Pros and Cons: Toyota Camry - Brilliant to drive, but is that enough?

Jason · Jan 18, 2021 09:00 AM

For over 30 years, the Toyota Camry has been a default choice for buyers that seek reliability, comfort and durability. Of course, the automotive landscape is vastly different now (where SUVs are king) so it's rather refreshing to see the 6th-generation Toyota Camry still fight the good fight for sedans. 

So, time to find out if the Toyota Camry is worthy of a place in your garage. You know what this means, it's Pros and Cons time.

Pros - Beautiful Monster

In the right colour (we'll have one in Burning Black please), the Camry strikes a very imposing presence on the road. Whichever angle you look from, the Camry is a rather handsome car. Couple that with Y-spoke 18-inch wheels, the Camry gets all its proportions bang-on.

Toyota calls it a 'Beautiful Monster', and I'd hardly disagree with that. I'd even go as far to say the Toyota Camry looks every inch a sports sedan. A Camry? Sports sedan? Yes, you best believe it.

Pros - Sublime ride and handling

Many who are used to driving previous iterations of the Toyota Camry would simply not believe this, but the current XV70 generation is s superb steer. The steering bubbles with feel and responds in such a organic manner. For a car this size, it moves with such controlled poise and accuracy, that I kept questioning the car I'm driving. 

The Camry's secret sauce: Double-wishbone rear suspension

This, remarkably, does not come at the expense of ride quality. Yes, the Honda Accord is definitely the more comfortable car, but the Camry won't shortchange you on comfort. This is in large, due to the Camry having a sophisticated double-wishbone rear suspension where most competitors use a multi-link equivalent.

The TNGA platform definitely has the substance to substantiate its style. It all combines to make the Toyota Camry, an immensely satisfying car to drive, or just to lounge in. No, really.

Pros - Brilliant driving position

Another aspect that the Camry unexpectedly nails is its driving position. Apart from having all the range of adjustments that a driver would want, the steering is dead-centre, pedal positioning is good, and you feel very snug in the driver's seat. It's something so simple yet not many carmakers seem capable of executing this properly. Visibility is also very good from all quarters. 

Pros - Responsive powertrain

Yes, you read that right. I know, this isn't the Dynamic Force direct-injection unit in the Toyota RAV4 (this will be an issue as you read on below). But, being unencumbered by turbocharging, the Toyota Camry's engine responds in a very progressive, linear fashion. 

Partnered with a 6-speed torque converter automatic, the Camry goes about its business in a very slick, elegant way. The induction sound when you plant your foot down is also quite charming. So, while it isn't the fastest nor most powerful car in its class, it does give you more satisfaction (there's that word again) when you gun it.

Cons - Flawed keyless system

For a car costing RM 190k, you'd expect the Toyota Camry to come packing keyless entry, and so it does...... on just the driver's door. Even to any Toyota brand loyalist, this will be hard to justify. To me, this feature (or lack of it thereof) is just plain unacceptable. 

Last time I checked, guess which new car comes with keyless entry on just the driver's door? A Perodua Bezza AV, which retails for RM 48k. A. Perodua. Bezza. There's just something very undignified about having to whip out my remote to open my front passenger door, in a car costing this much. Please, Toyota, please fix this in the facelift model.

Cons - No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto 

Whilst the interior of the Toyota Camry is generally a pretty nice place to be in, the infotainment leaves much to be desired. Lacking any form of smartphone integration - that means no Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto - you're left with just Bluetooth connectivity. Let me repeat, Bluetooth connectivity only. In a car costing..... well you get my drift by now.

The JBL audio system - whilst being a major upgrade from the previous generation - isn't going to blow your socks off. It's not bad, but even the unbranded systems in the Honda Accord and VW Passat are not light years behind it.

Cons - Engine is getting lagging behind competitors, no paddle-shift

For all the praise I lavished the Camry's engine, there remains one glaring problem. It lacks the firepower that its rivals have. It brings only 184 PS and 235 Nm whilst the Honda Accord (201 PS, 260 Nm) and VW Passat (190 PS, 320 Nm) are packing more in their armoury. Would the Dynamic Force power unit improve things? One can imagine it would help.

Great to drive, so why omit paddle-shifters?

Further to that, why aren't there shift paddles behind the Camry's steering? This really is a curious one, because not only do its main rivals have such a feature, it contradicts the Camry's character as an effervescent driver's car. Even the Toyota Vios has shift paddles, making this one a big boo-boo.

Conclusion

If you are in the search for a sedan that gives you a high level of driving satisfaction, then the Toyota Camry will be hard to ignore. You will also find it hard to ignore some of its rather obvious foibles.

So, The Toyota Camry is not an easy recommend, but can I see myself buying one over the plush Honda Accord, or the more sophisticated VW Passat? A slim yes, just because it drives so bloody well. But for some, that will not be enough, and I can understand why.

 

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