Greenpeace members of our lovely universe and others of their ilk have been harping on about one united world for sometime now. Peace and tolerance, they say, will save the planet.
Call me a pessimist, but somehow I don’t see that happening. Ever. For centuries we’ve had people with opinions split right down the middle. A bit like the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. Now, these may not be cars that have a cult following, but the chances of you seeing these two in the same driveway are as remote as Ferrari making a diesel.
For years these cars have battled each other almost all over the world. And they meet again today. Probably for the fifty-seven thousandth time in a motoring magazine comparo.
So what’s the Skoda Superb doing here? Well, we got it along to get a D-angle to the story. It’s around the same price, is big and seems like a rather nice option too. Oh, and just in case you didn’t get it, D stands
The Camry is the all-new car here so let’s start with it. The Toyota does look a bit slab-sided in profile, but it looks best from the front and rear three-quarters. And if you think about it, this is probably the first time you can associate the word ‘design’ with this car. After generations of building saloons that were so bland that they made watching paint dry high value entertainment, Toyota has finally managed to come up with something that you can at least have an opinion on. Albeit a divided one. Having said that, we certainly think that Toyota haven’t tried enough to give it a family look, making the car look a bit out of place in its line-up. There is a lot of flame surfacing too – don’t worry, Mr Bangle, I am sure the cheque’s in the mail.
The Honda on the other hand still looks as fresh and has brilliantly stood the insults of time. It’s still the most aggressive looking car of the lot by far. But it’s about time Honda got the facelifted version here. I mean, Honda are known to bring down their international updates rather quickly, and we are surprised that they haven’t done anything with the Accord for sometime now.
As for the Superb, well we’ve always criticised it for not being too much to look at, and in this company, it really does feel a bit, how do we put it... less special than the other two. And you thought the Japanese lacked flair. Anyway, the Superb has presence in a Men In Black sort of way but I highly doubt Will Smith would ever be seen in one. It lacks the sense of occasion that you would want from a twenty-odd lakh rupee car and seems rather devoid of charisma. Not such a promising start then, for the dark horse here.
This is where the Superb comes right back into the game. You see, while the Japanese here are luxury cars in the sense of it, they are still middle-rung in the overall global hierarchy in large cars. So you see, the Japanese prime minister is never going to be short on choice to end up in one of these.
On the other hand, his Czech compatriot won’t really be flush with choices for national transport. No wonder then that the Superb has a bit of limo-ness about the way it’s built, something that’s apparent as soon as you get into the car. The rear half feels bigger than the front, so it’s great if you occupy the rear seats. Incidentally, the Skoda’s rear seats mean business and are the best catered to as well. And because it is a flagship, it comes with enough equipment to shame the C-Class Merc and on occasion, even the E. Filling up the equipment list isn’t something the Accord excels at. It’s got all the bits and pieces and you never really miss much until you step into any of the other cars and realise what Honda has skimmed on. They should have skimmed on the faux wood instead. Having said that, here is an interior that you know belongs to this car even if the steering wheel didn’t have a big ‘H’ on it.
Which really is the Camry’s problem. Don’t get me wrong here, the interiors look very, very good but there isn’t a single design feature that tells me that I am in a Toyota.
The Camry starts this test with a bit of a disadvantage with regard to hardware. It’s a couple of cylinders short and has over a 50 bhp deficit to the Accord. The 2362cc four-cylinder engine puts out 167 bhp@6000 rpm while torque is rated at 22.8 kgm@4000 rpm. A significant improvement over its predecessor, at least on paper. And while it may seem deficient with regards to the competition, it is anything but that. Super refined as ever, it never runs out of breath while powering this barge and you can’t help but think that the engine would be nothing short of brilliant in something like an MR2.
The other Japanese here came with the king-size option. Yup! Our test Accord came with a 2997cc V6 that puts out an astounding 221 bhp at 6300 rpm. The most potent engine of the lot, this one too is ultra-refined, more free-revving than the Toyota’s and gets a five-speed automatic.
The other V6 here is a bit of a culture shock in this company. Firstly it’s a diesel and it isn’t one of the new-fangled Pumpe-Duse units. The 2497cc V6 feeds on common rail and puts out 193 bhp@4000 rpm. What’s phenomenal though is that its max torque of 31 kgm comes in at just 1400 rpm. What’s even better is the Tiptronic gearbox that’s good fun in the twisties.
If any one of these luxo-barges can be a driver’s car, it is the Accord. The scotch-smooth V6 isn’t just the most powerful motor here, it also happens to be the most powerful motor in the country... except for the Mercs. And boy, what an engine. Quite simply, this motor single-handedly dictates the car’s character. At one moment you are wafting along at 1500 rpm, at 80 kph, until you decide to get a move on. So you bury the throttle, the sharp auto tranny reacts in a hurry, and before you know it, you are travelling at a prodigious pace and the rear view mirror has lost all meaning. Once you are done playing Schumacher (or Button in this case) and there aren’t any cars left to overtake, you can settle down and act your age again. Until you come up to the next traffic light, or the next gap in traffic, and then it’s back to being a ten year old. Now, I am as big a manual transmission buff as anyone else (my mountain bike had eighteen gears, for Chrissakes!), but with the auto tranny being so proactive, I didn’t feel out of place.
Pleasantly enough, the Camry is no longer the uninspiring tram to drive that it used to be. Wonder of wonders, this one even comes with a rather gnarly engine note. In fact a 0-60 kph time of 4.64 secs for the Camry is very respectable. And despite being the only four-pot here, it can mingle with the V6s rather easily. Having said that, when we dragged the two Japs from 100 kph, the Accord had already pulled at a couple of car lengths before the Toyota even realised what was happening, the lazy transmission being the culprit. As for the Czech, its lump doesn’t sound like a diesel, but it doesn’t sound like a petrol either. However, if you really asked people to guess, most would think it’s a petrol. Until you drive it. Because a major chunk of the torque comes in at just over tick-over and the scenery can go blurry rather quickly, you immediately know that this is one of the new generation diesels. And unless you want to have a bit of fun, there is no craving to go through the gearbox manually. What’s great is that this car can be a nice long-legged, calm cruiser and even a sprinting driver’s tool. Progress is smooth, rapid and civilised.
This is where the Superb’s European roots really come through. The Czech doesn’t go over bumps as much as it swallows them. Neither of the Japanese feel as cosseted from the road as the Superb and it is the most comfortable car of the lot. At times a bit too comfortable because through the tighter corners, there was a bit more roll than we would have liked. The well-weighted steering too is brilliant and quite simply is a notch above the rest of the gang.
And talking of good steering, the Accord’s isn’t that bad either. The ride though isn’t what you would expect from a car of this class. It’s perfectly fine on good roads, but on broken tarmac, it doesn’t impress at all. Through the corners it’s predictable understeer all-through, although with so much power to deal with, the tyres do have a Herculean task at putting the power down. Drive within limits though and the double wishbone suspension up-front proves a point as to why it’s better than an independent strut layout. The Accord provides a decent level of involvement and it is enjoyable to drive, since it’s not too heavy for its size. What that also means is as the speedo needle approaches 170 kph, you don’t feel as pinned down as you would be in the Superb.
The revelation of the day however was the Camry. Remote and uninvolving as it used to be, the new Camry is anything but that. Drive it and you know there has been a conscious effort to make the car more involving. A drastic change not just for the car, but possibly in the way Toyota is actually building the Camry – even though it still maintains the McPherson strut layout like all its previous generations. It’s no BMW but at least now you won’t fall asleep. In terms of ride, Toyota thankfully hasn’t re-tyred the car to suit Indian conditions. The slightly softer setup meant they didn’t have to do that and so it is a better chauffer-driven car than the Accord.
This really is as close a comparison as we have had in a long time at BSM. But to not pick a winner would be a cop-out. So, let me say that the Accord wins this comparo. It certainly isn’t the most comprehensive victory and neither is it significantly better in any respect. But at almost Rs 6 lakh less than the Camry, the Accord is value for money, if there can be any such thing at this price. The 2.4 version that’s cheaper is in fact a bargain. And that in essence is what seals it for the Accord.
The Camry finishes second in the comparo. Had it not been for that bloated price tag, it really would have bettered that spot. I mean, at Rs 22 lakh, it comes temptingly close to the C-Class. What does work in the Camry’s favour though is that it’s a generation ahead of the Accord and scores brilliantly in terms of equipment levels. It’s new too, and in this segment more than any other, novelty holds its own charm.
That leaves the Superb in third spot. But that’s not to say it isn’t a good car. It’s better built than the others, but I really don’t want to be driving around in a car where people go ‘Gee, why does this Octavia look so big?’ Then there is Skoda service, which we hear isn’t up to scratch. But if you want an expensive diesel car to drive, er... get the Laura. However, if you want diesel economy, will be occupying the rear seat most of the time and occasionally like to get behind the wheel, your search should end with the Superb.