Whilst it was the first Camry to be sold in Malaysia, the XV10 was not the original Camry. That honour belonged to a curious concoction called the Celica Camry, which was actually a re-styled Toyota Carina; oh, and it was rear-wheel drive.

 

The story of the XV10’s genesis is an interesting one, and it’s filled with more twists and turns than you’d expect for a car that has grown to be regarded as a ‘safe choice’ by the buying public. Toyota’s original design was regarded as ‘too small’ for American tastes and a fierce boardroom battle ensued before development for a wider body Camry was finally approved.

Consumer tastes evolve with time, however, and yesteryear’s acceptance of what constitutes luxury do not necessarily apply today. Besides the fact that motorists are firmly moving in the direction of the SUV, marketing speak over the last two decades have also added a new element into the ‘checklist of luxury’ – sporty dynamics.

It is no longer enough that a luxury car be plush and comfortable on the move. Sporty now equates luxury – everybody now wants a car that looks fast and goes fast – and in keeping with the two-decade ethos of offering consumers a taste of luxury at mainstream prices, the latest Camry has accordingly embraced a sporty character to its DNA as well.

Mazda, itself renowned for its zoom-zoom philosophy focusing on dynamic engagement, has revealed that none other than the Camry is being used as the dynamic benchmark for its next-generation 6. Praise does not get higher than that.

Built on Toyota’s modular TNGA platform, the all-new Camry notably features rear double wishbone suspension, a configuration previously exclusive only to the sportiest of cars. On the road, the setup proved extremely adept in raising the Camry’s dynamic competence to thoroughly rival the very best in the segment, so much so that one rival has openly acknowledged Toyota’s achievement.

Externally, the Camry's design now further emphasizes the car's newfound sporty tilt, forsaking the predecessor’s boxy proportions for a curvaceous body. The surfaces take on more creases, and whilst the rear end is comparatively understated, the front is unmistakably dynamic with narrow-slit head lights flanking a typically large grille.

 

Amidst the new direction in sharpening up the drive, Toyota has not forgotten how to put a car properly. The Camry’s cabin is built with materials appropriate for the class with fit-and-finish nothing less than what you’d expect from the world’s most trusted car maker.

 

So, with an all-new platform, this new Camry is a complete re-write of a very familiar script and template. Yet, it sticks to the core philosophy of what Toyota sought to offer the public with the XV10, by bringing luxury car traits to the mainstream.

Things are less clear-cut in the present, however, with mainstream and premium brands each encroaching into each other’s territory. So, just as the premium brands roll out more affordable (relatively) compact hatchbacks and SUVs to lure even more buyers into their fold, the mainstream players are working just as hard to get their cars to achieve the perception of being premium.

 

Indeed, just as the lines dividing segments are getting blurred, so is the boundary separating mainstream and luxury becoming increasingly difficult to define. One of the first cars to successfully break through that barrier was the Toyota Camry, which arrived in 1995 to replace the Corona as Toyota’s offering in the mid-size segment.

Besides growing bigger than originally intended, the Camry XV10 also benefited from the superior engineering and quality that Toyota had cultivated at the time for the still-fledgling Lexus. The result was a car that was spacious inside, plushly finished, generously equipped, and refined on the move; essentially, it checked all the relevant boxes of what people expected of a luxury car.

 

Toyota made the Camry progressively better with each subsequent generation, but never strayed far from the established ethos. Over the years, the Camry had built a reputation as being a convincing luxury car without the prohibitively high costs of buying and owning a Mercedes or BMW.

Indeed, Toyota’s ongoing success with the Camry had also influenced other D-segment players to accordingly grow in size, equipment, and refinement to match. And, such is the Camry’s stature that it is not uncommon for bigwigs and people of important positions to be chauffeur-driven in a Camry and not look out of place doing so.

- TRACING THE CAMRY'S LINEAGE -

REBADGED TO BECOME

1979 - 1982

Toyota Carina

Toyota Celica Camry

Toyota Camry

1982 - 1986

V10

1986 - 1992

V20

For a while, Japan's version of the Camry was kept at less than 1.7m wide for lower road tax.

Japan-only specials

Global

Toyota Corona indirect replacement

1990 - 1994

V30

1991 - 1996

XV10

1994 - 1998

V40

1998 - 2003

V50

1996 - 2001

XV20

2002 - 2006

XV30

2006 - 2011

XV40

2011 - 2017

XV50

2017 - present

XV70

BRIDGING MAINSTREAM

TO

LUXURY

There was a time when car makers were more focused on making cars than they were in marketing them. This was way before SUVs became a thing and cars can be easily pigeon-holed into segments. None of the hybrid-coupe-crossover fancy-schmancy stuff you get in today’s showrooms.

 

Besides being easy to classify into types, there also existed a more clearly-defined boundary that separated mainstream cars from their premium counterparts. You either bought an entry-level national car, mainstream Japanese, or luxury German – nothing in between.

For two decades, the Toyota Camry combined luxury motoring with unbeatable value. The latest one reinterprets that promise with a new definition of luxury.

For two decades, the Toyota Camry combined luxury motoring with unbeatable value. The latest one reinterprets that promise with a new definition of luxury.