News Column

Auto Review: Toyota Camry

May 17, 2007

Ralph Gray


The Toyota Camry has evolved into two or three cars in one body these days. It remains the best selling four-door sedan no matter what the version.

First it comes as a CE or LE with a four-cylinder engine and a soft ride for around $20,000. There's an XLE at near $30,000 with all the bells and whistles.

In between is what might be called a Toyota aberration -- a sporty Camry. It's called the SE and hauls to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds or so. That's a non-Camryish time that equals some sports sedans. The prime mover is a 268-horsepower 3.5L V-6.

The exterior is lowered 0.4 inches, there are big 17-inch tires and a black honeycomb grille. Add to that front and rear lower spoilers, rocker panels and dual exhausts.

The interior is fitted out with charcoal and ash gray colors, a three-spoke (evokes racing) steering wheel and blue-colored gauges.

Chassis changes include firmer springs, anti-roll bars and shock absorbers. Wheelbase is up a couple of inches to 109.3 while length remains at 189.2 inches.

All this produces a Camry SE that looks more athletic, rides a little firmer and is still driving the front wheels, which limits handling advances. It's all set for automotive jogging but not the Boston Marathon.

Anti-lock braking with brake assist is standard. Optional is vehicle stability control to keep the shiny side up in tense maneuvers.

But that's an improvement over traditional Camrys, which seemed to target the old Buick Electra for comfy riding.

Even the LE and XLE models feel more connected to the road than has been the Camry way.

Toyota Camry interior TOYOTA CAMRY

•Engines: 2.4L I-4; 3.5L V-6

•Dimensions: 109.3" wheelbase; 189.2" length

•Base price: $18,470; As tested $29,638

•Fuel economy: 24/33 2.4L; 22/31 V-6; hybrid 40/38 mpg

It is in driver and passenger comfort that these Camry's continue to shine. Interiors are spacious. Front legroom is generous. The driving position, high and perfectly position with the steering wheel remains superb.

Camry isn't just a widely popular family sedan -- it's the basis for a number of other Toyota/Lexus vehicles. The Lexus E350 is a fancied up Camry complete with front-wheel drive. The Lexus R350 and Toyota Highlander crossover SUVs cross over thanks to the Camry's underpinnings.

Some of those come as hybrids with electric motors doing some of the propulsion. The Camry now joins them. It's similar to the XLE. The 147-horsepower four-cylinder is coupled to a continuously variable transmission. It's priced just $1,200 more than an XLE.

That brings the hybrid fuel economy to 40 city, 38 highway. The regular four banger gets 24/33 with automatic transmission and the V-6 22/31.

In a bow to its older drivers, Toyota made all Camry gauges larger with bigger lettering and longer pointers. The odometer and trip meters are lighted full time. Audio and climate controls come with bigger letters and surface illumination.

All that remains is a visit to the aftermarket to get a vinyl roof, coachlights, whitewall tires and wire wheels. The Electra still can live.

Source: (c) Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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