Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: 2017 Toyota Aurion Sportivo

There aren't many cars that have me in two minds as much as this final farewell from Toyota Australia. Closing in October this year, Toyota is leaving behind a legacy of dependable ordinariness that started in 1958. 

The most normcore of all normcore brands, in this instance, has turned its back on its heritage and blasted off for an impromtu weekend away. Not a civilised winery tour mind you. More like a roll in the grass topped off with a red bull and two minibar sized bottles of vodka.

Normally I would stroll past an AT-X base model Aurion with little interest, but this slightly unnerving family sedan grabs you firmly by the eye lids with it's retina searing "Cherry" red paint. 

The insectoid eyes seem black and dead, as if they pay you no heed, and the black multi-spoke 18 inch wheels speak of an intent long departed from the brand.
Aesthetics at least, warm some cockles even if it ain't pretty. 

The design style is hard edged when viewed in the Queensland sun. Panning around the car does create interest if you are willing to pay attention, with different angles bringing different turrets and structures to the fore. 

I certainly didn't expect to be kneeling down at each corner tracing the straight lines from the square hip across the subtle tail. 

Therein lies the attraction for me. I prize the ability of a product to defy expectations. 

Admittedly, expectations from a "sporty" V6 Camry (which is essentially what the Aurion is) had been formed by wheel time in a Presara some years ago. They include benign steering through an under-tyred front end, and, suspension that is competent but about as interesting as last weeks TV guide. 

Again, this Sportivo points out the folly of my prejudice. On the road, it's pointy and responsive. The 200kw V6 is putting down everything it can through a pair of willing 225/45 R18 boots. There's too much to handle, but you get to actually respond to torque steer, as if the nanny has had a few G&Ts and has left you to your own devices for a little while. 

I am a big fan of the 2GR-FE motor because normally aspirated V6s still give that little bit of extra aural pleasure that you just can't get from many turboed 4s. It's a personal preference and it's beyond mere figures but there is more to life than winning a drag race. This motor delivers with impressive day to day tractability and a willingness to rev. Drive one before you settle for less.

Suspension tune of this sedan is borderline harsh and makes everything feel agile but with a sense of heft and effort. It's rewarding to get right, but awkward when you get it wrong, just like driving a car should be. Rear end holds on well enough to give your neck muscles  a workout.

Inside, the Australian built Aurion is par for last years course, with old materials, plasticky controls and [ugh] a foot operated park brake. The seats are decent, though should be deeper for a sporty number. 

Ergonomics are good, and, controls are ultimately purposeful and intuitive. Dash trim is not a high mark but everything goes together well enough.

It's few saving graces inside are the DAB+ radio thumping through a JBL 10 speaker stereo, and a retractable screen which can be raised to keep the sun off the rear parcel shelf. It can also serve as a figurative flipping of the bird to be raised for anyone who may be tailgating you.

Everything else feels like it's ready to be put out to pasture, but in reality, they are built with durability in mind, rather than touch feeliness (AKA haptics). 

There is one metric where this Aurion continues to shine: interior space. Rear seat head room is about best on the market. Not just the domestic market either. It reveals many Euro options as embarrassingly cramped.

Properly spacious, you can see why the Aurion/Camry twins are popular Taxis. In the real world, it's an ideal size to quell complaints from the second row.

When the final bell tolls for the Aurion, not many will shed a tear aside from those who built them. Aurions are on the lots right now and you'll see discounts in the thousands for the last hurrah of one of Australias longest serving and most trusted manufacturers.

That's bad news for dealers, but good news for buyers looking to sneak something a little unhinged into the "responsible adult" slot in their garage.

Price: $43,990 listed (but expect to knock off about 5k for the right deal!)
Engine: 200kw@6200rpm/336nm@4700rpm 2GR-FE 3.5V6
Fuel Economy: 13.3/7/9.3l/100kms City/Hwy/Combined

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