I drove the Camry immediately after spending some time in a new, fully loaded Ford Taurus Limited. While the Taurus is a newer, more glamorously styled car with more bells and whistles than the Camry, which looks kinda stodgy by comparison, I had only to spend a few minutes in the Camry to discern the major differences between these two upscale family sedans. These differences can be described in two words: continual improvement.
When you drive the Camry, you are reminded that Toyota continually improves, tiny step by tiny step, its vehicles. Unlike the Taurus, which Ford ignored for years and only recently paid any real attention to, Toyota never took its eye off the ball with the Camry. Toyota has relentlessly tweaked and refined and improved the Camry for decades now, and the results show. The Camry is simply a far more refined vehicle to drive and to be in. The powertrain is smoother, quieter, and more satisfying to operate. All of the controls are nicely damped and feel great. The car drives with a sense of purpose. I’m trying to describe intangibles here, but if you drive these two cars back-to-back, you’ll see what I mean. And if you’re in the market for either one of these cars — the 2011 Ford Taurus or the 2011 Toyota Camry — I do think you should drive them back-to-back.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The Camry XLE makes the Ford Taurus I drove last night feel like a sports car in corners, so understeer prone is the Toyota’s chassis and so devoid of feeling is its steering. The Camry has a silky-smooth powertrain, though, that offers plenty of passing power at the stomp of your foot. As Joe mentioned, its overall feeling of refinement is superior to that of the Taurus. Still, it’s not hard to find weaknesses in assembly quality in the Camry’s cabin trim. The interior generally uses very nice materials and is nicely comfortable and spacious, though. I agree 100 percent with Joe when he encourages prospective owners to test-drive both cars, not to mention the Honda Accord and the Dodge Charger. Each has a very different feel.
Remote start, a $529 option, was a pleasant surprise from a Toyota product and came in very handy on a wintry Michigan morning. Options I was less keen about include the simulated woodgrain inside and the TRD wheels, which look quite out of place on this Camry (they’d look cool on a Scion TC, though).
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Yep, that’s the same basic 3.5-liter V-6 used in the Lotus Evora. Smooth, powerful, comfortable at any speed or rpm. Of course, the Camry doesn’t compare well otherwise with a mid-engine sports car, but within its own segment it does considerably better. Enthusiasts love to rag on the plain-Jane Toyota four-door, but really, it doesn’t drive all that differently from any other front-wheel-drive, mid-size car. There isn’t a single one that offers what I’d consider really good steering (the marginally mid-size Suzuki Kizashi comes the closest) and all suffer due to the amount of torque traveling through the front wheels.
Where the Camry really falls down is in the styling department. The exterior maladies are well known, and the interior, though well assembled, has all the character and charm of an east German apartment complex. And this was in a fully loaded model costing nearly $37,000. Considering all the technology and style one can buy in a Ford Fusion or a Hyundai Sonata, I’d say the Camry has some catching up to do. Granted, “catching up” is a relative term for a perennial bestseller, but that number-one spot is not a birthright.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I happened to visit my mother on the weekend I had the Camry, and it gave me a good chance to compare the latest Camry with her seven-year-old model. While the seven-year-old car has aged fairly gracefully, it’s apparent that Toyota has taken care to continually improve and refine what is one of the most popular cars in America. Of course, this Camry XLE test car is fully optioned, having navigation, a backup camera, XM radio, special wheels, and remote start, among other optional features. Still, several of those options could be deleted and the Camry would still be a very polished vehicle. The V-6 and six-speed transmission are well matched, allowing the driver to call up extra power for accelerating and passing with little drama and no delay. The interior is comfortable, the controls are easy to use, and the trunk is quite spacious. The Camry isn’t a car for enthusiasts, but its enduring popularity proves that Toyota is doing something right here. With the Camry, Toyota is sending a message to the American car buyer that this is a car that will provide them with practicality, reliability, and excellent resale value. That’s not a bad recipe for success.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2011 Toyota Camry XLE
Base price (with destination): $30,130
Price as tested: $36,487
3.5-liter V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Traction control system
Tire pressure monitoring system
Dual-zone automatic climate control
JBL AM/FM 6-disc CD changer
Power tilt/slide moonroof
40/20/40 split rear seat
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Remote keyless entry
Options on this vehicle:
Upgrade TRD 10-spoke alloy wheels — $2100
XLE extra value package #3 — $1810
Voice activated DVD navigation system
JBL AM/FM 4-disc in-dash CD changer
XM satellite radio
MP3/WMA playback capability
Auxiliary audio input
XLE extra value package #1– $890
Smart key system
Heated front seats
Remote start — $529
Preferred accessory package– $476
Carpet/trunk mat set
First aid kit
Rear spoiler — $303
Body side molding — $209
Cargo tote — $40
Key options not on vehicle:
Fuel economy: 20/29/23 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 3.5L DOHC V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Curb weight: 3516 lb
Wheels/tires: 18-inch TRD 10-spoke alloy wheels, 225/45R18 Michelin Pilot MXM4 all-season tires