New Level | Toyota Camry 2.5

BY Joel Tam

Better refinement and a quieter cabin, the new Toyota Camry really takes the brand to new heights.

So I gave a friend a ride home in the new Camry the other day. He's a young upstart in his early 20's and doesn't know much about cars. It was after dinner and I know he hadn't gotten a good look at the car before he got in the front passenger seat so I quickly covered the logo on the steering wheel and asked him, "do you know what car this is?"

"Hey, I was about to ask you the same thing - I noticed it was a nice car and was wondering what it is," he replied. "So what do you think it is?" I asked again.

"Well it feels like a Mercedes," was his next statement. That pretty much is enough to give you an idea of how far Toyota have come. Because there's truth in that statement - it genuinely feels well put together and almost as good as a Mercedes - from 2009. Nope, it's not good enough to be close to a new Merc, but it does feel like a 2009 E-Class, which is pretty darn impressive in its own right.

Seated in the driver's seat, you'll notice that the hard plastics normally found in the cabin give way to soft leather clad panels and matte pearlescent wooden finishing in some subtle places. The buttons and switchgear are all well-designed and give a premium European feel.

The comfort levels found in the cabin are impressive too. Sound insulation is great and the well-put together interior solves an age-old problem normally found in Japanese cars of old - noisy cabins.

Driving this 2.5-litre variant we had was surprisingly quite enjoyable. The 4-cylinder 16-valve unit pushes an ample 207 bhp and felt smooth throughout the rev range. It never felt out of breath despite having a naturally-aspirated engine, compared to many turbocharged engines found in cars these days.

The car handled with confidence round corners and displayed minimal body roll. Even the steering was a lot more weighty than I had expected. Previous Japanese sedans of this category were always weighted way too lightly.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the new Camry to me is the design. Previous Camrys have just been pretty fuddy-duddy to me. Plain, rectangular and boring shapes might have been safe, but they never did make Camry owners look cool.

Take a look at the new one though, and I'm sure you'll agree it has the looks of a sleek and sporty sedan. The aggressive front bumper with the wide metallic grey grille gives it a strong front presence found in very few cars. The sharp and 'flowy' lines make it look lower and 'faster' than its predecessors.

Coupled with other useful features like electric seats with a memory function, rear sunshade, factory-fitted reverse camera, dynamic radar cruise control and a host of safety assistance tools, the new Toyota Camry is a really compelling car for those in the market for a reliable sedan that doesn't look like it was made for old Chinese businessmen.