A SPORTY Toyota sedan? Who would have thought? But that is exactly what the Japanese manufacturer has attempted with its latest version Camry - a sharper, cheaper, better equipped and fun-to-drive transformation of an Australian favourite.
One would have expected the update of this seventh-generation faithful to be nothing more than cosmetic - a new grille, perhaps redesigned headlights and a few tweaks to the interior. The reality is anything but.
Some 800 parts and components have been changed in this new offering, with the roof and glass the only survivors from the previous model. The body is sleeker, the stance more aggressive and the price (from $26,490) quite impressive.
But perhaps the biggest change is that for the first time the Camry will be available in two distinct flavours - a standard car that offers buyers the reliability and capability which has made it the best-selling medium sedan in this country for more than two decades and new sports version aimed at attracting new, younger buyers to the fold.
The latter, the Atara SX, was conceived and executed by Toyota's Australian-based engineers and is unique to this market. It features 18-inch wheels, a sports suspension and greater steering feel and direction.
"We wanted to produce a Camry that appeals to its traditional customers as well as to younger buyers," said Chief Engineer Masato Katsumata.
"As a result, the latest Camry is the boldest-looking Camry ever. The car is more expressive, more athletic and more confident.
"At the same time, your local engineers convinced us we should offer a Camry with 18-inch wheels for the first time in Australia. They developed an entire package - including suspension and steering refinements - that takes Camry's handling to a whole new level of responsiveness.
"It is amazing that this Aussie know-how makes Camry much more fun to drive - what we call 'waku-doki' - without affecting the ride comfort expected in a Camry. This is a Camry that will be sought by people who want a true driver's car."
The adjusted pricing is also likely to appeal to buyers in this segment with customers paying up to $5000 less compared with the equivalent car in the superseded range. Prices start at $26,940 for the petrol variants which the cheapest launch price on an automatic Camry in the past 18 years.
The inside has also been updated to keep pace with exterior changes with new upholstery three-spoke steering wheels across the range. Safety is five-star with seven airbags, reversing camera, stability and traction control, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
Pricing (add $2500 for drive-away)
Altise - from $26,490 (prev model $30,490)
Atara S - from $29,490 ($33,990)
Atara SX - from $31,990 ($36,490)
Atara SL - from $37,440 ($39,990)
Altise - from $30,490 ($35,490)
Atara S - from $32,490
Atara SL - from $40,440
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