I’ve always been under the assumption that everyone who drives a Toyota Camry is either an accountant or someone in an accounts related position.
It’s reliable and predictable but oh so boring to drive – basically sums up the profile of your everyday accountant. But there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s one of the most sensible cars money can buy.
However, the new generation Toyota Camry has thrown the rulebook out of the window and has all the credentials to be called a sports sedan.
Isn’t the Toyota Camry an ‘uncle’s car’?
Having driven the Toyota Camrys throughout the generations from the XV10 right up to the XV50, they are all very comfortable cruisers but a driver’s car it is not. This is precisely why the Camry is more affectionally known as an ‘uncle’s car’.
But the 2019 Toyota Camry, bearing the model code XV70, is unlike any Camry that came before. It’s aggressively styled, has double-wishbone rear suspension just like a Toyota 86 sports car and it’s the most expensive Camry ever to be sold in Malaysia.
Pricing, features and design aside, the biggest departure this all-new Toyota Camry has over its predecessor is in the driving experience. So much so that it’s one of the best cars we’ve driven in 2019.
The Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform which underpins the Camry is the embodiment of Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s vision of making fun to drive cars.
Wouldn’t the Mazda 6 sedan be better to drive?
Not anymore. Reports have surfaced that Mazda – a carmaker that prides itself with Jinba Ittai philosophy in handling – no longer benchmarks BMWs for handling and steering feel. Instead, they have set the Toyota Camry as their target for good handling.
Although the Mazda 6 is well known for its sharp handling and athleticism, the suspension is not talented enough to clear the sharp edges especially when it comes to potholes and tall speed bumps.
The Camry strikes a much better balance between comfort and sportiness by being firm yet supple enough that it doesn’t transmit unwanted jolts into the cabin. This level of ride quality is more akin to (in more ways than one, betters) a BMW rather than a Japanese brand.
The icing on the cake is the Camry’s highly communicative steering wheel that gives you an intuitive feeling of what the front wheels are doing. Through tight and twisty bends, the Camry exhibited stellar body control and unwavering mid-corner stability.
But the engine is old & underpowered!!
Undeniably, the market was a little disappointed that we did not get the new Dynamic Force Engine with 205 PS and 250 Nm.
Instead, the Camry 2.5V soldiers on with the 2AR-FE 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder petrol engine with Dual VVT-i carried over from the previous generation Camry. It makes 184 PS and 235 Nm of torque – which is not that far off from the Dynamic Force Engine (21 PS & 15 Nm down) – driving the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission.
There’s a saying that ‘old is gold’ and it's true in the case of the 2AR-FE engine. Although outright power is nowhere near as explosive as turbocharged engines, the Camry’s 2.5-litre mill makes up for it in smooth power delivery.
The linearity of the engine performance is a great match to the dynamic talents of the TNGA platform, delivering a fluid driving experience. Not once I disapproved its engine performance.
If BMW made FWD sports sedans…
BMW has started to venture into front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles (X1, X2, 1 Series, 2 Series Active Tourer), and they are all great handling machines thanks to shared expertise and resources with their sister company, MINI.
However, FWD BMWs are very characteristic of a MINI with a reactive front end and sharp steering response. The Toyota Camry, on the other hand, has a little more sophistication and maturity to its execution that would fit right into the Bavarian carmaker’s portfolio.
As we usher in the new decade, it’s time we realign our expectations towards the Toyota brand. They no longer make boring and safe cars anymore. The new generation of Toyotas are exciting and gets your adrenaline pumping when you’re behind the wheel – even in a Camry.
I never thought I would say this, but the Toyota Camry is a joy to drive.