear of the vehicle.. It has a lot of glass that provides for lots light and good views for all passengers.
The Camry measures in at 4850mm long, 1835mm wide and 1470mm high and has a wheel base of 2775mm and a turning circle of 11.0 metres.
The Atara sits on 17" x 7.5" 10 spoke alloy wheels within 215/55 V17 tyres.
Apart from the grill, pillars and rear window feature and a touch of chrome on the grill and boot lid the body is one solid colour. There are eight paint options from which to choose (2 standard and 6 prestige, with the prestige incurring an extra charge). Our test vehicle came in prestige Silver Pearl.
The Toyota Camry has been awarded a 5-star ANCAP safety rating with an overall score of 36.27 out of 37.
Standard with the Camry are: Front impact airbags for driver and front passenger and front and rear side curtain airbags.
Other standard safety features include:
- anti-lock braking system (ABS) with;
- electronic brake-force distribution (EBD); which varies the amount of force applied to each of a vehicle's wheels, based on road conditions, speed, loading, etc;
- brake assist (BA); which applies extra force when braking if it senses an emergency situation;
- electronic stability control (ESC) or electronic stability program (ESP); which improves a vehicle's stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction (skidding) by detecting loss of steering control by automatically applying the brakes to wheels individually;
- traction control system (TCS), which limits wheel spin during acceleration so that the drive wheels have maximum traction; and,
- hill start assist control (HAC); to prevent the car from rolling when starting on an incline.
Rear park assist sensors (2 x front and 2 x rear) and rear view camera. The top of the line SL comes equipped with a pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, lane departure alert, rear cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitor.
The Camry has a well finished interior and provide more than sufficient head and leg room for front and back seat passengers. Three average sized adult passengers would fit comfortably but with little wriggle room in the back seat. The design is such that back seat passengers don't feel claustrophobic. The driver is well positioned and has a clear view in all directions. The view forward is excellent and little of the bonnet is seen a this provides a good view of obstacles when parking nose to kerb.
The driver and front passenger bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive of the body and flanks. The driver seat can be electrically adjusted and the upholstery is black fabric (in the Altise & Atara S) and accentuated leather (in the SX and SL).
The three-pronged steering wheel fits comfortably in the hand and is a good shape and size and houses the entertainment, telephone and on-board computer controls. All are easily manipulated by the respective thumb and are intuitive to use. The cruise controls are located on a stork attached to the right of the steering column and viewable below the steering wheel. This is the standard positioning across the Toyota range.
The driver is in easy reach of all controls and had good line of sight to all instrumentation. The dash instrumentation is analogue, simple in design and uncluttered. It comprises, in the main, a dial speedo with inset petrol gauge and a dial drive monitor (Chg / Eco / Pwr) with inset temperature gauge. The dials and display were easy to read day or night, with a good contrast and large enough numbers. The on-board computer digital display sits centred in the instrument panel and provides for a range of settings, is intuitive to use and easy to read.
The Atara S entertainment system powered the AM/FM radio and could handle input from CD, Bluetooth, USB (x1) and Aux (although the USB and Aux plugs were awkward to access). Output was via a six speaker system located to the front and rear of the cabin. Sat Nav is not standard on the Atara S but can be added with ToyotaLink which is available as standards on the S, SX and SL. The ToyotaLink system has the following features: satallite navigation, fuel finder, weather, Pandora , plus more. Connectivity is via Bluetooth to a comparable Smart Phone with the appropriate App installed. Satellite Navigation is available as standard on the SX and SL.
All functions could be managed/monitored through the 6.1" colour LCD touch screen on the Altise and S models (7" on the SX and SL). The system was straight forward and intuitive to use and provides for basic features.
The basic climate control system in the provided more than adequate volumes of air and ran quietly but became became progressively louder the higher the fan was set. It has a fair range between cold and hot. Heating or cooling kicked in sufficiently quickly.
There is more than ample storage for anything from cups, maps, sunglasses papers, books, bottles and all other paraphernalia that you may need while driving.
The boot in the hybrid model is a reasonable 421L but is 84L less than its petrol powered sister. The hybrid model also lacks full width back seat fold with only approximately two-thirds of the rear seat folding forward, hence restricting full rear storage. There is the facility to store long thin loads, e,g, skis, through a flap behind the rear arm rest. A minor irritant: folding the rear sear forward was a two step process, pulling a lever in the boot and then lowering the seat via the rear door.
This recently tweaked Camry is a very stylish looking vehicle. It performs very well and, as a Hybrid, it's petrol consumption is quite low, making it a very economical car to drive. It's distinctive front profile gives a sporty feel to what is fundamentally a conventional sedan body. With all the features available now on the Camry and given inflation over the years Toyota claim that the launch price on an automatic has been the cheapest, "... in at least 18 years - even though today's car is three generations newer and has significantly expanded safety, comfort and convenience features."
As a family sedan, this is an excellent buy.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Toyota dealer.
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