LARGE cars have been a major victim of the GFC, rising costs and resultant market shake-ups, but with around 80,000 sales a year, it still has a future, and Toyota is tackling it with its just-refurbished Aurion.
The 200kW/336Nm 3.5litre V6 remains unchanged in output from last year, but has been tweaked for extra efficiency.
Average consumption is 6 per cent better at 9.3litres/100km, from 9.9. It’s a bit cleaner, too, its 215g/km CO2 emissions 8 per cent down.
The smooth six-speed transmission is also a carry-over, though the brace of Sportivo models gain steering wheel paddle shifts. Extensive local development, including the new electric steering, has resulted in better ride and handling.
Externally, the second generation Aurion has had a mild style upgrade with new front and rear bumpers, and the Sportivos look a little angrier with what Toyota calls “aggressive, startling and confronting” nose, tail and bumper treatment to attract sports-oriented folk.
The cars are a tad longer, the AT-X, Prodigy and Presara by 10mm and the two Sportivos by 30mm. But despite the fractional increase in length, the premium Toyota sedans are 55kg lighter.
Inside, the dash and trim have had a brush-up, the cabin is quieter and reshaped seats and roof lining have added passenger space.
All models get seven airbags, seatbelt warnings, dual zone auto climate control, reversing camera, split-fold rear seats, an eco meter and a sound-absorbing layer in the windscreen.
All the electronic driver aids are a given, likewise entertainment and communication doofies like Bluetooth, USB, iPod, touch-screen displays and multi-speaker audio systems.
One of the best improvements is the thinner windscreen and B-pillars.
Some rivals have gone the opposite way to attain five-star crash ratings, but at the expense of impaired visibility, which we reckon is plain stupid.
Toyota’s engineering has come up with strong, slimline pillars that make a world of difference. Bravo.
The five Aurions are all under the Luxury Car Tax, starting at $36,490 for the AT-X.
The Prodigy and Presara models are $41,490 and $49,990 and Sportivo SX6 costs $40,990. The top-dog Sportivo ZR6 is $47,990.
We squirted an AT-X and a Prodigy through some of the Classic Adelaide tarmac rally terrain – and liked it.
The classy family sedans did a great job in a quiet, composed manner, and on one 100km stretch we saw 8.6litres/100km on our eco meter.
When we switched off, we got an ‘excellent' rating on the dash. What a chest-sweller that was.
The V6’s output is more than adequate and the power comes through smooth and strong.
Great brakes, too.
Verdict: A quality car, close to Lexus in many respects, that should do a whole lot better in its shrinking category.