Toyota Camry – Safe bet

The Camry is here to lure Europeans away from their German, Italian and French saloon cars with an appealing blend of tech and comfort.

The Toyota Camry is the ninth bestselling car in the world. Or it was last year. Think about that: of all the cars sold in every dealership in the world, only eight of them sell more than this Japanese saloon.

With 661,383 units delivered in 2018, the Camry is an incredibly important car for Toyota. If we forget the 52 Sundays and consider the other 313 days of the year when showrooms are open, maybe from 10am to 8pm, three and a half people buy a Camry every minute of those 10 hours. Mega wow. Still, what to say about the Toyota Corolla, THE overall bestselling car in the world with almost twice the sales of the Camry in 2018? Hyper wow, I guess. With two models, Toyota shifts almost two million cars. Get your head around that.

The Camry is the number one saloon in the USA, and it has recently been reintroduced in Europe with a hybrid powerplant that should put it ahead of many of its rivals, still clinging on to diesel engines. Funny enough, Toyota stopped selling the Camry in Europe in 2004 because it didn’t have a diesel engine in the range and that was all we wanted back then. What is it, they say? Change is the only constant. I guess they are right.

Toyota say the car has been fine-tuned for European tastes, meaning they took special attention to the way it rides and handles. Obviously, nobody is going to buy a Camry seeking for thrills, but as a car to travel long distances, the Toyota is spot on. The suspension doesn’t care about sportiness, focusing instead on offering a smooth ride, allowing some body roll in order to better soak up the road imperfections. The pliancy is really good, but the car never feels floaty – they did a good job here.

The most notable consequence of money well spent on getting the suspension right is refinement. Cruising is the Camry’s stronger card, as comfort is aided by excellent road and wind noise cancelling levels.

There is loads of space inside, both upfront and in the back, due to a clever positioning of the batteries beneath the rear seats; this also helps lowering the centre of gravity of the car, giving a better overall balance and helping aerodynamics.

Fit and finish are a reflexion of Toyota’s fame of building indestructible cars. The dashboard layout is very Japanese and may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works. I wish the centre screen was a bit bigger and had better graphics, but after I got used to the Camry, I stopped caring much about that.

The Hybrid system has a 2.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine mated to an electric motor; combined, they produce 218 horsepower and 221Nm of torque. The transmission is a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), chosen for its ability to process the changes between petrol and electric power. Good for efficiency, but don’t expect any sporty responses or quick downshifts. In fact, the steering wheel paddles are there if you feel like driving in a more spirited manner, but they are an artificial element. There is no changing gear in a CVT.

Every time you turn the Camry off, it gives you an efficiency percentage of how well you made regarding eco-driving. Around town I was able to manage a score of 75-85% on every journey, meaning the integration of both powerplants is seamless and well judged. Think about the inputs of your right foot and you can make this 1.6 tonne car average less then 6 litres/100km.

As the buzz around electrification rises, it just feels good to drive in a congested area in a zero emissions vehicle. And when the petrol engine comes alive, I noticed myself looking for ways to make it shut down again. I guess this happens to more people too. Drive a performance car and you crave performance. Drive an eco-car and you crave zero-emissions.

Because the Camry is a self-charging hybrid, you don’t need to worry about plugging it in at the end of the day or using up all the battery. The car manages that for you, balancing both power units as best they serve its purposes. When I gave it back to Toyota, it was showing 6.4l/100km. Mission accomplished.

Of course, being at the forefront of technology is never cheap, so the €43,990 Toyota ask for the Camry may seem like a lot. But I think it’s a fair price for what you get and for what the car will offer you for the duration of your time together. It’s a modern saloon with cutting-edge tech and a tonne of space that will outlive us all. It’s Toyota doing what Toyota does best.

By Guilherme Marques