Toyota’s dominance in Thailand’s car market is so huge that there are enough willing buyers to support two rather unrelated Camry models – there’s the regular ‘Asian’ Camry that everyone here is familiar with, and also the ‘American’ Camry ESport, which is imported from Australia, seen here at the 2015 Thailand International Motor Expo.
Australia sells both versions of the Camry. The ‘Asian’ Camry that you and I are familiar with is sold as the Aurion, and it’s only available with a 3.5-litre V6 engine. As for the Camry, Australia has opted to take the ‘American’ Camry, albeit in right-hand drive form. Both the Aurion and Camry are assembled in Australia, at least until 2017, when the plant will be closed down.
The Aussie Camry is powered by the same 2.5-litre Dual VVT-I engine that’s used by our previous locally-assembled Camry 2.5V, which has since been succeeded by the Camry 2.5 Hybrid.
Thailand has a free trade agreement with Australia, which allows it to import the Aussie-made Camry with zero import duty.
At a glance, the Camry ESport’s more youthful design should win it a lot of fans. Compared to the stodgy looking ‘Asian’ Camry that we are used to seeing, the Camry ESport’s leaner, more athletic appearance is probably the Camry that many younger buyers want, or so we thought.
The positive first impression falls apart the moment you open the driver’s door and step inside the cabin.
The Camry ESport lives up to the stereotype of cars designed for the American market. Despite its attractive looks, the Camry ESport reeks of cheapness everywhere in its cabin.
The doors shut with such a hollow-like feeling that even a Toyota Vios feels more confidence inspiring.
Inside, the interior plastics feels so cheap that it stepping out of this and into a Toyota Vios’s cabin feels like a step up. The trim materials along the door are hard, and feels cheap, it's a drab-fest.
The dashboard is bland, uninspiring, and is a total opposite of what the car’s exterior styling had tried hard to portray. It's almost as if as Toyota tried very hard to remake the car's exterior, but could not be bothered with its interior.
The front seats also appear to be thinner, thus legroom in the rear feels a little bit more spacious than a regular Camry even though the two cars share the same 2,775 mm wheelbase. Both cars are also equally long and tall, at 4,850 mm and 1,470 mm respectively, but the Aussie-made Camry ESport is 10 mm wider, at 1,835 mm.
Despite not having to pay any import duty, and its clearly inferior cabin refinement, the Camry ESport still costs more than a regular Camry 2.5-litre, about 70,000 Baht more, at 1.639 million Baht. That explains why the Camry ESport is such a rare sight on Thai roads.
The Camry ESport is an example is be careful of what you wished for. When it was first released in the US, its athletic looks swayed us over to it, but after seeing the car up close, we will take our ‘Asian’ Camry over this American-style, Aussie-made version Camry ESport anytime.