Toyota Aurion Sportivo SX6 2012 Review

Toyota Aurion Sportivo SX6 2012 Review

When I picked up the Aurion after having Toyota’s Camry i-Tech for a week my first thought was why would anyone purchase an Aurion when the Camry is more comfortable and better specified? But a journey from Auckland to Feilding and back gave me the answer: you buy the Aurion because you want the sensible aura of a Toyota but you want a swift sedan with sportier styling and handling that will make short work of overtaking dawdling holidaymakers.

The Aurion makes the Camry feel

decidedly lethargic. Rather than the 2.5-litre four-pot motor you get a 3.5-litre V6 that’s good for 200kW and 336Nm of torque. Yes, it brings a smile to your face when the automatic gearbox drops down a couple of cogs and the traction control lets you put as much power down on the ground as the tarmac will take.

Obviously a 3.5-litre V6 is not going to win in the fuel consumption stakes, but I was pleasantly surprised to average 8.2l/100km from Feilding to Auckland with zero dawdling, full noise overtaking around the various trucks, campervans and utes peppering the country roads, and cruising at between 100-110kph (some of it using the cruise control). The quoted combined fuel consumption is 9.3l/100km – I couldn’t verify that because my primary drive was Auckland to Feilding and back, apart from a couple of short around-town trips.

This range-topping SX6 seems quite under-specced. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not under-specced for the money ($51,790); it’s that there’s no ZR6 option like there is overseas to bring it in line with the top-level Camry i-Tech ($56,890) and Prius i-Tech ($54,490) which have significantly more in the way of interior gear. It means the Aurion doesn’t have satellite navigation, it has the older style multi-media interface (6.1-inch touch screen rather than 7-inch), there’s no automated windscreen wipers, the Bluetooth didn’t work with my phone (but it did with the Camry and Prius) and you don’t get leather seats.

None of these are particularly irritating. The Aurion is quite a lot cheaper than the Prius i-Tech and the Camry i-Tech, both of which are hybrids, and it comes with a proper automatic gearbox rather than an annoying CVT which wouldn’t be sporty at all.

The exterior of the Aurion is adorned with a sports-style body kit, twin exhausts and diffuser, integrated front fog lights and spoiler, rear spoiler and side skirts. It adds more muscle to the Camry look and the sporting feel is followed through to the inside with sport pedals, sports gear lever, sports seats and a sequential option for the gearbox.

Those sports seats were very comfortable. Even though we stopped twice driving back from Feilding to Auckland (around 500km), I didn’t feel the need to stop. They’re bolstered enough to keep you from sliding around, but they’re not so deep or wraparound that they would be uncomfortable for larger drivers.

Putting the rubber to the road are 215/55 R17 tyres wrapped around 17-inch mags. The body kit would support 18-inch wheels, but the suspension is already on the rigid side for a sports tourer and that might tip it into the kind of bumpiness that makes passengers uncomfortable. As it stands, the standard Aurion gives a good balance between comfort and performance.

There are only two real problems with the Aurion, the first of which is the quality of the six-speaker stereo. You can plug your iPod in and it’ll take the usual complement of different format CDs (CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA, etc), but there was very variable bass response even with the bass turned up using the EQ. To be honest, I only tested this on the open road with a selection of songs from my iPod (mainly because I didn’t have a CD with me, and forgot to tune the radio in while within distance of an urban centre). The music ranged from Genesis to Guns n’ Roses, from Coldplay to Cold Chisel and from The Prodigy to The Pet Shop Boys.

The culprit seemed to be road noise frequencies cancelling the bass frequencies out. The Aurion is not a noisy car (it has a lot of noise suppression features in the bodywork and glass), but on New Zealand’s rubbish blacktop road noise reduced the stereo width to sounding like it was coming from the centre of the dash and that there was no punch to the bass without it being too loud. It could also have been the iPod integration (although I don’t know why it would be restricted to that), so if this concerns you, check it out when you test the Aurion.

The second problem is the automatic locking and the double-push unlock. I couldn’t find an option to disable this. A typical scenario was this: open the boot, get out of the car, put the keys in my back pocket, close the door, walk around to the boot and while I’m fossicking in the boot all the doors lock. I close the boot, walk around to the driver’s door and go to open it, but because the key is in my back pocket the car doesn’t pick it up. Reach into my back pocket and pull the key out, then push the unlock button once. That unlocks the driver’s door. Oops, I forgot that the passenger also wants to get back in, so push the unlock button again. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that was repeated too frequently.

The Aurion scored a 5-star ANCAP crash test rating. It comes with nine airbags (driver and passenger front, front side, front/rear curtain shield, and driver’s knee). Electronic safety includes ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and electronic stability control (ESC). There’s also an immobilizer and alarm.

In conclusion, if I was making frequent long journeys and wanted the flexibility and performance I would take the Aurion Sportivo SX6 over the Camry any day. I really enjoyed the power and while its handling isn’t truly sports-focused it strikes a great balance that allows you to push on a bit more rapidly without eliminating all traces of comfort for the passengers. But, if my driving was more around town and I had kids that might get a bit car sick with slightly firmer suspension I would go for the Camry Atara SX, which is a similar price ($51,490). Either car performs very well in its class.

You can get more info on the Toyota Aurion at Toyota’s website (opens in a new window)

There are Aurions for sale here (opens in a new window).

If you’ve found an Aurion you like the look of, check its history at checka.co.nz (opens in a new window)

Price: $51,790

Pros

  • Effortless cruising and overtaking

Cons

  • You can’t buy one with better spec – seems that the ZR6 isn’t available in NZ
  • Speakers didn’t sound that good

Words: Darren Cottingham

Photos: Vanessa James

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