The 2012 Toyota Aurion Sportivo ZR6 is Toyota’s most powerful, and largest family sedan currently on sale in Australia. It’s the bigger brother to the new Camry, featuring a 3.5-litre 200kW V6. The new model has grown in size compared with the old, and it’s also more fuel efficient. Is the ZR6 a true sports sedan though?
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – PROS AND CONS
- Great highway cruising comfort
- Comfortable suspension setup also capable and supportive in the bends
- Nice six-speed auto
- Packed with interesting features and safety tech
- Electric steering; feel not engaging, loads up and pulls slightly under power
- Inconsistent interior quality; some aspects feel cheap, other parts offer Lexus-like quality
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – OVERVIEW
For years we’ve enjoyed the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore as Australia’s favourite large sedans, including all the sporty variants. But as market trends are changing, these models are becoming less and less popular, while smaller, more efficient offerings are becoming the hit.
The 2012 Toyota Aurion is based on the same modular global platform as the new 2012 Camry. Although it may look similar, the 2012 Aurion showcases new panels, completely restyled front and rear bumper bars, rejigged suspension and steering, while up front gets the V6 engine – compared with the strict 2.5-litre four-cylinder Camry lineup.
Toyota Motor Corporation enlisted the help of Toyota Technical Center Australia for the development of not just the Aurion destined for our market, but also the development of the new Aurion as a complete global vehicle, ready for markets such as the Middle East, Japan, and Russia.
This isn’t a vehicle that has been adapted to suit the Australian market. Instead, it has been designed and developed from the beginning with Australian engineering playing a key role in its foundations.
Some of the major changes for the new model include new front suspension mounts which are 20 per cent more rigid than the predecessor’s – to improve steering feel and directness, there’s also a new speed-sensitive electric steering system, while the upper body shell has shed around 20kg in weight thanks to further engineering and the use of high-tensile steel in its construction.
As a result, the Sportivo ZR6 tips the scales at 1555kg compared with the previous ZR6 weight of 1630kg. This gives it a power-to-weight ratio of 7.78kg per kilowatt, bettering the Ford Falcon XR6 (8.68kg/kW) and the Holden Commodore SV6 (8.23kg/kW).
We timed 0-100km/h in just 6.6 seconds, putting ahead of both the Aussie naturally aspirated rivals mentioned above – 7.2 for the Ford and 6.9 for the Holden. (Our test averaged from 6.56, 6.75, and 6.69 seconds. Previous-gen ZR6 could manage 7.0 seconds.)
For the new model, Toyota engineers also worked on the suspension to increase stability, agility and rear-end grip, while ensuring a flat ride and quality damping feel. It gets slightly revised springs rates, and new low-friction dampers with rebound damping force rates increased 14 per cent at the front and 19 per cent at the rear. The changes concentrate on improving ride while keeping body roll to a minimum.
Other changes include larger overall dimensions, stretching 30mm in length (4855mm), and 5mm in width (1825mm), while height remains the same (14470mm). The upsize focuses on increasing front and rear legroom and more rear-seat headroom. Boot space has also grown from 504 litres to 515 litres.
Even though the new model is larger, fuel efficiency has been improved. For the combined rating, the Aurion has dropped from 9.9L/100km to 9.3L/100km for the new 2012 model.
Overall, the 2012 Toyota Aurion is larger, lighter, and quicker than the predecessor, with more than a step up in vehicle dynamics.
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT
Being the top of the range sports model, sitting above the Sportivo SX6, the ZR6 gets all the fruit you would expect. There’s a two-tone black and maroon leather upholstery inside, comfortable and cushy sports seats, and highlighted stitching throughout, including on the dashboard.
Sitting in the centre console is a touch-screen interface which displays everything from vehicle settings, to satellite navigation, the reverse parking camera, to the radio and multimedia playback – with Bluetooth and USB/auxiliary input. The system is easy to use, with jump-to buttons around the screen for the main functions. Everything is in easy reach, and can be found without fuss; this is not one of those interiors that will overwhelm you.
There are plenty of sporty highlights inside that help distinguish the ZR6 from the rest of the range too, including carbon-look inserts on the centre console, dash, and door trims, as well as other silver highlights spread throughout the cabin.
In the back there’s heaps of rear legroom and headroom; we’re talking Commodore and Falcon levels of room here. The rears seats are very comfortable as well, with a flip-down armrest and dual cupholders in the middle to improve accommodation.
Other interesting features on this test vehicle include an optional electric sunroof ($1950), power everything, and a cool rear electric rear shade which pops up from the parcel shelf to provide further protection from the sun.
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – DESIGN AND SAFETY
In terms of exterior design, the new Aurion is based on the new Camry look. However, the Sportivo ZR6 gets a sporty bodykit with front and rear spoilers, and distinctly finned corner sections in the lower bumper bars.
There’s also a dual exhaust outlet arrangement at the back surrounded by a small diffuser element in the middle. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but the styling and the kit is well proportioned and it adds a bit of a performance theme to the somewhat conservative looks of the new Aurion.
Toyota has jumped up quite a few steps in a number of areas with the new Aurion, including safety. Some standout features include active headlights with auto high beams that dip the beams automatically whenever there’s an oncoming or approaching vehicle.
That’s not the most interesting part though, the headlights themselves also sweep left and right depending on your steering wheel position. We found them to be fantastic, especially during drives along unlit mountain roads; the headlights will shine up around the corner as you turn.
Another key safety feature on the new model is the Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) system, which can be switched off, strangely. It’s quite clever, but very straight-forward at the same time. It’s one of those technologies where you think ‘why hasn’t this been around for years?’
In the corners of each side mirror there’s a little yellow light which illuminates if there is a vehicle travelling in your blind spot. It won’t sound an abrupt buzzer or anything like that, it’s simply a friendly reminder that could save you from cutting someone off.
The 2012 Toyota Aurion also comes with seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, stability and traction control, and has earned a five-star safety rating from ANCAP. The car recently scored a very high 36.59 out of 37 overall (one of the highest scores we’ve seen; the Volvo S60 has scored 36.34 for instance), and 15.59 out of 16 in the offset frontal impact test.
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – ON THE ROAD
Flatten the throttle off the mark and the front wheels will scramble for traction for most of first gear. Even if you require a sudden burst of acceleration from around 40km/h, the punchy V6 will overcome the front 215-wide tyres. There’s no doubt the Aurion goes ‘hard’ and is an energetic piece of machinery.
The throttle isn’t touchy, but it is sensitive enough to exercise the engine’s eagerness at a small push. It’s quiet under normal loads, very quiet in fact, offering an almost Lexus-like cabin environment. It’s only when the engine is really revving that you hear an angry yet refined high-pitched hum.
Through the corners, the electric steering isn’t as responsive or engaging as the rivals’ steering. It’s on the heavy side too. Point the nose into a corner, and the chassis offers plenty of grip and holds on very well, but the feeling through the steering wheel is not all that inspiring.
There’s a point at around one-quarter turn where the wheel loads up quite noticeably. We initially thought the tyres were a little flat. Unfortunately, they weren’t. Under heavy power, there is some tug and tension at the wheel as well.
Despite this relatively minor hiccup, Toyota engineers have done a great job of covering everything else that supports an overall good driving experience. The suspension walks that fine line in providing excellent comfort while still remaining composed and firm in the corners.
Even when pointed through the bends, and over undulations, the Aurion Sportivo remains confident and flat. When pushed, some gentle understeer comes into play to let you know the tyres are stretching – we feel the Aurion could benefit from a wider tread pattern over the 215s. Such a change could improve grip and acceleration even further.
Like almost all Toyotas, the gearbox in the Aurion is excellent. It changes up seamlessly, and down changes quickly, and at the touch of the throttle. Slip the gear lever over into ‘S’ mode, and you have yourself an eager set of cogs which are always ready when you are. You can also use the flappy paddles behind the wheel for that racy experience, and there’s even a little blip form the engine on the downshifts.
Compared with the Aurion’s little brother, the 2012 Toyota Camry, the Aurion’s front-to-rear weight distribution is changed, although, we feel the Aurion does handle better. It feels more refined, and more comfortable.
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – VERDICT
As a sports sedan, the 2012 Toyota Aurion Sportivo ZR6 performs well. It’s the quickest in its class. The exterior design and interior environment successfully fall into the ‘sports sedan’ criteria, while the handling isn’t quite as engaging as one would hope, it’s certainly capable.
So as a sports sedan, is passes a few tests with flying colours, while it gains a satisfactory result in some areas.
As a large economical family sedan though, with a key purpose in life to commute five passengers in comfort, safety, and a bit of pizazz, it’s very easy to see why it’s one of the country’s favourites. The 2012 Aurion is an evolutionary step. And one in the right direction.
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – THE COMPETITORS
Holden Commodore SV6 – 3.6-litre V6, 210kW/350Nm – 1729kg (auto) – $42,790
Holden’s sporty SV6 features the most powerful naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine to ever feature in an Australia family sedan. It is the heaviest out of this trio though, with fuel economy rated at 9.6L/100km for the auto.
Ford Falcon XR6 – 4.0-litre straight-six, 195kW/391Nm – 1695kg – $39,990
The XR6 has been a popular variant for years, and now that it’s available from $39,990, it is Australia’s cheapest sports sedan currently on sale.
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo – 4.0-litre turbocharged straight-six, 270kW/533Nm – 1694kg – $46,235
If you interested in more of the ‘sports’ side of the sports sedan market options, the XR6 Turbo is hard to beat. Literally too, with 270kW on tap and available from $46,235, bang for your buck doesn’t come much better.
2012 TOYOTA AURION SPORTIVO ZR6 – SPECIFICATIONS
2012 Toyota Aurion Sportivo ZR6
3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol
ENGINE SIZE / COMPRESSION RATIO
3456cc / 10.8:1
BORE X STROKE
94mm x 83mm
POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
7.78: 1 (kg:kW)
HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1470mm / 1825mm / 4855mm
Six-speed auto transmission, front-wheel drive
F: Ventilated discs
WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 17-inch, 215/55 R17
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
91 RON (E10 suitable)
Tested average: 10L/100km
Official average: 9.3L/100km
0-100km/h: 6.6 seconds (tested)