I love Christmas. I love December in general. For starters, I kick off the first day of the month with my birthday, making it the most eventful month of the year for me. Everyone seems to be in good spirits too. Well, there will always be some who are chasing deadlines at work who seem to miss the Christmas spirit altogether, but generally, the mood is positive.
As for me, I love seeing the lights and the decorations in malls. Although it may not be as festive as it used to be because the country is tight, there are moments of beauty still. I, for one, love Rockwell Power Plant's Christmas. It's subtle, classy, and festive. The music in the mall, soothing and the people, beautiful. Here's the thing about Rockwell though, it isn't the most entertaining, it doesn't have the most attractions, it certainly isn't the largest, it is far from having a complete set of stores, yet somehow, it is undeniably popular. Whether you visit on a Wednesday or on a Sunday, the faces are all the same.
You rarely see people enter the mall running around like headless chickens bumping everyone in sight. It is far more leisurely than that. It is home, I guess. It is what Starbucks is to coffee, what McDonald's is to fast food, and what Rustan's is to shopping. They are always safe. They may not blow your mind, but there is much to be desired. They are pillars of society that will most likely still be around when we've passed on to the unknown. If there had to be a pillar in the automotive world, it would have to be Toyota, wouldn't it? And the most timeless of them all would have to be the Camry.
"Focus on closing another deal or two from the backseat while in traffic. After all, isn't this why it's called an executive sedan?"
The mid-size segment in the Philippines is on its final pacemaker. The once understated elegance of big sedans have been exchanged with bruising SUVs that can climb mountain tops on Sunday and take you to work on Monday. They are powered by noisy oil burners with heaps of torque that also happen to sip on diesel quite frugally. I guess they don't like the taste very much.
Nonetheless, the executive sedans are still around for businessmen and directors of multinational conglomerates. You have the sporty Mazda 6, the only one with a diesel power plant, the Honda Accord, which used to be the perfect blend of sporty and luxurious, and the Hyundai Sonata, which has kind of fizzled. Then you have this one, the Toyota Camry - the chairman of the segment.
The Decision Maker.
You see, whereas the Mazda 6 is easily the sportiest and most engaging to drive, the Camry is on the other end of that spectrum. Driving the big Toyota doesn't get my adrenaline pumping. It does the opposite actually. Whereas in something like the Mazda 6 you're always looking for the gap to pass, in the Camry, you're completely relaxed. Your heart beats less per minute inside one of these. Our traffic conditions are less than ideal and it has become a privilege to find a road that you can cruise in uninterruptedly. When you find that road, you'll find that the Camry is surprisingly great to cruise in.
It's just so damn comfortable and spacious inside. The seats in front are big and offer lumbar support for those long drives. The seats at the back are even better. They recline a couple of degrees too, so dozing off on your driver should be one of the easiest things you've ever done. Also, since the Camry is very well-insulated and because it sits on fat tires and fairly understated wheels, a lot of the unwanted noise from the outside world is eliminated. This means that you can focus on closing another deal or two from the backseat while you're stuck in traffic. After all, isn't this why it's called an executive sedan?
The V6 engine has more power than it really needs. You get sucked into its mature demeanor so much that when you put your foot down, all 276 start galloping at a rate you weren't prepared for. It makes a great noise too, surprisingly. The chassis isn't entirely up to it, making it feel like a carriage that's being dragged too quick for its own good. I'm glad that it has no paddle shifters either. I appreciate the honesty in letting me know that it isn't really going to leave the shifts up to me. In the Honda Accord, the paddle shifters are like your girlfriend who after thirty minutes of talking, tells you to pick a restaurant. As soon as you pick one, she shuts it down immediately. Another good thing is the fuel economy. I was expecting much worse than 8.8 km/L on a combined cycle.
If I had one criticism about the entire Camry range, it's that the there isn't a lot of visual differentiation between its model range. The well-specced 2.5-liter looks just like the 3.5-liter, and that's disappointing if you've bought the V6. I mean, it's not a cheap car by any means, so if I dropped some dough on the V6, I would love to set it apart immediately. As a Camry though, I think it is excellent. It is big, plush, smooth, and understated. It will not blow your mind, but just like those I mentioned earlier, it's a very safe choice. Even as the segment dwindles, I know that there will always be space for an executive mid-size sedan fifty years down the road on the simple premise that there will always be space for the Toyota Camry.
Let's go places.