2009 Toyota Camry XLE
The Camry is a very refined vehicle, but it's not a sport sedan by any means. Very smooth powertrain. The six-speed automatic's manual shift function works pretty well; move the gearshift lever to the left, into the S for Sport gate, then upshift by pushing forward and downshift by pulling the lever back toward you. Your gear is indicated by a digital readout in the tachometer.
There is a lot of play in the steering and too much body roll, but a very comfortable ride. I'm always happy to use Toyota's superb navigation interface and to listen to the JBL stereo. The transparent light blue plastic surrounding the climate and stereo control panels in the center console debuted on this generation of Camry; I note that Subaru has copied it for the all-new 2010 Legacy sedan. One small surprise: the side-view mirrors are not break-away; I parked the Camry in a tight spot in my driveway and thought I would fold in the driver's-side mirror, but it is immovable. I wasn't expecting a power-fold function, mind you, but I thought I'd be able to fold them manually.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Two-tone gray interiors don't look good in any car. Toyota is certainly not the only company at fault here (a Mercury Milan I drove recently was also guilty), but it casts a definitive rental-car pall over the whole car. The faux wood trim does little to enliven the drab cabin, but I do like the blue radio surround. I just wish that the lighting was a bit more even throughout.
Joe noted the steering wheel has plenty of play; I agree and would like to see a slightly quicker steering ratio. Most of the time this is a perfectly comfortable family sedan, but its reactions when you ask for a bit more can be rather hairy. Namely, I'm talking about flattening the throttle and getting a big downshift and maniacal torque steer through a fuzzy steering setup. It can take you by quite a surprise.
This particular Camry has a rear window shade to shield passengers from the sun. It is manually operated rather than power-operated like in many luxury cars, but it's still a neat feature for long trips or if you're looking to keep your kids out of the sun.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
One more thing about that gray interior: When did it go completely plastic?? Complete with bad gaps and rough edges. Yipes. At least Toyota still takes extra care in finishing all edges you are likely to touch (the lips of all console and door bins and cubbies, for example). All bin lids are also open with a touch and click securely back in place. But for the money, I'd take a much closer look at the Chevy Malibu.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
I agree with Jean on the surprisingly plasticky interior, and the gray on gray color palette is so, so drab. Although I generally don't care for faux wood, the one used in this Camry has a decent grain and brings a much needed warm accent to the cold interior.
The engine is quiet and smooth and quite powerful on the low end. From a stop, though, the front tires often have a hard time putting the power down. I actually squealed away from several lights. Oops.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
German luxury car buyers often strip the nameplates off their vehicles to keep their indulgences a (relative) secret. I'm not comparing this Camry to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, this Camry XLE does offer some anonymous luxury. Park next to a Camry of a lesser trim level, and you might have trouble identifying which car had keyless ignition, a JBL sound system, and satellite radio.
Despite the primo features, this doesn't feel like a $33,000 car, what with the aforementioned panel gaps on the instrument panel. I'm also surprised by the power of this V-6, and the soft suspension it's paired with. Toyota may not expect driving enthusiasts to shop the Camry, but it just seems odd to couple such a strong engine with suspension tuning that wants to endlessly float.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Base price (with destination): $29,415
Price as tested: $33,106
Front side airbags
Driver's knee airbag
Tire pressure monitoring system
Heated sideview mirrors
Power adjustable leather front seats
Automatic halogen headlights
Dual-zone climate control
6-disc 440-watt 7-speaker sound system
Homelink universal garage door opener
Reclining rear seats
Options on this vehicle:
Heated front seats - $440
Navigation with premium JBL audio - $1200
Smart key with push button start - $450
Vehicle stability control with traction control - $650
Rear spoiler - $303
Carpet/trunk mat set - $199
XM Satellite radio - $449
Key options not on vehicle:
Glass breakage sensor - $247
Remote engine start - $529
19 / 28 / 23 mpg
Size: 3.5L DOHC VVT V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Weight: 3516 lbs
16 in. wheels
215/60 all-season tires