The Toyota Camry has always been renowned as a spacious and reliable saloon.
But image-wise, it has also always been seen a relatively safe (read: boring) choice for folks who aren’t into cars.
These are the drivers who are not concerned with design, performance or handling.
The latest Toyota Camry, however, is going to polarise opinions.
It is by far the most striking one that Toyota has ever produced.
Indeed, the adjectives “conservative” and “staid” no longer apply to this model.
We subject this newcomer to a comprehensive review by three Torque regulars: writer Wong Kai Yi, along with our key contributors Lynn Tan and Tony Tan.
Lynn will draw on her expertise as an architect to rate the Camry’s design, while Tony will focus on the car’s practicality and user-friendliness.
Kai Yi, on the other hand, will analyse the Camry’s performance and handling attributes.
Where design is concerned, it is often the good and the bad that get our attention.
Copacetic tends to be as exciting as say, onigiri.
The Toyota Camry has always been quite like the onigiri.
It is loaded with good stuff such as quality, space and comfort on the inside, but the plain ol’ rice and seaweed exterior is simply not as visually captivating as the extensive varieties of sushi or maki, with their mouth-watering displays of fresh and colourful ingredients.
However, the conservative formula has worked well for the mid-size sedan, going by its worldwide success since the first generation was introduced in 1982.
Throwing out a tried and tested design template that has worked for almost four decades seems like a huge risk.
But it would appear that the gamble has paid off.
The new Toyota Camry has undergone a total design transformation and it has never looked better.
Sculpted contours, sleek lines and a dynamic stance redefine an all-new persona.
The oversized grille makes the biggest impact.
It extends all the way down to the bottom of the front bumper and stretches almost fender to fender.
This black sport mesh grille joins the ranks of spindle, kidney and diamond grilles, all of which achieve the same effect of conveying a premium, sporty and youthful look.
Lines on the bonnet converge towards the Toyota badge like pleats of fabric.
They suggest fluidity and movement and imbue the Toyota Camry with a sinuous grace.
Slim and upward-tapering headlamps greet onlookers with a purposeful and steely glare, accompanied by a truncated boomerang-shaped element on the front bumper that cradles the badge to resemble flared nostrils.
These give the Toyota Camry just the right dose of aggression; a look that says, “watch out” and a face to remember.
The wider stance and lower centre of gravity can be attributed to the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which give the car more personality and more style.
Its streamlined silhouette and elongated side profile showcase the Camry’s elegant presence.
The rear is one of my favourite angles.
Distinct haunching on either side of the car where the top of the boot lid meets the taillights suggest strength and robustness like in arched structures and bridge constructions.
The pinched edge of the boot lid looks like an integrated spoiler that further accentuates the Toyota Camry’s sportiness even from behind.
It gets even better inside, like being bowled over by a beautifully wrapped gift, only to unbox it and discover that more pleasant surprises await.
There is a lot of leather all around the cabin, which is always a welcome whether in cars or handbags.
The steering wheel, gear knob, centre armrest, inside of the door panels (although not completely) are all luxuriously clad in leather, most of it a light beige colour that gives the interior a premium look and feel that can rival luxury brands.
It also makes the cabin appear even more spacious than it already is.
The piece de resistance is the centre console, which can be regarded as a work of art.
The asymmetrical design breaks away from Camry tradition.
Sweeping lines converge towards the centre stack like an overlapping kimono fold, framing a 9-inch infotainment display.
The palette of materials and finishes – from the gunmetal trim on the driver’s side, the aluminium-like delineation on the passenger side that wraps its way around the air-conditioning vent, the glossy, piano black housing around the head unit, and the unique copper-tone surfaces that seem to come alive against the light, are individually articulated, yet seamlessly brought together in a composition that is harmonious and which feels luxurious.
The climate control dials and buttons, as well as the digital clock, however, seem slightly incongruous with this masterpiece, as if someone used plastic bits on a luxury handbag instead of gold-plated hardware.
I wonder if this is a deliberate move on Toyota’s part to differentiate the Camry from its more premium sibling – the Lexus ES, with whom it shares the same wheelbase?
Another thing that the Toyota Camry shares with many a Lexus are the deep pile floor mats that make me want to caress them with my fingers.
They even come with specially designed Camry insignia.
As far as design is concerned, the Toyota Camry belongs in the premium league and looks good enough to turn more than a few heads, including those of design junkies like me.
Toyota Camry review: Practical luxury
Toyota Camry 2.5 (A)
Type Inline-4, 16-valves
Bore x stroke 87.5mm x 103.4mm
Compression ratio 13:1
Max power 206hp at 6600rpm
Max torque 250Nm at 5000rpm
Power to weight 132.9hp per tonne
Gearbox 8-speed automatic with manual select
Driven wheels Front
0-100km/h 9.2 seconds
Top speed 210km/h
Consumption 11.2km/L (combined)
Front MacPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Double wishbones, coil springs
Front / Rear Ventilated discs / Discs
Type Bridgestone Turanza T001
Size 235/45 R18
Traction aids ABS, VSC
Kerb weight 1550kg
Turning circle 11m
Price incl. COE $162,988
Warranty 3 years/100,000km
+ Seamless drive, striking design, comfy and spacious cabin
– Gruff engine note, handling could still be better, pricier than expected