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Reviewed :: 2018 Camry SL Hybrid

Last month we returned to our favourite place on Earth, Japan. With a tight schedule planned we had just one week free to head out and explore the countryside and thought we might ask our friends from Toyota for a car. When asked “What do you want to drive?” Immediately we thought let’s get an 86!… However after driving the new V6 Camry back in Australia we were quite curious about taking the hybrid version out and comparing the two. Luckily there was a hybrid SL free while we were in town, so we headed to Toyota’s office in Tokyo to grab the keys and hit the road. If you haven’t seen much of the new Camry yet it is quite a departure from previous designs and has a dramatic new look, especially in this colour! Offered in 4 variants, Ascent, Ascent sport, SX and the range topping SL seen here. With choices of ether the petrol 2.5l 4 Cylinder, 2.5l hybrid and 3.5l V6. Why did we go for the hybrid? Well we’ve heard plenty of good things about it and wanted to see how it faired in a larger sedan. With the future of the car quickly changing to suit both the environment and the economy, petrol engines and even hybrids like this might soon be the next floppy disc or Walkman of our lifetime. When push comes to shove the 2.5l hybrid is surprisingly brisk off the line thanks to the added torque from the electric motor. The novelty of the almost silent electric motor at low speeds was strange at first. Once you press the accelerator the volume increases and it sounds remarkably like a Japanese train racing away from the station. When the speedo reads around 20kph the 4 cylinder petrol engine seamlessly kicks in and it starts to sound like a regular car again. You may notice that compared to our local model the exterior is a little different thanks to the larger grill taking up most of the front bumper. I was a little on the fence about the bumper design until I saw it in person and I found it really complements the new design rather well. The new Camry is built on Toyota’s new ‘TNGA’ platform which is highly adaptable to suit different sized cars and drivetrains, like RWD and AWD. We’ve driven both the C-HR and Prius built on the same platform and it feels a lot more dynamic across all the models when compared to their predecessors. The ride quality was quite surprising in comparison to the sport suspension offered in the SX model. It was softer over bumps without feeling floaty and didn’t fall off the road around tight corners. Overall it is quite balanced and provides a fair amount of feedback for a stock standard car. A testament to the new TNGA platform. Back to the cosmetics the 18” alloy wheels are our pick of the bunch from the new line up, they also feel a lot more suited as opposed to the monstrous 19” wheels offered on the SX model. We have not been a fan of many of the latest OEM wheel designs offered in recent years… *Looks at the Toyota 86*. If run of the mill mid-size sedans are considered plain or “vanilla” than this new model shines amongst the competition. This is the organic vanilla bean car right here! The exterior is not the only thing that’s changed. The interior has been given the same bold makeover. Gone are the plain cloth seats of the previous generations. The design of the dash alone draws your eyes into the centre as the asymmetrical lines intersect underneath the 7” screen. All in all It’s a rather nice place to be. Clever additions like the heads-up display and wireless charging pad for smart phones are the cherry on top! Driving the Camry around for the week, I started to appreciate the hybrid a little more than I had first anticipated. The fuel consumption was fantastic even with spirited driving on some of Japan’s famous mountain roads. I can’t tell if it’s just that I’m getting older but if I was in the market for a sedan I think I’d be hard pressed to go past the new Camry. You might even catch me looking back over my shoulder after parking it. Sitting inside it feels more akin to the upper-class brother, the Lexus IS300. Sharing the same powerplant options as the Lexus, the Camry might be closing the gap between the two cars just a little too much for some buyers. At an extra $24,000 It might be hard for some to shell out for the “L” badge. As for our time on the road it was incredible catching the tail end of the cherry blossom season out in Nikko. The panoramic glass roof helped to take in all the beauty while the trees were in bloom. During the week we only spotted two more Camrys in the wild, we also had a couple of admires keen to have a closer look at the new car. I’m actually quite excited to see if any receive the aftermarket VIP treatment in Japan. After seeing a few examples of the CH-R getting some love from Japanese workshops it seems more than likely. Simple is best so we think a subtle lip kit, dual exhausts, de-badged nose grill, Japanese front bumper and a set of SSR Professor SP4 wheels in silver would complete the car. The big question, would we still choose the V6?… Nope! As great as the V6 is to drive it just doesn’t seem suit the front wheel drive/automatic platform. If the option of a manual transmission and rear wheel drive were thrown into the mix with this body shape, we’d be lining up around the block with the rest of the world with cash in hand. Until then we think the Hybrid is the star here, all the comfort and it still moves when you put your foot down. I think most people would agree when it finally came time to filling up at the petrol station. Thanks to the team from Toyota and as always, thanks for reading. – Gwyn.

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The drift obsession runs deep! Watch out I may even try to battle you on Assetto.

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