Toyota's Aurion will battle the dominant Falcon and Commodore on price as well as power and space. That's the news today as the Japanese giant announced it will launch its new Aurion V6 with a base-level model priced from $34,990.
Dubbed the AT-X, the base Aurion and four other model variants will hit showrooms early in November.
The AT-X's pricing is a $4000 increase on the Avalon -- that was discontinued in March this year (and is the car that the Aurion essentially replaces) -- but almost lineball with its intended opposition. Standard pricing for the new 180kW/330Nm 3.6-litre V6 four-speed auto VE Commodore Omega starts at $36,990 with air-conditioning, while the base 190kW/383Nm 4.0-litre straight six four-speed auto XT BF Mk II Falcon starts at $35,990.
With large car sales continuing to decline, however, both Ford and Holden are running special offers on both cars and for an undisclosed time period, you can get a BF Mk II XT with sports suspension, stability control, six-speed auto and 17-inch alloys for $36,240. Holden meantime is offering an Omega with air-conditioning, 17-inch alloys and a spoiler for $34,990.
Mitsubishi offers the only other local rival to the Aurion with its entry-level 175kW/343Nm 3.8-litre V6 five-speed auto 380 ES priced from just $29,990.
But the Aurion is a vastly different car to both the Avalon that it replaces and the Falcadore rivals that Toyota has firmly in its sights. Where the unloved Avalon (it managed to find just 11,760 buyers in its best and first full year of sales in 2001 but precipitously dropped to just 2949 last year) started life built off an already superseded US designed Camry-base, the Aurion is a local derivative of the new Camry that was launched here just a few months ago.
The Aurion is also significantly better styled, more powerful and better equipped than the Avalon and, in terms of offering Toyota substantially greater potential volume than its predecessor, it has another factor in its favour -- it is the sole large Toyota V6 passenger car Down Under.
With the launch of the new Camry, Toyota decided to target the medium sector and keep it four-cylinder only. The large sector entrant would be the V6 Aurion. In contrast, when Avalon was on sale, it also had to do battle against a V6 Camry, which since 2003 outsold the Avalon by more than two to one.
And if the new Camry is any indication, the Aurion should also be a significantly better car to drive than the lacklustre Avalon.
The Aurion launch line-up features five models starting with the aforementioned AT-X rising through the mid-range Prodigy and top-of-the-range Presara. Two Sportivo models complete the line-up with sports suspension, 17-inch alloys and body kits -- they are an entry level SX6 and higher grade ZR6.
All Aurion models share the same driveline with a 200kW/336Nm 3.5-litre engine driving through a six-speed automatic transmission.
These stats match or better (in most instances) the local 'big' cars, however, the major difference between the car and its Holden and Ford rivals is that it remains a front-wheel drive car. Despite the Aurion having the most powerful engine in its class, it is likely to be this factor, or public perception related to it, that remains the biggest challenge for Toyota if it is to seriously crack the large car market.
At first glance, at least, Aurion is very well-specced with all models from AT-X up including air-conditioning, power driver's seat, windows and mirrors, remote locking, cruise control, a CD audio system, ABS, traction control, stability control and front driver and passenger, front side and side curtain airbags.
The mid-level Prodigy and Sportivo ZR6 models also gain leather trim, dual-zone climate control, power front passenger seat, six-stack CD audio and alloy wheels.
Sitting at the top of the Aurion range is the Presara -- eschewing the Grande tag, unlike Camry, Prado and other stablemates.
Presumably aimed at the likes of the Calais and Fairmont Ghia, the Presara gets the full fruit including sunroof, automatic windscreen wipers and adaptive Xenon headlights, satellite navigation, phone and Bluetooth connectivity incorporated into a touch screen that hides a four-stack CD player. Standard equipment also includes a reversing camera and keyless entry and push-button start.
CarPoint's full launch review and first drive of the Toyota Aurion will be published this Wednesday (October 18).