The idea that shaped the Aurion should have stemmed from a Camry – or the rejection of it. Does the 2012 version live up to the demand of staying above the ordinary – read Camry?
The Camry ride is perhaps one of the most familiar ones in this region. Simply because one doesn’t have to own a Camry to experience it as a passenger – just flag down a taxi! Along with this ubiquitous presence comes Toyota’s greatest challenge – to differentiate their offerings to the increasingly brand prestige conscious consumer who doesn’t fancy owning a taxi. (You know what they say about familiarity breeding something…) However, for those wanting to stand apart while enjoying the reliability and comfort of a Camry, the Aurion has been doing a good job ever since the V6 Camry Grande was rechristened as the Aurion Grande – making an unmistakable distinction right from the V6 powerhouse under the hood to the ostentatiously erect spoiler at the rear.
But for the new Aurion 2012, the job just got tougher with the new Camry offering pretty much top-of-the-range stuff. Since the onset, the Aurion has always been in the unenviable position of justifying its presence. But believe me, despite the new complaisant Toyota Camry, those numbers demanding distinction haven’t faded. And mercifully for Toyota, Aurion still manages to distinguish itself in the slightest yet most significant a manner!
To begin with, the V6 engine and the enthusiastic response at all engine speeds is enough to get fellow drivers on the road to look up and look ahead in no time. The car steps up its pace and holds it steady through 6000+ rpms before settling down to a calmer fast lane drive.
The Aurion displays an occasional understeer but thanks to an encouraging power output and smooth maneouvering, makes up amply with elegant road manners. Ah! That floating feeling that is so Toyota hasn’t gone away entirely. But then it’s like the snoring of your partner you get used to over the years. You would miss it, if it weren’t there all of a sudden!
The steering feel is in character with the Japanese icon, too fluid for those who like a tight grip on their ride. The flipside is that you can go about in a parking lot with nothing more than a push of your finger. A newly adopted column mounted electric power steering mechanism is designed for an optimum level of vehicle control. Riding on 17” wheels, the Aurion never gives you the feeling of not being in touch with the road yet the responsiveness is soft and still focuses more on an easy ride than pleasing the driver. Which, along with its generous space dynamics, makes it the “luxury” family car of choice for those who can’t afford a Lexus.
The Aurion appropriately resembles its richer sibling the Avalon as much it does its more plain and popular ones but finds itself just enough external mettle to claim its own domain. The hood lines form a slanting plateau and there is an unobtrusive shoulder line that runs all the way around the spoiler but the Aurion’s character isn’t shaped by any sharp lines or accentuated features. An air intake grille gives it the slightest leaning to the faintly sporty feel of the Aurion in fair justice to the 268 hp powerhouse it hides within. As for the convenience of the drive, I could cover most of the 6-lane highway in its nice and wide side-mirrors that housed the turn signals as well.
The slatted grille and parallelogram headlights that wrap the sides gently announce a different entry while a pronounced use of chrome framed in body coloured plastic all around the car – in the running board, the rear end and even the door handles – add a look of luxury, but doesn’t escape a mild feeling of cheap plastic here and there. The squarely cut window design is a bit dated aspect of Toyota’s cars including the new Camry. The most telltale feature, the spoiler, sure distinguishes the Aurion but isn’t exactly what many would term as “distinguished”!
Cabin and controls
Besides the powerful engine, it is the colossal space at the rear that makes it a large car amidst midsize sedans. With premium looking leatherette comfort, the seats flaunt an up-market beige stitch line as well, salvaging the luxurious feeling along with the soft, dark, chocolate upper upholstery trims, punctuated with a wooden finish on door handles, console and the dark panels. The Aurion takes a cue from the Lexus ES, and cheers up the cabin with soft blue lighting in the foot wells and door side storage dips.
The console deck is more accessible than the Camry’s while the controls and navigation are pretty much the same. This one looks more serious and premium with its aluminium and black finishes of the knobs. There is plenty of room under the armrest on the tunnel console for a car that doesn’t demand deep pockets.
Some minor malfunction had prevented me from entering my destination in the navigation system, but I could simply finger-cruise my way through the map on the wide screen, to simply tap my destination in and reach there with easy cues. The driver’s info panel also is more classy and subtle with the eco-meter taking the focus in monitoring fuel-efficient driving, as in the new Camry.
The driver’s seat, while offering a good bit of adjustments, lacks knee support; Toyota should have introduced an extended seat front in the car that otherwise gives out pretty premium comfort.
Among all the everyday comfort features that Toyota packs into the Aurion, nothing pleases you with its ‘cold welcome’ than Toyota’s legendary air conditioning. Matters a lot on sunny family drives on extra-warm afternoons. As for the sun, the rear blinds can be drawn at the touch of a button.
Soft suspensions, large car spaciousness plus the advantage of no drive train bumps at the back translate into more legroom comfort and long drive compatibility. The boot space is family stuff – 515 L of it – and the rear seat central backrest now folds down for a coffee break. The roof is slightly low… toddlers watch out… oops! (That’s my son wailing again!) Oh, by the way, talking about toddlers, surprisingly there is No ISOFIX provision; so one has to watch out when choosing the right baby seat.
The Essential Aurion
A blind man traveling in the Aurion, who has only his sensual experience to rely on, would still feel like he is ‘traveling in a Dubai taxi’! That’s got largely to do with the extra dose of fluidity than the mild sway and weary roll of the car as it drives along. But those with eyes open can see that there is a lot more to an Aurion than the semblance of that ride.
UPSIDE: Luxury features, big-car like legroom and boot space, enthusiastic engine response, sensible pricing for the premium
FLIPSIDE: Resembles a Camry drive, occasional cheap plastic feeling, Questionable presence of the spoiler
Drive Courtesy: Al Futtaim Motors, UAE
Location Courtesy: Marbella Resort, Sharjah