Camry, a car full of good surprises

Every now and again a car comes along which surprises me. One that I don’t expect to be up to much but which actually turns out to be a surprising star.

The Camry

One such car is the Camry. It’s an executive saloon from Toyota and sits in the ranks above the Corolla, another model which deserves a higher profile.

If Camry doesn’t immediately spring to mind, it’s not your fault. Camry was absent from our shores until it returned to the UK market as an-all hybrid, eighth generation model in 2019 after a 14-year absence.

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And while I fell it for its understated charms, it has to be said it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea,

It might be cool and understated but it is one of only a few cars to have a stepless automatic system. So rather than flicking up and down through the gears, the car has just the one gear which somehow copes with low speeds and high speeds with equal aplomb.

CVT (continuously variable transmissions) as they are called are usually only found on small cars. Daf, you may recall, used to specialise in then in the 1970s.

I’m not generally a fan of this system – if it worked well, everyone would use them and the fact is virtually every manufacturer prefers a traditional stepped transmission system.

But the fact is it works well in this car. Add in Toyota solidity and timeless style and you have a car which is rather charming. It is a reminder that you don’t have to go to the traditional big guns – Audi, BMW et al – to find an interesting executive saloon.

It has been around for a while, since 1982 in fact. It is staggering that this is the eighth generation and it has grown from a relatively compact model into a full-blown saloon.

It benefits from a low centre of gravity which gives it good roadholding. And the engine is powerful and efficient with extra power from the electric motor.

It is spacious and it has a wonderful deep boot of 524 litres. Camry has been upgraded of late so it now has fresh details on the outside, more cabin comfort and higher equipment specifications.

A new front bumper design gives it added street presence, with a chrome frame contrasting with the arrangement of black horizontal bars. At the rear, the design of the light clusters has been gently altered.

Both Camry grades have new alloy wheel designs: 10-spoke silver 17in wheels for the Design model and a multi-spoke design with a machined finish for the Excel’s 18in rims.

Inside, there’s a new leather upholstery design and the power-adjustable front seats in the Excel model gain ventilation and memory functions in addition to the heating and lumbar support that is already standard across the range.

Simple smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto has been made a standard Camry feature. Safety upgrades include the addition of Lane Trace Assist to the Toyota Safety Sense package and a location function for the tyre pressure monitoring system.

New features exclusive to the Camry Excel include a Panoramic View Monitor, giving the driver a 360-degree view of the area around the car when manoeuvring in confined places; a useful automatic tilt action on the door mirrors when reversing; and paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel. The power-adjusting steering wheel itself now comes with a heater and a memory setting.

Excel also gains a larger, 9in display for the Toyota Touch multimedia system; the seven-inch screen is retained for Design grade.

The established Camry specification includes dual-zone automatic air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights (low beam only for Design), daytime running lights and front fog lights and satellite navigation. Excel grade features include rear privacy glass, wireless charger, smart entry, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Monitor.

Camry might be little known here but it is a big-seller elsewhere – 19m since 1982.

The lack of a diesel option has hindered it in the past but that is not seem as a problem now. Diesels are not desirable any more.

Many people are flocking to electric power but for those who want a greener car without the limitations of plugging in, maybe Camry will strike the right note.

The experience is pleasing. Thanks to the hybrid capabilities, moving off is as smooth as you’d find in a fully electric car and the integration between the combustion engine and motor is seamless.

Toyota Camry Excel

Price: £34,830. The lesser-equipped Design costs £32,260

Engine: A 2,487cc four-cylinder petrol engine plus electric motor

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic transmission

Power: 215bhp

Performance: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mph in 8.3 seconds

Costs: 51.3mpg combined

Insurance: Group 32D

Emissions: 125g/km

Warranty: It is eligible to be covered by up to 10 years’ manufacturer warranty through Toyota Relax. This is provided through an initial three years’ manufacturer warranty from the vehicle’s registration date that can be extended with regular servicing