23 October 2006
Despite its share of the overall Australian car market
declining significantly in recent years, the local family car market has
been bustling with activity in recent months, with the release of the
all-new Holden VE Commodore, an upgraded Ford Falcon and large price
cuts to the Mitsubishi 380.
Now, after a brief break, Toyota has rejoined the battle
with the release of its V6 Aurion matching most of the features of its
rivals, and with a more powerful engine, contemporary styling and a
Despite its dominant position on the Australian market
Toyota has never threatened the Commodore/Falcon dominance of the large
car market. Aurion’s predecessor, the Avalon, was a very competent car
but its dated styling proved a turn-off to Australian buyers while the
V6 Camry and Vienta tended to be seen as medium sized cars.
Like its three main competitors Aurion is locally-built,
alongside the four-cylinder Camry at Toyota’s recently-expanded Altona
factory. Initially at least Aurion is likely to carry the tag of ‘the
V6 Camry’ because in terms of its exterior and interior dimensions and
design that is basically what it is. Not that there’s anything wrong
with the comparison because the Camry is a spacious, comfortable and
capable car. Add 70 per cent more power, with just 12 per cent more
weight, six-speed automatic transmission, and the latest in automotive
technology and you have a very impressive car.
Importantly, given the Avalon experience, Aurion’s
styling is right up to date with enough variations to distinguish itself
from the Camry.
There are five variants in the Aurion range, all with
the same 3.5-litre twin-cam V6 engine and six-speed automatic
transmission. The engine generates peak power of 200kW at 6200rpm,
compared with the Commodore Omega’s 180kW or 195kW and Falcon XT’s
190kW. Aurion maximum torque is a useful 336Nm but is lower than that of
the 4.0-litre Falcon (383Nm) and comparable with the Commodore’s 330Nm
And being 100kg lighter Aurion beats both in fuel
consumption, 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres compared with Omega’s 10.9
L/100km and XT’s 10.7 L/100km. Note that these are standard fuel
consumption tests and may vary significantly in real-life driving
Aurion also compares well in terms of standard features.
The entry-level AT-X comes with dual front, side and curtain airbags,
stability control, traction control, ABS brakes with brakes assist, air
conditioning, power driver’s seat, cruise control, power windows and
mirrors and MP3-compatible single-disc CD player. Price is $34,990.
Aurion Prodigy, priced at $39,500, adds dual-zone air
conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, foglamps, six-disc CD
player and power front passenger seat.
At $49,990, the Presara model is the most expensive
model in the Aurion range. In addition to the equipment included in the
Prodigy it gets 17-inch alloys, satellite navigation, Bluetooth,
telematics, sun roof, driver’s seat memory and adaptive headlights.
The other two Aurion models are Sportivo variants, SX6 is priced at
$38,500 and the ZR6 at $42,500. As with most of Toyota’s Sportivo
models, there isn’t too much sportiness. Both models have firmer
suspension, rear spoiler and sports seats but the engine has the same
level of tune as the other models.
At the Aurion’s launch we were able to drive most of
the models over a 300-kilometre route around Coffs Harbour on the NSW
North Coast. The engine is smooth, powerful and refined with enough
torque to satisfy most Australian drivers. Gear changes from the new
six-speed automatic are barely noticeable.
Handling is precise and predictable with the added
benefits of stability and traction control there should you overstep the
mark. Ride comfort is good in all models with the Sportivo suspension
marginally firmer but still comfortable.
There’s excellent interior space for all occupants,
with plenty of the all-important rear seat legroom although we seriously
doubt Toyota’s claim that it can carry three large adults in comfort
in the rear seat.
Is Aurion the biggest test yet for Holden and Ford’s
dominance of the Australian family car market? Maybe not, but it
certainly has all the necessary qualities to have the Big Two looking
over their shoulders.