THEY say that behind every successful man stands a woman. Not being particularly successful, I can't vouch for that myself, but it sure seems to me that somewhere in the life of every prosperous SME owner is a Toyota Camry.
Perhaps it's when the E is more S than M, but a Camry is the quintessential company car of the low-key towkay: plush, roomy, decidedly unflashy and, if reliability surveys are anything to go by, utterly dependable. You feel you can do business with someone who drives a car like that, because if you can't, then what's this world coming to?
Into those steady shoes steps the new, 8th generation of the Camry, and looking at it brings one thought to mind: what's this world coming to?
It's as if the entire Camry development team at Toyota hit retirement age simultaneously (not hard to imagine, really) and turned the project over to people with full heads of black hair for once.
Camrys have always been staid, but this one flirts with sportiness. Its body is long, lithe and blessed with sinuous curves, and it sits lower to the ground than before.
The front has an aggressively enormous grille and the rear caps things off with a raffishly tapered boot lid. Meanwhile, its wheelarches are filled by big, brash 18-inch wheels.
Much of the car's new proportions are because it's built on the Toyota New Global Architecture, the platform that also supports the excellent new Lexus ES.
That being so, it's no coincidence that the Camry shares that car's efficient non-turbo 2.5-litre engine and eight-speed auto, along with its 5cm stretch in wheelbase.
A base version with a 2.0-litre, six-speed drivetrain carried over from before is available, but as it only costs S$8,000 less than the 2.5, why bother? Especially when the 2.5's acceleration is adequate at best.
But that's not to say it's no good to drive. While its standard touring tyres aren't particularly sticky, the Toyota's handling favours poise and balance over outright grip. Compared to Camrys of yore, when pushed hard around bends, it isn't prone to rocking, let alone rolling. It actually makes it quite fun to find out just how much speed you can carry through corners now.
That's not the only way the Camry recipe has been updated. The pillowy seats have given way to chairs that are firmer, and it even feels more sporty to sit in, thanks to how you sort of fall into a car that's more low-slung than before.
Yet, the towkay's seat (rear passenger side) remains the choice one. You can flip the front passenger chair's headrest out of the way, and use a set of buttons to move it and create an enormous area for yourself back there.
Other updates are less successful. The entertainment system is maddening to pair with an Android phone (and can't team up with an Apple one), and while features like active cruise control and lane-keep assistance are nice to have, a blind spot monitor system would have been more useful.
A wireless charging pad and ventilated front seats are features a car in this segment ought to have, too.
It does come with forward collision warning, however, which is something that has been proven to prevent accidents.
Ultimately, though, the Camry does feel like a nicely updated version of itself. Toyota has managed to preserve its soothing nature while turning it into a better car to drive and to look at.
One puzzling omission is how you could unlock previous Camrys by tugging the front passenger door handle but can't with this one. Why not? It's handy if you're in the habit of opening the door for your better half. To an SME owner, that isn't as trivial as it sounds, especially if you think about what stands behind every successful man.
Toyota Camry 2.5
Engine 2,487cc, 16V, in-line four
Power 206hp at 6,600rpm
Torque 250Nm at 5,000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed auto
Top Speed 210km/h (estimated)
0-100km/h 9.1 seconds (estimated)
Fuel efficiency 6.5L/100km
Price S$149,988 with COE
Agent Borneo Motors