2012 TOYOTA AURION REVIEW
Vehicle Segment: Large Sedan
|Tested||Power/Torque||0-100km/h||Fuel Use (claimed)|
It’s a tough time to be launching a large car. Sales of large passenger cars have nosedived; total large car sales for the first two months of 2012 tallied only 9976 units - more than 2000 less than for the same period in 2011.
That’s something Toyota is determined to change with the 2012 Aurion. By year’s end it hopes to boost the Aurion’s market share to 15 percent - more than double its current sales.
To help it do so, the new Aurion boasts massive improvements to cabin comfort, equipment levels and refinement.
After a day at the wheel, we think the new Aurion range shows promise. It’s vastly improved, and, while it doesn’t push any boundaries, it’s comfortable, swift and competitively-priced.
This is where the most meaningful improvements have been made. Cabin quality of the 2012 Aurion has been lifted with soft-touch plastics and new switchgear, much of it borrowed from the new Camry’s interior.
Even the faux woodgrain of the range-topping Presara works.
Equipment levels have also gone upmarket. All model grades get dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB inputs, iPod compatibility, cruise-control, a reversing camera and powered driver’s seat.
Further up the Aurion family tree, features like a power-retractable rear sunblind, blind-spot monitor system, auto-dimming rear view mirrors, proximity key, rain-sensing wipers, dusk sensing HID headlamps, auto-dipping high beam, parking sensors, sat-nav and a digital radio tuner find their way onto the spec list.
For a sub-$50k large car (the AT-X starts at $36,490), the Aurion is certainly well-equipped.
While the spec sheet has grown, so too has the Aurion’s internal dimensions. There’s now more rear legroom, headroom and shoulder room than before thanks to repositioned seats and scalloped front seat backrests.
The front seats are more comfortable too.
There’s a wider range of seat adjustment, longer seat squabs for more under-thigh support and a greater range of movement for the tilt-reach adjustable steering wheel.
The rear seat cushions have also been resculpted to improve comfort and support; we found the back half of the Aurion to be very accommodating.
The 2012 Aurion’s boot has grown to 515 litres - 11 litres more than the old model - and the rear seat backrest now folds down. Beneath the boot floor lies a full-size spare too, which will please regional drivers.
On The Road
Much of the Aurion’s mechanicals carry over. The 3.5 litre V6 produces identical torque and power outputs to the previous-gen car, with only minor refinements to reduce fuel consumption.
The six-speed automatic is also a carryover unit, although it now boasts paddle shifters in the Sportivo grades and has tweaked shift-mapping.
With 200kW and 336Nm, the Aurion’s powertrain was never regarded as being short on muscle, and the six-speeder slurs through its gears nicely.
Besides some torque steer and a thrashy engine note under hard acceleration, we’ve no complaints with the Aurion’s mechanical package - it’s swift and safe on road with a sharp turn of speed when needed.
Toyota claims fuel consumption gains with the new car, its fuel use dropping to a claimed 9.3 l/100km, but we struggled to get less than 10.4 l/100km.
Down below, Toyota has re-jigged the Aurion’s suspension settings, with more rebound stiffness on both the front and rear dampers, but with spring rates unchanged.
On the road we found the ride to be comfortable, somewhat soft, but well-suited to the undulating rural backroads of the test route.
Cornering-grip isn’t particularly inspiring due to the early onset of understeer, but that’s largely a function of the Aurion’s low rolling-resistance Bridgestone Turanza tyres.
The Sportivo ZR6 has slightly more front-end grip and a marginally firmer ride, but also suffered from the not-so-grippy tyres.
The Sportivo’s electronic power steering (another new addition) supposedly has a different assistance map to the AT-X, Prodigy and Presara grades, but we were hard-pressed to notice a tangible difference (and found the feel a little wooden across all models).
First Drive Verdict
Toyota hasn’t taken any adventurous paths with this new Aurion and it’s not right at the cutting edge of powertrain technology.
But, across the new range, the 2012 Aurion is a massive improvement over the superseded model. The interior is spacious, cosseting and in the higher model grades there’s plenty of creature comforts to keep passengers entertained.
The adoption of safety features like a blind-spot monitor, standard reversing camera, rear passenger seatbelt warning and high-beam assist are also to be commended.
In fact, the gadget-laden Presara flagship is more luxurious than you’d expect a Toyota to feel, and is good value at $49,990.
It’s not head and shoulders above its Ford and Holden competition, but the large car playing field has been levelled with the arrival of the 2012 Toyota Aurion.
- 2012 Aurion AT-X - $36,490
- 2012 Aurion Prodigy - $41,490
- 2012 Aurion Presara - $49,990
- 2012 Aurion Sportivo SX6 - $40,990
- 2012 Aurion Sportivo ZR6 - $47,990
Note: all prices are Manufacturer's List Price and exclude on-road costs.
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