The is still America’s quintessential midsize car, and it’s easy to see why. It performs every task with poise and class while offending no one. Looking beyond the sedate styling reveals bulletproof reliability, superbly refined powertrains, quantifiable quality, and an everyday user-friendliness that’s hard to beat.
In addition to the sedan, Toyota offers the Camry Solara coupe and convertible. While the coupe offers some additional style over the sedan-and decent accommodations all around-the convertible is one of just three affordable four-seat sun-seekers you can buy in the United States, along with the Chrysler Sebring Convertible and .
The array of Camry models is somewhat confusing. The sedan is available in base, four-cylinder form and ever fancier LE, SE, and XLE trims, with either four- or six-cylinder power. The convertibles are available only with the V-6 engine in SE or SLE trim, and the coupes come in SE, SE Sport, and SLE guise with either engine.
The Camry’s clean, tasteful sedan body and more curvaceous coupe/convertible body suggest a mannered approach to motoring. The line doesn’t pander to fashion trends, rather these cars look smart today and will continue to do so for years to come. For 2006, there are no major styling revisions, following a freshening in 2005 that incorporated redesigned grille, headlamps, and taillamps. A clever hierarchy of Camry ownership is distinguished mainly by wheel and tire packages. Standard Camry sedans make do with 15-inch wheels and tires; 16-inchers are variously optional and standard on the middle trim levels; and 17s are standard on convertibles, some coupes, and the SE sedan.
Although the Camry is quite subdued inside at base level, it can be outfitted to a relatively luxurious standard if you’re prepared to invest. All Camrys benefit from generally good materials and fits inside, although the interior styling is unexceptional and the plastics aren’t as rich looking as those found in the or . What we love, though, is the way all the things you touch-the window lifts, the column stalks, the radio controls-operate as if someone paid a huge amount of attention to them. That, plus they feel like they’ll last forever.
A standard Camry has air conditioning and power door locks and windows, but an XLE V-6 has standard automatic climate control, wood-grain interior trim, and power front seats, with a power moonroof and leather seats among the optional features. Toyota has exerted a great deal of effort to improve the dowdy appearance of its less premium Camrys, to the extent that the even the base model gained chrome door handles and gear-shifter base in 2005. Upscale optional features include a navigation system and a JBL stereo with satellite radio capability.
Camrys are now pretty big vehicles, with interior volume near the high end of the EPA’s midsize class. Even the coupe and convertible have reasonable passenger room front and rear.
The Camry is one of the best-built cars in America and consistently scores very high in crash testing. On the other hand, the Camry makes you pay for any additional safety features beyond basic airbags and seatbelt pretensioners. Driver and passenger curtain airbags (along with front side airbags) are optional on all Camry sedans and Solara Coupes. Anti-lock brakes are standard on all Camry models and body styles, but stability and traction control are available only on LE, SE, and XLE sedans, and SLE coupe and convertible models.
Essentially, the Camry offers three different engines. The base powerplant is a smooth-revving 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 160 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque in the sedans. (Unless you live in California and certain Northeastern states, that is, where an ultra-low-emissions version that makes 151 hp and 161 lb-ft is sold.) Camry Solara coupes have a slightly lower power rating for their four-cylinder engines: 157 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. There are also two V-6 engines. The first, fitted in LE and XLE sedans, is a 3.0-liter that produces 210 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. SE sedans are available with a 3.3-liter V-6 that makes 225 horsepower and 240 lb-ft. The higher-output engine is the only V-6 offered in Solara coupes and the only engine fitted in the Solara convertible. Whichever V-6 you choose, it will be mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, with the slick five-speed manual limited to the four-cylinder engine.
Behind the Wheel
Above all, what the Camry provides is a pleasant, innocuous way of getting from point A to point B. Whether you choose a four-cylinder or V-6 model, or go for the sedan, coupe, or convertible, all Camrys ride beautifully and have quiet, elegant powertrains. Naturally, the four-cylinder engine needs to be worked harder than the rich V-6 for best results, but that’s no hardship because the five-speed manual is so slick and the five-speed automatic transmission has well-spaced ratios and nearly imperceptible gearshifts. The V-6 engines, too, are superbly refined, and provide decent passing performance, especially in 3.3-liter guise. Again, the automatic transmissions are exceptional.
The story isn’t quite so good for enthusiast drivers. Although Toyota offers a slightly more aggressive suspension tune on the SE sedan, it’s still a bit dull to drive fast-safe but not inspirational. Even the SE Sport Camry Solara coupe is more boulevardier than back-road hero. But most Camry owners won’t care about that, because they are after a great highway ride, and the Camry provides that. Only some steering kickback on bumpy roads interrupts the isolation.
One of the beautiful things about owning a Toyota is that you won’t be spending much time at a dealership service department, due to the vehicles’ legendary reliability. Toyota isn’t the most generous with its warranties, offering a 3-year/36,000-mile comprehensive coverage allied with a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, but you likely won’t need them anyhow. All models fair well in the IntelliChoice Cost of Ownership analyses, but there is clear variation between trim levels and body styles, making it essential to compare the figures before purchasing.
Always a smart choice, the Toyota Camry provides the refinement, packaging, and value to satisfy the motoring needs of mainstream consumers. What it may lack in passion, it makes up for in quality, convenience, and polish.
- What’s Hot Superb enginesLots of luxury featuresExcellent reliability What’s Not Options can get priceyNot very exciting to driveValue story varies. Check the numbers by trim.
The current Camry was introduced as a 2002 model and received a freshening for the 2005 model year that included styling changes, interior revisions, ABS was made standard on all models, and the availability of a five-speed automatic for four-cylinder sedans. The current car has only a year left before an expected redesigned 2007 model hits the market, so ’06 changes are minor details.
There are myriad options throughout the Camry and Solara range, but perhaps the most significant are the V-6 engines, which turn the midsize sedan into a near-luxury vehicle. Side-curtain airbags and stability control are the key available safety options. For Sybarites, the navigation package is an upscale feature available on higher trim levels of Camrys and Camry Solaras.
Others to Consider
Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy