FIRST LOOKS

All-New Toyota Camry
   Author: Chips Yap

Any new model with a Toyota badge is virtually guaranteed of being a top-seller, if not the best-seller in its segment. The power of the Toyota brand is so great that many people will put their money down for one without being given a confirmed price and sometimes, not even seeing the car ‘in the flesh’. This reputation has been earned through decades of producing cars which have proven to be utterly reliable and more importantly, of increasingly higher and higher quality.

With such a reputation, it’s obvious that the pressure on the chief engineers of the numerous models is great because the model they develop cannot just be ‘good’; it must raise the benchmark in its class as well. For a model like the Camry, it’s an even greater challenge because this model is Toyota’s second global model after the Corolla. In fact, the Camry could be considered even more significant than the Corolla though, as a model line, it is two decades younger. While the Corolla has become the world’s best-selling model nameplate, the Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in the USA on a number of occasions since the 1990s.

Actually, the Camry’s ascent to such superiority is likely to have been due to Toyota USA in the early 1990s when their top management resisted the Camry design that had been planned and even managed to get the personal intervention of then-president Dr Toyoda to instruct the chief engineer to make significant engineering changes. Toyota USA’s two top executives (one of them a Japanese) had refused to accept the design offered because it was typically Japanese (too conservative). Indeed, up till then, the Camry (which had been introduced in 1982) had been an insignificant midsized sedan but the insistence of the American subsidiary for something more advanced saw its styling change direction radically.

Amazingly, the design was changed in about 30 days and the redesigned model had elements of the Lexus LS430. It was thus not surprising that it was a big hit in America and also became the model which Toyota designated as its second global model. Nevertheless, the Japanese engineers didn’t lose face entirely as they managed to have their conservative version (which was boxy) produced, but sold only in Japan!

The rest is history and the Camry has become a major model for Toyota today with as many as 10 million units sold worldwide last year. The version which was influenced by Toyota USA was the first to be introduced in Malaysia in 1994 and successors were introduced in 1998 and 2002. Next week comes an all-new Camry which once again sets new standards in the executive sedan class.

As before, there are 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre engines available and while a new 3.5-litre engine is also available, it is not presently being considered for various reasons. One of them is that the price would be high and going by past experience when UMW Toyota Motor offered a Camry 3-litre and response was ‘below expectations’, it would seem that there is not much point offering the variant.

Besides, APs are required to import the cars and as these are not ‘limitless’, UMW Toyota Motor would probably prefer to stick with models that are assured of being sold. “We have enough APs to meet the sales projections we have set which are 500 units a month,” said David Chen, Managing Director of UMW Toyota Motor.

What’s different from before is that the 2.0-litre version now comes in two grades instead of just one – Camry 2.0E and Camry 2.0G, priced at RM139,066 and RM149,053, respectively. The RM10,000 difference gets a higher level of equipment but with the breathtakingly high level of build quality, it seems to be irrelevant. Whichever one you choose, it still looks exceptionally well finished.

As for the flagship Camry 2.4V, priced at RM168,304, this shares many features with the Camry 2.0G such as leather upholstery, HID headlights, electrically-operated front seat adjusters for both seats and high-quality trim. It is the only version with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) which includes traction control.

The styling of this new generation is certainly more distinctive but is still recognisable as a Camry. According to Y. Kawamoto, the chief engineer for the Asian version (there are also chief engineers for versions for other markets), the Camry in ASEAN is the ‘high-end version’. Unlike the US market where it is regarded as just a midsized sedan (albeit an enormously popular one), the Camry has a higher image in this market and therefore subtle features have been included to give it a more exclusive image.

Although the pursuit of aerodynamic efficiency is not as obsessive as in the 1980s when manufacturers aimed for the lowest possible wind resistance, the new Camry’s aerodynamic efficiency (Cd=0.29) is nevertheless low, thanks to its sleek shape as well as little details around the bodywork. For example, small fairings are installed ahead of each wheel well to reduce air from rushing into the wheel housing and causing wind resistance and noise.

2.4-litre engine is improved with optimized intake and exhaust systems, a higher compression ratio and altered the cam profile

Under the bonnet, the engines installed are the same as before but needless to say, they are improved and claimed to offer around 10% better fuel efficiency. Both are 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engines with VVT-i which is a mechanism that varies valve timing to optimise fuel/air delivery according to driving conditions. The mechanism varies the timing infinitely and can initiate changes in split seconds so there’s peak performance all the time.

The latest 2.4-litre engine has undergone many improvements to increase efficiency and output. Besides optimizing intake and exhaust systems, the engineers also boosted the compression ratio slightly to 9.8:1, altered the cam profile and paid particular attention to reducing friction through strategies such as reducing the tension of the piston rings while increasing their tensile strength. Piston weight has also been reduced while the balance shaft has been further optimised.

Power and torque ratings for the two engines are among the best in their class: for the 2.4-litre, maximum power now is 127 kW/167 ps at 6000 rpm with 224 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm, while the 2.0-litre unit, with some internal improvements, now delivers 108 kW/147 ps of power also at 6000 rpm and 190 Nm of torque is generated at 4000 rpm.

For the new Camry 2.0E and 2.0G, there is a 4-speed Super ECT automatic transmission which offers quick response, smooth shifting and fuel efficiency, thanks to its low-friction technology. This transmission also has Flex Lock-Up, a feature which reduces gear changes on slopes and minimizes shift shock.

5-speed automatic transmission also has with manual sequential shifting mode. Only for Camry 2.4V

The Camry 2.4V now gets a 5-speed Super ECT automatic transmission. Besides offering an additional forward ratio for a better spread, this transmission also gives the driver the option of manual sequential shifting when desired.

The suspension layout of the new Camry follows the proven arrangement of the previous generation. However, even though it looks similar, it has actually been totally re-engineered in every detail. Independent MacPherson struts are used for the front wheels with a proven dual-link strut concept for the rear wheels. To improve the handling and driver feel, all lower control arms were lengthened and all spring, shock-absorber and anti-roll-bar values, as well as suspension geometries, were re-thought and recalibrated. Additionally, testing in local conditions was also carried out to ensure that the best levels of comfort and handling would be provided.

Since the mid-1990s, every new Toyota model has had to pass GOA – the Global Outstanding Assessment which is Toyota’s in-house set of safety standards that are comparable or, in some areas, more demanding than international standards. If it cannot pass GOA, it won’t be allowed for sale.
 
For the new Camry, larger disc brakes have been fitted front and rear to increase stopping power. The brake system has ABS as standard along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) which works with the ABS control unit to adjust braking force to the front and rear brakes according to road conditions and also the load on board. Brake Assist is also standard and provides extra power during emergency braking to compensate for the fact that many drivers do not apply as much pressure as they should. In factory tests, this feature has shown that braking distances can be reduced by as much as 8 metres at 50 km/h, a distance which could save a life.

For the Camry 2.4V, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is also fitted, enhancing driving safety significantly. This sophisticated system, with integral traction control, was developed by Toyota and detects wheelspin during high-speed cornering or cornering on slippery surfaces, a condition which can cause the car to skid out of control and possibly crash. Whenever such a condition (oversteer or understeer) is detected, the system applies the appropriate amount of braking force on certain wheels and also cuts back on engine power to allow stability and grip to be regained.

Though the Active Safety features in the new Camry can help a driver avoid an accident, there may be times when it can happen and this is where the GOA-certified body provides superior Passive Safety. The structure, designed with advanced computers, absorbs collision-impact forces to minimize deformation to the passenger cabin. High-strength steel is used in strategic areas to help manage overall body deformation in the event of a side collision. Inside the cabin, even the seat frames are designed to receive and help absorb side collision loads and a crossmember in the centre of the floor is used for the same reason. The chassis was made more rigid by connecting the cowl front to the upper suspension. Toyota also thinks of other road-users as the new Camry’s structure is said to be pedestrian-friendly.

Airbags are standard for both front occupants and work together with the seatbelt system which has pre-tensioners to reduce forward motion. The seats also have the Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) concept which reduces the possibility of whiplash injuries that occur during a rear-end collision. The head is normally thrown backwards suddenly which causes injury and the WIL concept provides support for the head and upper back to reduce this type of injury. Though the occupants will be restrained by seatbelts, their heads may be swung about and against parts of the cabin, causing injuries. Throughout the cabin’s upper areas, there is energy-absorbing material used to prevent such injuries.

One of the primary goals the new Camry's design team set for itself was to come up with a stylish design and a luxurious, comfortable interior. Though the external dimensions were not extended significantly, the interior designers managed to further maximize interior space by pushing the cowl (the bottom of the car's windscreen) forward for an increased sense of openness and room in the Camry's passenger cabin. Redesigned front seats also played a role in adding a feeling of spaciousness to the Camry cabin while minimum intrusion of the centre hump has improved comfort for rear occupants. A 30 mm increase in the distance between front and rear passengers provides ample space and increased comfort and at 970 mm, is claimed to be among the best in this class.

To present an image of prestige, the new Camry has a leather and woodgrain trim interior with silver accents. For the Camry 2.0G and 2.4V, the leather upholstery for the seats is a breathable type which should provide a sweat-free ride. These two versions also have a ‘Lounge Mode’ seat position for the front passenger’s seat which allows the backrest to be folded flat. Switches are provided on the side of the front passenger’s backrest so the rear occupant can make the adjustments as well. Both the driver and front passenger also have the convenience of 8-way power adjustment using switches at the side of each seat. Cruise control is also available for the Camry 2.4V.

For virtually any driver, a comfortable and correct driving position can be obtained by not only adjustment of the seat but also the steering wheel which not only tilts up and down but can also be adjusted for reach. The larger Optitron meters, with a 3-dimensional appearance, are highly legible in all lighting conditions while the Multi Info Display (MID) provides information on distances travelled, outside temperature, average speed, cruising range, fuel consumption and journey time. Control switches for the audio system, air-conditioning system and MID are also positioned on the steering wheel, reducing the need for the driver to stretch to the centre area of the dashboard.

In our hot tropical weather, cooling of the cabin is extremely important and the air-conditioning system for the new Camry is said to have been extensively tested here to provide the best performance. The system can be set to Auto mode which maintains a desired ambient coolness throughout the cabin or can be manually set. Rear occupants also get plenty of cool air through the vents at the back of the centre console box.

New for the Camry air-conditioning system is the plasmacluster system which generates ions similar to those found in large quantities at the base of waterfalls. By their presence, the ions, refresh the air inside the cabin, an important feature as most motorists here usually drive with the ventilation system set on recirculation mode which often leads to the air becoming stale and causing drowsiness. The plasmacluster system also helps to reduce airborne germs, mold spores, microbes, fungi, odors  and many types of bacteria inside the cabin.

The high-quality Toyota audio system with 6 speakers has been customised for the cabin of the new Camry, The head unit can receive radio signals and play music CDs in the MP3 and WMA (Windows Media Audio) formats as well. For the Camry 2.4V, a 6 CD-changer is also provided as standard.

The new Camry has many storage spaces around the front-passenger area including pockets at the side of the centre console which are useful for handphones or small items. There’s also a large console box which can store up to 23 CDs in their cases and also a smaller compartment equipped with an accessory power socket that can be used to charge a handphone. Cup and bottleholders are also available for front and rear passengers.

Boot space is important to many buyers who will want to know how many golfbags can go in. The new Camry’s boot, with a width of 1300 mm, can take four golfbags or four large suitcases. Loading and unloading can be easily done with the wide opening and low sill. There is, however, no latch to open the boot manually – you either press the button on the remote control unit or insert the key into the bootlid to unlatch it.

Unlike the previous generations, the model is no longer assembled in Malaysia. But it does not have to come from Australia or Japan either; instead, it is imported as a completely built-up (CBU) unit from Thailand where Toyota has a big factory to serve ASEAN markets. This is part of Toyota’s strategy to rationalise its production in the region which is supposed to be a single market but unfortunately political and trade issues are still making it difficult for manufacturers.


Talk about the new Camry in the MTM Forum

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