Familiarity breeds contempt – or at least
indifference. So, despite the Toyota Aurion having been out for a while, we were
in no particular hurry to drive it. After all, it’s just another
Australian-built six cylinder, isn’t it...
But, having now been behind the wheel of the car,
we have to admit that indifference – or even contempt – were way off the mark.
For the Aurion is an outstanding car, one that richly deserves the awards that
have been heaped on it and a car that on the road justifies its outstanding
If it was badged Audi or Volvo or Saab, this is a
car that would cost tens of thousands of dollars more. Indeed, in base model
AT-X form, the $34,990 Aurion is a driving enthusiast’s bargain buy.
Driving enthusiast? Front wheel drive, a Toyota
and an Aussie-built six? Surely we’re joking!
Across challenging back secondary roads, typically
Australian with off-camber, bumps, stippled bitumen and tightening radius
corners, the Aurion just powered along, immensely confident and sure-footed. The
stability control didn’t unduly intrude, and the throttle response, superbly
weighted steering and long-travel suspension simply dismissed the difficulties
with poise and precision. And that was at night... the headlights are also
Curiously, on demanding roads, the car that the
Aurion most reminds us of is the first series Lexus LS400. The Aurion has the
same relaxed ability to absorb big bumps and yet still turn-in without excessive
roll or lurching. The suspension comprises bread and butter front MacPherson
struts and rear multi-link struts – the excellence is in the tuning of the
spring, anti-roll bar, bush and damper rates. Note that here we’re stressing
real-world, Australian conditions – not a smooth race track!
Now all this might suggest that this isn’t a
family car - but that is also far from the mark. The Aurion might have the same
cabin design as the four cylinder Camry, but in most directions there is a heap
Legroom (in both the front and back) is excellent,
even with four tall occupants. The seats are large and very comfortable, having
a particularly good match with the natural frequency of the suspension. The boot
is huge and of a very useable shape; a full size spare wheel is included.
However, the boot hinges intrude into the boot volume as the lid is shut, and
the opening is such that large cube-shaped items are not be able to be inserted.
The back seat does not fold.
Rear headroom for tall people is marginal, and the
rear seat width is not as great as in Falcon and Commodore. The latter is likely
to be a problem only when carrying three abreast, or an adult either side of a
central baby seat. The rear central floor hump is unusually low. Vents on the
back of the centre console are provided for rear passengers – with fan assist,
ventilation of the whole cabin is fine.
Door pockets are provided but they’re not
generous, with the rears particularly hard to use. Other downers of the interior
are silver surfaces on the centre console and central part of the dash that
scratch easily, air con controls on the test car that could be wriggled from
side to side (yes, all three knobs!), and non-illuminated electric mirror
The equipment level in this base model is
excellent. There are six airbags (independent crash testing indicates a 4-star
rating) and the driver’s seat is fully electrically adjustable. A single
MP3-compatible CD radio is provided, although in the car we drove the
front-right speaker had a slight buzz. However, the biggest downfall of the
sound system is its glaring, white night illumination. It cannot be dimmed with
the rest of the instruments and is stupidly distracting. In fact, it’s so bright
that it illuminates the centre of the rear seat!
Another negative is the tiny and hard-to-access
over-speed warning. This looks like an afterthought - and an
integrated fuel consumption read-out is noticeable by its absence. The dash in
the test car also had lots of creaks when it was cold – they went away as the
ambient temp rose.
The instrument lighting is very effective (too
effective in the case of the sound system!) and the instruments are clear and
easily able to be read in all conditions. The tacho is redlined at 6500 rpm and
the speedo reads to (an irrelevant in Australia) 260 km/h. The cruise control
retains the decade-old Toyota approach of using a dedicated stalk; it’s
something we think works better than the steering wheel buttons now preferred by
A foot-operated parking brake is fitted. Despite
near-universal disdain by motoring journalists for this approach (rather than a
centre console pull-up lever), a foot-brake has a major advantage for anyone who
is smaller or who has back or shoulder problems – it’s much easier to operate.
In urban conditions the car feels quick and
responsive. The variable valve timed, 3.5 litre DOHC V6 pumps out 200kW at 6200
rpm and 336Nm at a high 4700 rpm. However, even with the high revs at which peak
torque is developed, the standard 6-speed auto makes the car feels grunty
Left in full auto mode, the trans is intelligent
and generally gets things right, although it can be slow to drop more than one
ratio when sudden acceleration is requested. Its ability to hold the right gear
up hills is excellent. Manual mode is selected by moving the lever sideways out
of its wobbly gate; the gear lever is positioned very close to hand so working
the ‘box in manual mode feels natural and can be part of the driving flow.
Playing point-and-squirt in urban conditions is
about the only time you can tell it’s the front wheels that are doing the
torquing; driven very hard in this way, you can occasionally feel the steering
weight and the self-centre’ing characteristics alter. Actual old-fashioned
torque steer is completely absent.
The engine isn’t as refined as some of its
competition, with a slightly throbby idle (and, in the test car, very high idle
revs following a cold start), but it’s still by any measure an excellent
Wind and engine noise are well suppressed, but the
215/60 Bridgestone Turanza tyres can be noisy on coarse chip bitumen
But we’ve left perhaps the best to last. On test,
the Aurion recorded a fuel consumption of 9.6 litres/100km – considering the
size of the car and its performance, that’s very good indeed. Most of the test
distance was on freeways or secondary country roads, but at least a third was
spent in city traffic conditions. The government test figure for
the car is 9.9 litres/100km, and the car uses standard 91 RON fuel.
The Aurion is a highly impressive car, well
matched to those who want a large car with comfort, performance, a superb
ride-and-handling match for real-world Australian conditions, and fuel economy
that in its class is excellent.
The Aurion was hired for this review.