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First look: Toyota Camry steps out

Power up: The Oz-only Camry Atara's twin exhausts raise power by 2kW over other variants.

3200 Toyota jobs hang on success of new-generation Camry from November

24 Aug 2011

TOYOTA Australia promises its all-new seventh-generation Camry will deliver more power, greater fuel efficiency and a quieter, safer and more spacious driving experience when the new mid-sizer rolls from its Altona production line from next month ahead of a November release – just a month after its debut in North America.

While previous generations made in Australia have lagged up to 12 months behind overseas markets, preparations for the new model have been made in parallel with Japan – where it was designed – and the United States – its biggest market – to ensure a timely production start in the Australian factory which exports 70 per cent of its volume, mainly to the Middle East.

The standard petrol Camry – which is 70kg lighter than the superseded model, thanks to more liberal use of high-strength steel – will go into showrooms in the last week of November, while the hybrid version will follow in the first quarter of 2012.

The next V6 Aurion, which is built on the Camry base, will complete the locally-made range in the second quarter of next year.

The new Camry and Aurion will be critical to the future of Toyota manufacturing in Australia, with 3200 jobs hanging on the success of the new model that will remain in production for five years.

8 center imageLeft: Australian Camry Atara. Below: US-spec Camry and Camry hybrid.

A pre-production Camry was unveiled this morning to the media by Toyota Australia in Melbourne, just a few hours after the global reveal beamed around the world from the Paramount film studios in Hollywood and Toyota’s American Camry plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, where global president Akio Toyoda drove the first car off the line.

The local reveal was strictly a teaser, with Toyota Australia choosing to keep many of the details – including the interior design, model specification details and pricing – under wraps until the launch proper in November.

The new Camry treads the same conservative path as its six predecessors and is similar in most critical dimensions to the existing car, but gets all-new sheet-metal, a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and fresh six-speed automatic transmission in place of the previous five-speeder (the manual gearbox has been dropped).

Toyota’s Australian branch has departed from other markets by introducing a new distinct nameplate – Atara – which is said to be Hebrew for ‘crown’ and also a contraction of ‘atarashii’ – Japanese for ‘new’.

The Camry Atara gets a more sporty body treatment than the base Altise, and will be aimed at private buyers and user-chooser business lease customers, leaving the Altise to do the fleet grunt work.

The Atara will also have its own range differentiation. The blue-painted vehicle shown to the media brandished a 2.5 SX badge on its posterior, indicating that it will be offered in more than one spec level, no doubt with cloth trim and leather among the differentiators.

Toyota Australia senior executive director sales and marketing Dave Buttner said the introduction of Atara would add an extra dimension to the Camry brand, appearing on Camry models targeted mainly at private buyers and the user-chooser segment of the fleet market.

"The introduction of Atara reflects the added sophistication of the new range,” he said.

No specific power or torque figures were offered for the Australian version of the Camry, although Toyota said the engine would offer 10 per cent more power and five per cent more torque.

The Americans quoted power at 133kW at 6000rpm for its 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, a healthy lift over the 117kW 2.4-litre engine still doing duty in the current Camry in Australia.

The US figures also show a combined fuel reading of 8.4 litres per 100km, indicating a 0.4/100km improvement over the current 8.8L/100km here.

But Mr Buttner told GoAuto that the American figures would not necessarily translate to the Australian model, as the test regimes were different.

Instead, he would only say the Camry would have a 10 per cent improvement in fuel consumption.

Although Toyota Australia refused to let journalists get look inside the car at Toyota Style Australia’s studios, it showed a graphic that indicated the cabin had been stretched internally, with the front-seat occupants moving forward by 7mm and the rear-seat passenger seats going back 8mm, contributing to a 46mm gain in rear knee room.

The base Altise was shown with 10-spoke alloy wheels and a metallic-look grille, while the sportier Atara gets alloys in a five-spoke design, a black plastic mesh grille, a heavier front air dam with three openings and fog lights, and matching rear sports treatment with twin exhausts that Toyota says are more than for show, contributing a small increase in power and torque over the Altise with its single pipe.

As GoAuto has reported, local production of Camry will start with engines imported from Japan until the new $300 million four-cylinder factory at Altona achieves full production in November next year.

The plant ultimately will build the new 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle version of the Toyota four-cylinder engine for the Hybrid Camry – a first for Altona, as the previous petrol-electric hybrid engine was fully imported.

The engine plant has been gutted ahead of the total refit that was partly funded by the federal government’s now defunct Green Car Innovation Fund.

The new Camry will gain electric-assisted power steering that will contribute to fuel-economy gains, in place of the current mechanical set-up, while Toyota says it is confident of a five-star ANCAP result, once it is crash tested.

The Hybrid Camry is set for a major drivetrain upgrade, with American Toyota executives saying it can be driven up to 2.6km in electric mode before the petrol engine kicks in – considerably further than the current car that basically uses its electric motors to accelerate from standstill.

The hybrid retains the nickel-metal-hydride batteries that it shares with the Prius hybrid, but the DC converter is shifted to under the bonnet, freeing up more boot space.

The hybrid Camry is said to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in less than eight seconds, making it faster than the standard four-cylinder petrol version.

Toyota says the new Camry sets a fresh benchmark in its class for ride smoothness and quietness in all variants.

It said it did not just suppress overall noise in terms of decibels, but also concentrated on reducing specific frequencies that upset human conversation.

A more rigid body structure helped to contribute to this noise reduction, while redesigned front MacPherson strut suspension and a tweaked rear dual-link suspension design help to improve straight-line stability.

Mr Buttner said the next-generation Camry was a new-era car with more sophistication and enhanced rational reasons for purchase.

"Camry is the smart, safe and worry-free leader of the Toyota brand – a symbol of Toyota's benchmark quality, durability and reliability," he said.

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