During this period of severe economic and political uncertainty, Iain Robertson believes that Toyota, based at both Derby and Deeside, deserves a pat on the back for shoring-up its UK resolve, as it is set to reintroduce the once-loved Camry model.
It is facile to suggest that, when writing about new motorcars, one ought not delve into pseudo-political psychobabble. However, a problem lies in the fact that the motor industry is politicised and has allowed itself to be so. Yet, it is not a new phenomenon. When the former BMC became the nationalised BLMC, or whatever, distance-managed by government, it lost all rights to independence and, even during the stormy Thatcher era, while some UK car companies were being sold off like cheap auction goods, alongside the nation’s utilities and externalised departments, it was hard for them to forget the ‘it’s not our money’ methodology.
Many of the ailments that have struck at Indian-owned but former British carmakers Jaguar and Land Rover earlier this year are little more than a consequence of a company mollycoddled into not caring about whom, or what, was resourcing them. For a modest period, the former British Motor Industry was bolstered by heavily-UK-funded Nissan and Toyota and they maintained a degree of silence, knuckled down to the job in hand and built their enterprises. However, funded by political intrigue, as soon as things start to look shaky, if the begging bowls are not extended, the vain threats get issued. While Honda had never requested UK funding, despite a denial to the contrary, ‘Brexit’ has played a hand in its withdrawal from our market.
Dismay sets-in with most TV news bulletins these days. Despite reports that seldom make the headlines about our nation being perfect for new business operations, all too often, it is the negative implications that are selected for broadcast. For Toyota, most recently, the loss of Auris and Avensis may have seemed tragic. Yet, they have been replaced by Corolla and shared technology that will see Suzuki hybrid models rolling off its production lines in the near future. The simple fact that Toyota has ‘done a Volvo’ (with its seat-belts), by making EV manufacturing and technology licences available to a much wider market, suggests that, despite its political mutterings, Toyota is set for the long-haul in the UK.
Supplementing the brand’s UK presence is the news that an all-new Camry Hybrid will be joining its dealer network imminently, at prices around £30,000. Available in two trim levels, Design and Excel, the return of Camry after fifteen years heralds Toyota’s self-charging hybrid line-up to an excellent eight-strong position. Powered by a new 2.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic Force powertrain, apart from fuel efficiency, low emissions and quieter running, its impressive figures of 215bhp, 98g/km CO2 and a stated up to 53.3mpg suggests that Camry should hit the road running.
The combined petrol engine and electric drivetrain operates through a sequential automated transmission that mimics a six-speed automatic ’box (even though only one ratio is available), which will increase driver engagement. Camry is a massive success story for Toyota, having amassed over 19m sales since 1982 and its eighth generation, now built on the firm’s TNGA platform, will follow suit. The entirely new car’s packaging is excellent and follows much of the design premise established by the all-new Corolla.
Since the latest version’s inception, its development has been based on two pillars: Performance (which includes driving dynamics, noise, vibration and harshness levels, quality-durability-reliability and packaging) and Intelligence (high-tech specifications, comfort and safety). To achieve the remit, the new Camry has a wide, low and aerodynamically efficient exterior design that projects confident, distinctive styling, while incorporating a further evolution of Toyota’s current design philosophy that places an emphasis on the visual impact of the lower section of the car and a keener-edged appearance overall. It is a good look and a country-mile removed from the blandness of the immense firm’s former generations.
Camry’s cabin floor and the seating hip points have been lowered, which has the effect of reducing the car’s centre of gravity, without hindering access and egress, while the interior displays an overall fusion of Japanese style, comfort and craftsmanship. Being aware of its origins and exercising that awareness is a major sign of the brand maturing. While the French marques seem to eye Germanic quality and style so enviously, Japan is starting to value its art and intrinsic influences more highly, which can only pay dividends in terms of self-respect. The organic curves of the dashboard enclose an ergonomically ideal, driver-focused cockpit. The front seats provide both comfort and support, while the rear seats have a 60:40 split-folding configuration that expands the available boot space.
All-new switchgear has been designed to look and feel high-end, with optimised functionality. The Human-Machine Interface (HMI) concept provides two information displays: a 7.0-inch multi-information screen in the driver’s instrument binnacle (accessed and altered by steering-wheel mounted switches) and another 7.0-inch centre console display incorporating the ‘Toyota Touch 2 with Go’ multimedia and navigation system, with which occupants can react.
While the first all-electric Toyota is yet to appear in the UK, with the exception of the Mirai, its hydrogen fuel-cell model, the company’s market-leading, self-charging hybrids have made a powerful case. They may not provide the free access to congestion charge zones as they used to but they can still boast low-CO2 ratings and tax-efficiency and the forthcoming Camry, as a replacement for Avensis, performs that task to perfection. It is expected to land early this summer and, while not a serious threat to the domination of the Teutonic Threesome, it will go head-to-head against the likes of Kia Stinger and Ford’s Mondeo hybrid.
The new model retains the core values that have underpinned Camry’s success to date, including segment-leading quality, tactility, durability and reliability, cabin refinement and ride satisfaction, while further head-turning design details are featured both inside and out, along with innovative technology and safety aspects galore. Business users will be happy.