It has always been A for Apple, B for Ball and C for Camry (or Corolla) in most parts of the world. Yes, this car is the second-biggest seller for what is essentially (in this quarter), the largest carmaker in the world. Yes, the see-saw between General Motors and Toyota keeps going on, but that doesn't change this fact: the Camry is a very important car for the Japanese numero uno. So they just cannot get it wrong with this car, which sells in tens of thousands across the world. In fact, the world over, 6.2 lakh Camrys were sold in 2011 - but that was the outgoing model. The new Camry was launched worldwide in January and by the first half of 2012, 4.1 lakh units had been sold. Now why am I spouting figures? That's because with this car, Toyota cannot afford to get too adventurous. The essential DNA of the Camry has to remain untainted with every successive generation, but the car still has to be exciting and relevant every six-seven years or so.
What we have here is the seventh generation Camry, and you know what, it looks the best one so far. There is more than a hint of Lexus about it, which can only be a good thing, because this one's predecessor was too much like a barge - it turned heads only because it was imposing, not because it was pretty. This one, however, has a crispness to its overall lines that give it a more modern appearance. It is still a barge, but one wearing a sharp suit that hides its bulk effectively.
The front end has enough chrome to give Sudarshan Shetty's steel art installations a complex. We Indians will love it! When viewed in profile, the headlamps seem too close to the Corolla Altis, but that's it. The daylight openings are large, giving the insides a very airy and spacious look. And it is spacious, especially for the rear passenger, who gets pretty good headroom. The tail lamps are like Hyundai Sonata meets Audi A4/VW Jetta. Overall, this car looks younger and more premium.
Compared to the Accord, the Camry is slightly smaller, but it is pretty spacious inside, and Toyota has in fact made the pillars sleeker to make the DLOs larger. There is fantastic leg room for the rear passenger and the sofa at the back will keep a Camry owner quite satisfied. The driver gets a complicated multi-function steering and a neat instrument console. What is very disappointing is the layout and quality of stuff on the central console. The design is yawn-inducing, while the feel of the knobs and controls are quite un-premium. The quality of the plastic sections, like on the door or on the dash, are fine, however - no arguing with that. But here was an opportunity for Toyota to bring the external design dynamism inside as well.
Powering the Camry is an inline-four 2494cc motor featuring Dual VVTi that sends 180 bhp (at 6000 revs) and 23.75 kgm of torque (at 4100 rpm) to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine takes refinement to a new level - outside the car, while it is idling, you won’t be able to hear it. It is very, very quiet and that's the same sensation inside as well. External noises are superbly muted and muffled and the silence inside the cabin is perhaps its greatest attribute. The engine noise comes in when you rev it hard and I tell you what, the engine sounds good when you do that.
The engine is really brilliant in the way it develops power - it is unhurried but very good at propelling this car at three digit speeds. You can maintain high speeds and it does so effortlessly. The gearbox comes in both D and S modes - though it is a relaxed mode, keeping it in D is good enough for most purposes and that is because of the engine's sheer capability. Sport mode alters the shift timings, but frankly, it is one of those when-you-are-in-the-mood kind of thing.
Ride quality is also fantastic. We took it over some broken sections of road and for a change I tried the rear seat - it doesn't throw you about at all and does a great job of keeping the rough stuff away. When it comes to handling, there is no taking away the fact that it is a large, front-wheel driven luxury barge. It is not one of those cars you want to go corner-carving in. The rear follows well after your front end has completed the corner, so you don't feel one with the car. But that's all right - this is a car for the rear passenger first. The steering feel is also light and engineered for ease and comfort. Even at high speeds it doesn't tighten up. So don't expect any feedback. If you want a corner carver, ignore this car and go for the Toyota GT-86 instead!
The Camry is being assembled in India, using kits imported from Thailand. So does that mean it will be cheaper than the outgoing version? Don't even think about it. The car will be priced between the other Japanese and the Europeans. The price of the car will be announced on August 24. So what do you get for that big money? You get a good-looking large sedan that defines what Toyota is all about. It does not have all the thingamajigs that a Hyundai will provide, but I could do with rear seat armrest mounted controls and maybe even rear seat cooling while at it. And a reversing camera should be standard rather than an option. That apart, the Camry may drink the expensive fuel, but I am sure there are people out there who don't mind that. You get a refined and spacious sedan that will perhaps still be serving your grandchildren long after you've gone.