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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist

Missed opportunity? Toyota Camry facelifted, still a no-no for South Africa

Camry won’t be returning to South Africa due to not only the shrinking sedan market, but because of Lexus already marketing the ES.

Although South Africa stopped receiving the Camry after production of the internally named XV30 ended in 2006, the once default family sedan has continued to be a key model for Toyota in a number of global markets, the most prominent being North America where sales last year totalled 336 978 units.

Officially the eighth best-selling vehicle in the States last year, and also the top car after three pick-ups and four SUVS, the Camry, which in its current form entered production three years ago, has now benefitted from not only a mid-life facelift, but also new features and driver assistance systems.

Externally, the Camry receives a new grille, which differs depending on the trim level, new side vents, restyled 17-inch alloy wheels and sportier 18-inch alloys for the XLE model, plus a selection of new colours such as Blue Streak Metallic, a two-tone Ice Edge/Midnight Black Metallic hue reserved for the TRD and on the XLE, a Supersonic Red/ Midnight Black Metallic option.

Inside, a seven or nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system, now with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is offered, along with a new seat pattern dubbed herringbone that comes on the XLE only. Debuting on the TRD are Rear Cross Traffic Alert, heated electric mirrors and Blind Spot Monitoring. Higher-end models also get a nine-speaker, 800-watt JBL Premium sound system plus satellite navigation.

Also premiering is Toyota’s latest Safety Sense 2.5+ system, which consists of Pre-Collision with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Assist, Rear Seat Reminder that alerts the driver of the door having been opened for over 10 minutes, Auto High Beam Assist and Emergency Steering Assist.

In terms of spec, the Camry offers six trim levels; the LE which takes over from the now discontinued L as the entry-level model, XLE, SE, SE with the Nightshade appearance package, XSE and the range-topping TRD. Power-wise, three engines are offered; the 2.5 Dynamic Force that pushes out 151kW/250Nm, or 154kW/252Nm in the dual exhaust XSE, and a normally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 restricted to the TRD that delivers 224kW/362Nm.

The third powerunit is the hybrid which pairs the Dynamic Force with an electric motor for a total system output of 155 kW. Optional on all four-cylinder models is Toyota’s Dynamic Control all-wheel-drive system that reduces output to 150 kW and 153 kW on the XSE.

Regardless of the output and drive, all petrol engines are mated as standard to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while the hybrid makes do with an eCVT. With all-wheel-drive included though, the so-called Winter Package become standard, which on the LE consists of heated front seats and mirrors and on the SE, these plus a heated steering wheel.

As the range’s halo model, the TRD differentiates itself form of not only having exclusive access to the V6 engine, but riding as standard on matte black 19-inch alloy wheels, a stainless TRD exhaust, a mesh gloss black grille, red TRD badges and accents, a TRD suspension that results in a 15 mm ride height drop, stiffer springs, TRD shock absorbers and upgraded brakes utilising a red TRD painted two-piston caliper setup as the front and single at the rear.

So-called SofTex faux black leather seats with red detailing and TRD embroidered headrests, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with red accents, red seatbelts, a TRD gear knob and TRD branded floor mats round the interior off.

While pricing remains unknown, the Camry, despite being offered with right-hand-drive following its return to Europe, and therefore the UK as a hybrid only model earlier this year, won’t be returning to South Africa due to not only the shrinking sedan market, but because of Lexus already marketing the ES that uses the same GA-K version of the TNGA platform.

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