What is it?
You might have forgotten about the Camry. It’s been a couple of years since Toyota’s large saloon returned to Europe and it has since been enjoying modest sales. In fairness, no one, not least Toyota, ever expected it to gain the same popularity here as it has in the US, where big saloons from non-premium manufacturers are still seen as the default option.
True to the Camry’s American roots, Toyota has been regularly giving it small upgrades to keep it fresh. The changes for 2021 are unlikely to tempt many people out of a BMW 5 Series, but they do address some key omissions in the existing car. The most significant update is a new infotainment system on Excel trim with a larger, 9.0in screen and a set of shortcut buttons. The lower Design spec retains the 7.0in screen, but also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both trims get lane keep assist for semi-autonomous driving on the motorway. Then it’s the usual facelift fare of a subtly redesigned grille, lights and wheels. Finally, the Excel version get lavished with even more equipment, including ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging and a 360deg camera.
Nothing has changed to the powertrain. It’s still the same hybrid system that’s common in Toyotas. In this instance, it uses a 176bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine up front, driving the wheels together with an electric motor in a planetary gearset. That means it acts as a CVT and produces system power of 215bhp.
What’s it like?
The Toyota Camry is still a lot of car for the money. Design trim costs £32,260, rising to £34,830 for the Excel, which is the one you want because it gets all the good stuff that BMW and Mercedes will have you pay through the nose for. For reference, the price of the Excel will buy you a bog-basic BMW 320i.
That new infotainment system sits high up on the dashboard and makes the interior look just a bit more contemporary. It’s still a pretty awkward, outdated system, but it works quickly and because it has smartphone mirroring now, the issue will be moot for many. Both CarPlay and Android Auto require a wired connection, so the wireless charging pad isn’t quite as useful as you might hope.
The rest of the Camry experience is much as it was. As you luxuriate on your ventilated, multi-adjustable leather seats, holding your standard heated steering wheel, with two passengers comfortably in the back and their luggage in the generous boot, you might not care about the mix of materials in the interior.