The Toyota Camry 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 Ford Mustang.
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 Honda Accord or Subaru Legacy. 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.