Model: Toyota Aurion Prodigy
Price as tested: $39,500
Also consider: Holden Berlina (here), Ford Fairmont, Mitsubishi 380 LX (here)
Overall rating: 3.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0
For years the large car segment has been king in this country -- and a two-horse race to boot with the Commodore and Falcon holding sway.
But times are a-changing and not only are petrol prices here finally challenging the commonsense of the one or two-occupant six-cylinder 'family car', but to make things doubly tough the field has grown to four with the Mitsubishi 380 and now Toyota Aurion joining the fray.
The new Toyota Aurion model range comprises five different spec levels -- all sharing the same drivetrain -- with the Prodigy, tested here, parked in the middle.
In its own right though the Prodigy has a long and impressive list of standard features with a six-speed Aisin auto gearbox, six airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, front foglamps, non-switchable stability control, traction control, ABS, brake assist, EBD, rear reversing sensors and remote central locking.
Inside the roomy cockpit there's quality leather trim, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, powered driver's seat, reach and rake steering adjustment, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, premium 'Optitron' instruments, power windows and mirrors, in-dash multi-changer CD with MP3 audio capability and a multi-function trip computer.
Styling-wise the Aurion is a big advance for the normally staid Toyota. Taking some cues from its up-market big brothers at Lexus the Aurion has modern lines with neat proportions. Finally, here's a Toyota I would take a second squiz at after parking it in the garage.
The refined 3.5-litre V6 with 200kW/336NM is a class leader in terms of power and economy. Off the line acceleration isn't earth shattering though and below 3000rpm throttle response is a little lazy. Not until the 4500rpm mark does the engine shows its true colours -- and when it does it impresses.
Performance for the front-wheel driver is a claimed 0-100km/h in 7.4secs and a top speed of 228km/h which felt about right.
Toyota's local engineers tried hard to adjust the suspension to suit local conditions and under most circumstances the Aurion handles quite well. There's only a slight 'waftiness' compared to the Camry with which it shares much of its componentry and on most roads the ride was very good with little in the way of noise intrusion.
On the road it has a 'big car' feel -- until you turn it aggressively into a corner and the torque steer reminds you why rear-wheel drive works so well on large cars.
The six-speed auto shifts up pretty quickly in a bid to maximise fuel economy but the Aurion has a manual mode if the driver wants to lengthen out the changes to stretch the car's legs. Fuel economy is a claimed 9.9lt/100km -- best in its class.
The Aurion is a big step forward for Toyota in the local large car battle. It's well kitted out, has an accomplished engine, decent road manners and looks that won't make you blush.
The other 'Aussie' sixes have a fight on their hands.