The Toyota Camry used to be bashed in the motoring press. The metaphors about grey power, cardigans, and bowls became common cliche sledgehammers with which to lay into it.
And now you can guarantee those same commentators vehemently lament the demise of cars like the Camry.
Not that the Camry is on death’s door. While its sales are minor relative to its RAV4 and Corolla siblings, it’s the leader in its mid-size market. This is thanks in part to it being a hallowed God to ride share and taxi operators. And that most other rivals have departed the segment.
We’ve delved into the Camry’s updates recently, including our full test of the flagship ZR variant last year. Now it’s the SX’s turn. In the recently condensed Camry line-up, the SX represents the mid-tier trim between the base GX and flashy ZR. Gone is the V6, with each model now powered by the same 2.5-litre hybrid four. The SX is priced at $48,490, placing it much closer to the $52,490 ZR than the $43,990 GX.
It looks and feels that way, too. The SX gets the same exterior body kit, big wheels, the nine-inch touchscreen, and squishy leather upholstery inside as the ZR. It also gets the same fully loaded safety suite, throwing in blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. There’s now radar cruise control capable of slowing for corners, a new feature that’s standard in all Camrys.
At a glance you could be forgiven for thinking the ZR is a relative spec-sheet cop out, but once you squint you can see where the dollars have gone. The SX misses out on the nine-speaker JBL tunes (complete with 265mm subwoofer), 360-degree camera, head-up display, panoramic glass roof, heated and cooled seats, and a few other things like rain-sensing wipers.
Toyota clearly fancies the SX as the Sporty Spice of the group. Those large multispoke wheels are actually 19s, making them an inch larger than the ZR’s. The heating-free front seats are body-hugging buckets. These are a neat addition in an otherwise familiar cabin. We appreciate the touchscreen being integrated into the dash instead of being plonked on top. The screen itself is in need of an update, given how grainy and low-res it looks compared with those of the competition.
The new wheels complement the Camry’s slash, crease, and vent-filled exterior aesthetic. The late-2021 update can be spotted on the street via the more aggressive front splitter, which now features a gaping perforation that underlines the secondary grille above.
The SX’s sprinkling of sporty bits isn’t exactly transformative as it makes do with the same electrified 2.5-litre as the rest of the line-up, producing a middling 160kW of power. The steering communicates very little at pace but there’s plenty of grip and minimal body roll. The stepped CVT glides along without the stutters or interjections of a torque converter box, for better and for worse. SX is quick enough to get out of its own way, but not a patch on the old V6 in terms of outright squirt. That said, the deficit in power and presumably torque (Toyota hasn’t actually issued torque figures for the Camry hybrid) has the benefit of less torque steer off the mark and out of corners. Less weight over the front wheels likely makes it a bit more balanced and keener to rotate, too. At a serene five-star-driver pace, as most of these cars are likely to be driven on a daily basis, it’s excellent. Ride is plush and predictable despite the bulky 19s and most NVH is barely discernible. And its consumption figures are impressive for its size.
Combine this with the wanton second-row space for adults (two will fit easily, three at a bit of a pinch) and the Camry continues to make sense as an excellent device for the urban chauffeur or SUV-loathing parent. The 524L boot is handy and deep too although, as we noted last time around, the opening is quite small. So it’s still something to think about for anyone cross-shopping this against an SUV. Heaven forbid.
|Model||Toyota Camry SX|
|Engine||2500cc, IL4, DI|
|Hybrid System Output||160kW|