The Toyota Camry is surely one of the most popular cars in its segment. You just see them everywhere.
But apart from the conventional Camrys you are used to, there is a special version that might be able to blow your mind.
The Camry 3.5Q, priced at Bt2.85 million (the lower versions with 2- and 2.4-litre engines are priced from Bt1.299 million to Bt1.749 million), is the top version offered in the Camry line-up and comes with a massive 3.5-litre V6 power plant capable of pumping out as much as 272 horsepower and 336Nm of torque. Wow, sounds like a European sports sedan to me.
The car comes with everything you need, from navigation system to air-con with air purifier, and the large cabin space that also makes it a comfortable executive car. In fact when having to cut costs for a new car, a lot of European saloon users have downsized to the Camry (or the Honda Accord and Nissan Teana), which is much cheaper and offers as much space (perhaps even more in the case of the Camry) and comfort inside.
When we featured the regular Camry last year, I mentioned that the re-designed Camry follows the footsteps of the Lexus in term of styling, although you can still see many unique Camry elements remaining such as the rear windows and large doors. Simply said, it is also a substitute for those who can't afford a mid-sized Lexus.
In terms of design, the car is pretty much the same as the lower versions, except for the crash sensor in front and the dual exhausts located on each side of the rear apron. Even the wheels are the regular 17-inch alloys with 215/60 tires.
The 3.5Q also features a six-speed automatic gearbox with what Toyota calls a "Subsequential Shift", which is basically a manual shift mode. Shift points are silky smooth, and the sixth ratio makes sure you don't waste precious fuel unnecessarily.
With that much torque available, the 3.5Q can overtake on the highway comfortably, as well as give you hair-raising acceleration at full throttle. But beware, the quicker you accelerate, the more thirsty the engine becomes. It is normal that you can almost see the fuel gauge dropping in front of your eyes when driving the 3.5Q hard.
Unfortunately the suspension, consisting of regular MacPherson struts in front and dual-link-type struts in back, isn't so impressive. Even with stabilisers both front and rear, the car is sloppy in hard cornering or quick lane-changing (and the steering isn't crisp or direct like a European car's), since engineers have given more importance to comfort than to grip.
There is massive lateral roll, and sometimes it can be irritating to drive a car with so much power and not so much stability. Just goes to show that so much power and a front wheel drive set-up just might not be the right combination.
Anyone who contradicts me can drive the 3.5Q through a slalom and come back for a chat.
While I was pretty happy with the handling of the less powerful Camrys, Toyota should have made sure that the 3.5Q lives up to international standards in terms of roadworthiness.
What I would do right after buying a Camry 3.5Q is to drive to Srinakarin Road and get a suspension tune-up from TRD Thailand. New shocks and springs, as well as bushing, should just do it.
So what it is the standard version good for? Well, straight-line acceleration is great (when driving long-distance on long straight roads - Bangkok-Chon Buri Motorway for instance), and your guts won't be thrown all over when driving on roads with the poor conditions often found in this country.
Braking is also so-so for a car with this much power. The Germans do it much better. But then they can't sell an E-Class or 5 Series for less than Bt3 million as Toyota does with the 3.5Q, can they?
Thinking about it, the 3.5Q is probably a model that would do well in the US, where the highways are really long and straight (endless I would say), and people are more concerned about comfort than driving pleasure (they still eat in the car!). I bet they sell a lot of 3.5-litre Camrys in the States.
As mentioned, the interior is huge, with lots of room for the rear passengers, making the Camry a great choice for executives. There is plenty of headroom and legroom too, even for six-footers.
The only setback seems to be the ugly steering, with wood on the top part.
The steering diameter is also too large, and it doesn't feel right in the hands.
Both front seats come with a cooling system that saves your butt when parking the car under sunlight. Oh, the leather seats can be really hot! There are air vents for the rear passengers, ashtrays and cup holders as well as a DVD player. Meanwhile, the automatic climate-control system also features an air cleaner similar to home air-conditioners that performs very well in keeping the cabin filled with clean, fresh air. Smokers would love it.
You also get automatic headlights and windshield wipers, a rear-view camera and a Smart Entry system featuring a push-start button. Also there are dual front air bags, side air bags, a whiplash-injury lessening system, five seat belts, traction control and Vehicle Stability Control.
Well, Toyota is the only manufacturer to offer a power version of its mid-sized sedan right now so if you want a Camry that is not an ordinary Camry, this is the chance. It's got as much power (even more actually) than a BMW 530 and doesn't look like a car that has won the award for "Best Car for the Executive Gay". Most importantly, it costs much less.
Engine: DOHC V6 24-valve VVT-i
Bore and stroke: 94 x 83mm
Compression ratio: 10.8:1
Max power: 272hp/6,200rpm
Max torque: 336Nm/4,700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (Subsequential Shift)
Final drive ratio: 3.685
Suspension (f/r): MacPherson strut stabiliser/struts,
dual link, stabiliser
Min turn: 10 metres
Brakes (f/r): Vented discs/discs with ABS, EBD and BA
Track (f/r): 1,575/1,565
Wheels: 17-inch alloys
Fuel tank capacity: 70 litres
Price: Bt2.85 million
Distributor: Toyota Motor Thailand
The Luxury LS 460 is a wonderfully comfaortable car fitted with all mod cons, althoough not necessarily the most fun vehicle to drive.