Unveiled last month, the new Camry, which is only available in 2.5V specs, appears very similar to the pre-facelifted model launched almost four years ago.
Its slightly wider lower grille, taillights with black highlight and 18-inch alloy wheels featuring twisted dark spokes looked like minor updates to casual motorists.
However, it’s under the sheet metal that the new Camry, fully-imported from Thailand and priced at RM199,109 (on-the-road without insurance but with 50% sales and service tax exemption), is a much improved machine.
Its host of upgrades in performance, comfort, safety and infotainment systems should justify the higher price of some RM11,000 over the outgoing edition.
For a start, the updated model gets a new 2.5-litre Dynamic Force A25A-FKS engine with port and direct injection that outputs 209PS and 253Nm of torque which are 25PS and 18Nm more than the 2.5-litre port injection only block used in the older Camry.
The new engine also claims a thermal efficiency of 40% and promises a fuel economy of 6.8 litres per 100km which is 8% better than previously.
Incidentally, the Camry’s engine has even been tuned to deliver 5PS and 6Nm more than the A25A-FKS unit used in the current Lexus ES 250.
The new vehicle is also equipped with an eight-speed Direct Shift sequential automatic transmission that is more compact with 25% wider gear ratios compared with a six-speed automatic transmission equipped previously.
At 110kph, the new transmission allows the engine to rev slower at 1,700rpm compared with 2,000rpm previously to lower fuel consumption.
In addition to the newly introduced drive modes of Eco, Normal and Sport, paddle shifters are included this time which should allow manual gear shifting control during spirited driving.
Inside, the Camry feels plush with black leather seats and the centre infotainment display is now a large nine-inch standing design featuring an audio system with nine JBL speakers and a subwoofer that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The air-conditioner system is also improved from a two-zone type to a three-zone to allow rear passengers to select their cooling preferences.
Providing a luxurious touch are the power rear seats that come with a backrest recline of up to eight degrees.
Aside from reclining their seats, rear passengers can also use a control panel on the rear centre folding armrest to adjust their air-conditioner settings, rear power sunshade as well as the car’s audio system.
The new Camry’s enhanced state-of-the-art safety features include the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) with Pre-Collision System (PCS) and increased recognition capabilities that can now detect pedestrians and cyclists.
The All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Keeping System and Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), as well as Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Auto Brake (RCTAB), coupled with the new Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) and Panoramic View Monitor (PVM) make the new Camry a much safer vehicle.
The DRCC also incorporates an unique Curve Speed Reduction function that slows the vehicle down when entering a curve.
Other features include TNGA Platform that increased chassis stiffness and lowers the centre of gravity, seven airbags, anti-lock braking system, vehicle stability and traction control, automatic bi-LED projector headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL), vehicle telematics system, enhanced digital video recorder and tyre pressure monitoring system among others.
Ahead of the new Camry’s launch, we had an opportunity to test the car’s driving refinements during a round trip from Shah Alam to Gambang, Pahang covering some 250km.
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine was smooth without sounding strained even when the accelerator was floored.
Power delivery is linear and gear changes are silky even when driven hard.
Using front MacPherson and rear multi-link suspension, the Camry offered a comfortable ride and competent handling even when driven fast along windy stretches of the Karak Highway.
Sound insulation was more than adequate and kept out most of the wind and outside noises from entering the cabin at high speeds.
The power recline feature of the rear seatbacks, coupled with ample legroom, certainly made us feel like we were in a more expensive car that is a class higher.
As standard in all Toyota vehicles, the latest Camry is offered with a comprehensive five-year warranty with unlimited mileage.
Available colours are Graphite Metallic, Silver Metallic, Red Mica, while the signature colours of Platinum White Pearl Mica and Burning Black will cost an extra RM800.
The Camry nameplate was introduced locally in 1994 with the third generation model.
UMW Toyota Motor briefly assembled the Camry Hybrid in 2015.
The current eighth-generation Camry was unveiled locally in November 2018 and has since sold over 3,000 units.