IT WAS billed as a replacement for the low-budget, lacklustre Toyota Avalon. But after two iterations, 11 years, more than 110,000 sales and 70,000 exports, the Toyota Aurion is no more.
A single image was posted to social media yesterday of a white Toyota Aurion, parked to one side of Toyota's Altona production line floor and wearing a handwritten sign taped to its shiny chrome grille. It read simply: “Last car, V6, best build.”
We're a bit late with the news, as the last Aurion was built at Altona on August 17, and was handed over to Chadstone Toyota dealer principal Graeme Ward. Toyota had flagged in January that the last Aurion would be built in August, the last Camry Hybrid in September, and the last petrol-engined Camry on October 6.
The Aurion will go down in history as Toyota's last crack at taking on the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. It was a localised version of the Camry - turned out of Toyota's Australian design studios - but with a V6 under its bonnet instead of either a locally cast 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine or a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid system, and introduced to Australia in 2006 as part of a major model update for the global Camry platform. Its name was derived from the ancient Greek for "tomorrow" or "first light" depending on how you want to read the translation.
Toyota Australia managed to convince its head office that a two-model strategy based around one platform was needed to make the all-new Camry a success here. In 2003, Toyota Style Australia designed and built a 380L, a large sedan prototype based on the Camry platform, that it said would be appropriate for the Australian market. After seeing it, Japan agreed.
Under the stewardship of Australian Nick Hogios, the Aurion took shape in Toyota's studios in Nagoya and Melbourne as the 323L, the so-called "premium six" program.
It was something of an inauspicious start for the 200kW quad-cam, 3.5-litre V6 Aurion: just days before the car was due to be revealed and shortly after it was teased before the crowd at the 2006 AFL Grand Final, the car maker inadvertently published pricing and details of all five models on its own website, spoiling the surprise.
Initial testing showed Toyota's front-drive Aurion - billed by its rivals as taking a fight to the front-drive Honda Accord V6 or the then Mitsubishi 380, and not the traditional large rear-drive sedans - was quicker from 0-100km/h than the Commodore Omega, but slower than the base Ford Falcon.
Toyota will launch the eighth-generation Camry in Australia in November. Built on Toyota's all-new TNGA platform that also underpins the Prius hybrid hatch and C-HR compact SUV, it will reintroduce the V6 badge to the Camry line-up for the first time in more than a decade.