THE headline on the press release at the launch of the Toyota Aurion said "The game has changed". Has it bloody-well ever.
In the year that Holden released its latest all-new Commodore, the Toyota Aurion wins the Large Car of The Year gong.
I haven't seen an upset like that since the AU Falcon - billed as the new wondercar for Ford - was launched at the Sydney Motor Show much fanfare: within about two minutes Holden of pulling the cover of the Monaro concept. Ford was trumped.
My old man, a Holden man, who defected to Ford about the same time as Lowndes, Ingall et al, was beside himself when I left this one with him for a day to drive. Is there any loyalty any more?
So now the Aurion AT-X has trumped the Commodore Omega, Ford Falcon XT and Mitsubishi 380 ES. The name Aurion is derived from the ancient Greek for "tomorrow" or "first light". Prophetic.
Where Toyota's last foray into large cars, the Avalon, was more for those who wear cardigans, the Aurion is ultra-modern in looks and temperament.
It has the most advanced and powerful engine ever offered in a Toyota vehicle in Australia - a new 3.5-litre Quad Cam V6 - with 200kW of power at 6200rpm and 336Nm of torque at 4700rpm on regular unleaded petrol. You can squeeze another 4kW out of it with 95-octane unleaded fuel.
Aurion's V6 engine features dual VVT-i technology that varies the timing of both the inlet and exhaust valves, providing optimum power and economy - the first Toyota in Oz to do so.
So does it live up to the hype? Surprisingly well in fact. It can be driven nice and easily and it drives just like a Camry. Put your foot down and it's out of sight.
Most impressive is that off the line performance is solid despite maximum power and torque being at relatively high revs.
It is also a silky smooth drivetrain, the only exception being noticeable torque steer which kicks in seemingly a fair way before it actually breaks traction. Can we get one in rear-wheel-drive guys?
My only other "criticism" of the Aurion is that can it really be called a large car when it's the same size as the Camry? Bigger motor yes. Better car yes. Worth an extra $6000-$10,000 than Camry... debatable ... but the 200kW gets it over the line.
The boot size is impressive to say the least. Where it's lacking is that good old width compared to the likes of Falcon or Commodore. There's 40mm (Falcon) and 80mm (Commodore) difference in width but, for mine, it really makes a huge difference. Ask your rear seat passengers and I'm sure they'll agree.
There are five grades in ascending order of equipment level: AT-X, Sportivo, SX6, Prodigy, Sportivo ZR6 and Presara.
Standard features include air conditioning, power driver's seat, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, dual exhaust, six airbags, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution.
AT-X options are 16-inch alloy wheels, the combination of alloy wheels and rear wing spoiler, and metallic paint.
Prodigy standard features over AT-X include dual-zone auto air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, six-CD in-dash multi-changer, clearance and rear reversing sonar and a heap of trim upgrades.
Sportivo SX6 standard features over AT-X include sports suspension and additional rear bracing, 17-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tyres, sports lights, sports radiator grille, body kit, sports seats, leather here and there inside, six-CD in-dash multi-changer and more.
Sportivo ZR6 has additional features of dual-zone auto air conditioning and a lot more the dealer can tell you about.
Top-of-the-range Presara includes the following features, over and above Prodigy grade, 17-inch alloy wheels with Michelin tyres, HVAC and Bluetooth controls on steering wheel, telematics with three-year service subscription, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, reverse camera, driver's seat and exterior mirror position memory (two settings), auto-tilt exterior mirrors on reverse, smart entry (including boot release) and Push start, AVN Satellite Navigation with Bluetooth and moonroof.
Geez I feel like that shiela from the Pauls Milk ad on telly "low-fat, full-fat, extra dollop....".
Toyota Australia divisional manager sales and marketing Matthew Callachor said the TVC highlights the fact that Aurion has the most power and best fuel economy among naturally aspirated Australian six-cylinder cars.
"The Australian large-car market has been much the same for more than 40 years - dominated by just two players," Mr Callachor said.
"We're letting the market know that, with Aurion, there's a new player in the game - and that the game has changed.
"No longer are Aussie large-car buyers limited to the cars their dad bought or what won at Bathurst.
"It's no longer enough just to have brute force. You have to have both power and economy; you have to have performance and control. In addition, safety, reliability and the environment really matter in today's world."
Yes, the game has changed.