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Sumo Barges - Nissan Teana vs Toyota Camry

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From the moment these two came together, I knew it was going to be a tough fight. They stepped into the ring, their faces devoid of emotion, yet there was no mistaking the menace in the air. As they took their stance and performed the pre-fight rituals, a loud laughter erupted from the audience. Girlie names for big cars, no? I mean, Teana and Camry? Names aside, I can't find anything to tease these big girls with. Certainly not after they've been kind enough to pamper me. The Teana's got a facelift and the Camry's got a few revisions as well. Both are big cars made for the American market with lots of space, comfort and exclusivity thrown in along with respectable power. But there has to be a winner, right? Let's find out who is thrown out of the ring, then.

LOOKS

Nissan Teana:

Maybe it's just me, but isn't there a slight hint of GT-R in the Teana's headlamps? Swoopy and almost-sporty the xenons might be, but all pretences of sportiness are thrown out of the window by that giant chrome grille that could make a sabre-toothed tiger run for cover and make every bling-lovin' rap star rub his hands with glee. It doesn't look bad though; it adds to the overall impression of size and that, as they say, is what matters. The curvy roofline gelling into the heavy backside takes your eyes away from the featureless profile that only has a few chrome bits to liven it up in addition to the nine-spoke alloys. At the rear, the tail-lamps are raked and sporty too, but again the gigantic bumper makes it difficult to think of the Teana as lithe. But does looking at it make you want one? Yes, and one look at the all-black roof will convince you too, I'm sure.      

Toyota Camry:

The Camry was pretty futuristic when it was launched and it still manages to look, um, not old. Well, it's just that we've grown used to it, I guess. The Camry, contrary to the Teana, chooses to go horizontal with its headlamps. Those Japanese eyes don't look bad at all and they flank a heavily slatted grille that looks like it could shred errant pedestrians before leaving an imprint of the badge that sits on its snout. However, move backwards and things mellow down a bit with a conservative roofline and sides. The ten-spoke alloys do their best to perk things up but it's not enough, especially with this golden-beige theme. At the rear, the Camry does a Teana with its swollen bumper dominating the view, while the sporty tail-lamps provide some relief. Doesn't look bad at all, this car, but it is a little devoid of the exclusivity that comes with the Teana.   INTERIOR

 

Nissan Teana:

The Teana's cabin is a nice place to kick back and relax. Even more so for the front passenger who gets a business class-type reclining seat. Yes. Nissan calls it the Ottoman seat and it's the place to be in the Teana's cabin – though I wish it was at the back, which is where the Indian owners usually sit. Though you have to be quick enough to plonk yourself in it before anyone else. Yes, I learnt the hard way. If it happens to you too, there is no reason to worry as the rear seats are very comfortable too and legroom is not an issue. And the driver is taken care of in similar fashion, in case you were wondering. The dashboard is well-designed and well-finished too and the matt wood finish mimics that of a Range Rover Sport, so that’s all right then. The faux plastic trim looks a bit cheap and a touch will only confirm what your eyes see. But that's the only grouse I have and everything else, the beige leather upholstery, the controls and the music system, feels top-notch. The airconditioning is impressive and it features dual zone temperature control as well. The start/stop button is a pleasing touch, but what really got my attention was the cool twin sunroof setup. Lovely detail, and combined with the rest of the features, it makes for a great ergonomic package.  

Toyota Camry:

Stepping into the Camry after the Teana is a bit gloomy. The beige isn't as lively and your view is dominated by grey. The controls are fairly simple and easy to use, but you can't escape the feeling that something's missing. No leather steering wheel, no fancy dashboard styling and just the fact that it doesn't feel as well put together as the Teana contribute to you wanting to get back in the other car. The front seats lack under-thigh support, but apart from that little niggle, they're just fine. The rear seats are much more comfortable though and redeem the Camry's cabin to a large extent. The steering wheel features comprehensive controls and there is the <I>de rigeur<I> sunroof too. Overall, equipment levels are decent and there is a lot of space, but it simply doesn't feel as luxurious as the Nissan.   RIDE AND HANDLING

 

Nissan Teana:

The Teana pulls itself together and hustles along quite admirably, more than I was expecting from it to be honest. You don't really expect Japanese luxury barges to be exceptional handlers, do you? However, feel through the steering wheel is good, while the independent front struts and the multi-link setup at the rear work in conjunction with the Vehicle Dynamics Control to keep the Teana planted and pointed in the right direction. While outright grip levels don't betray any kinship to what I would imagine the GT-R feels like, the Teana does give you ample warning signals at high speeds about what you're allowed to do. The 215/55 tyres hugging the 17-inch wheels provide good grip and the brakes come with EBD and Brake Assist for added peace of mind. At city speeds, the Teana soaks up lesser bumps very well, but sharp bumps do make the suspension make thunking noises. Other than that, it's smooth sailing all the way in this barge.  

Toyota Camry:

Now this is one driving experience that fell short of expectations. There is no mistaking the fact that the suspension has been tailored for comfort and the first time you go over bumpy patch at high speeds is enough to understand this. At normal speeds, the Camry is plush and indifferent to road irregularities, isolating you from the worst of the Mumbai civic body's efforts. But once the speedo needle starts to reach above 130 kph, the car starts reaching for every line except the one that you want it to follow. Despite the Vehicle Stability Control that the Camry comes with, it will take the skill of a certain Mr Trulli to keep the big Toyota on course at high speeds. Perhaps bigger wheels with wider tyres would help the Camry behave better than with the 15-inchers that it currently comes with. However, if you're content to cruise along at slightly over triple digit speeds, the Camry will be more than happy to gallop along.   ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE

 

Nissan Teana:

This is the reason why the Teana is here. The 2496cc V6 that powers the Teana produces an extremely smooth 180 bhp to go with the 23.2 kgm of torque and carries its 1,537 kg kerb weight quite well. The motor responds to the slightest dab of your right foot, though the continuously variable transmission makes you feel like you're driving a giant Kinetic Honda. I couldn't help laughing as the Teana gathered its skirt and sprinted forward with a trademark CVT sound. Thanks to the transmission, the Teana could only manage the 0-100 kph run in 10.5 seconds and went on to register a top speed of 198.6 kph with three people on board. It's easy to drive in traffic too, thanks to the power on tap and the Teana pulls cleanly throughout its rev range until the very top where it hits a wall. The Teana's performance is good for a CVT, but needless to say, it would be much better with a 'proper' automatic 'box.      

Toyota Camry:

What a motor! The Camry continues with its 2362cc four-cylinder motor that produces 165 bhp and 22.8 kgm. Despite its higher kerb weight of 1,545 kg and the fact that it gives away two cylinders and 15 bhp to the Teana, it doesn't feel underpowered at all. Yes, it takes 11 seconds to hit the tonne mark, but it posts a top speed of 202.9 kph and the motor feels strong while doing so. In traffic too, the Camry feels very responsive, more so than the Teana and this makes it more driveable as well. The five-speed automatic gearbox is a smooth shifter and never gives any cause for complaint, helping you to extract the last ounce of power from that gem of an engine. I couldn't help but wish that the ride and handling of the car would do justice to the motor. Sigh.   VERDICT

 

Both might be big and Japanese, but have as much in common as the Tories and Liberals of England. Whether it is creature comforts or outright performance, the Teana has the measure of the Camry and when it comes to safety features, both are on par. So, it's down to the final act - the price. The Teana is yours for Rs 26.60 lakh, ex-showroom, Mumbai, while the Camry retails for Rs 24.68 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai. With its luxurious comfort, features and road manners, the more expensive Teana makes great sense for its price, while the Camry fails to make a convincing case despite its much lower price. There is the very valid question of Nissan's after sales network against bullet-proof Toyota reliability and greater reach across India, but I'm going to stick my neck out and pick the Teana and I recommend that you do the same. Alright, fight's over, move along now, nothing to see here.