Toyota Camry Overview

toyota camry grillThe Toyota Camry quietly debuted late in the 1983 model year, when Toyota replaced its old rear-wheel-drive Corona with the front-wheel-drive Camry, a car aimed specifically at the U.S. market. From these humble beginnings, the Camry would go on to dominate the midsize family sedan segment for virtually all of the next quarter-century, as consumers immediately embraced it for its high build quality, comfortable ride and impressive durability. Initially available only with a four-cylinder engine, the Camry soon saw the option of a V6 and, as the years went by, upgrades in size, luxury and feature content. The Camry's immense popularity in the U.S. inspired Toyota to set up a manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, in the late 1980s. More trim levels became available, including the sporty SE and posh XLE.

Still upholding its strong reputation despite a few recent blips on the radar screen with regard to reliability, the Toyota Camry continues to be a top choice for those seeking a roomy, comfortable and dependable family car. The latest Toyota Camry is offered solely as a front-wheel-drive, midsize four-door sedan. Four traditional Camry trim levels are offered: base, LE, sporty SE and luxurious XLE. Even the base model includes Toyota Camry Accessories like stability control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a six-speaker CD audio system, satellite radio and Bluetooth. A 169-horsepower 2.5-liter inline-4 is the base engine, and the SE receives a 179-hp version of the same engine. A powerful 3.5-liter V6 (268 hp, 248 pound-feet of torque) is available on all trims except the base model.

toyota camry tail lightsTransmission choices for the four are a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (standard on XLE), while the V6 sends its power through a standard six-speed automatic. A gas-electric hybrid Camry is also available and, along with 192 hp, it offers EPA estimates of 33 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. In reviews, we've commented favorably about the Camry's spacious cabin, powerful and fuel-efficient optional V6, plush ride quality and top crash test scores. Downsides to the latest Camry include some disappointing interior plastics, inconsistent fit and finish and uninspiring driving dynamics for non-SE models. The current Toyota Camry represents the sixth generation, introduced for 2007. For the first year, the base model was known as the CE, but other than that, the only significant changes occurred for 2010.

Camrys built prior to that model year featured a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produced 159 hp -- there was no special SE variant. The manual and automatic transmissions were also five-speed units. Other changes for 2010 included a restyled grille and taillights, and additional standard features on all models, including stability control, satellite radio and Bluetooth. The prior two generations will be of particular interest to shoppers looking for a solid choice in the used-car market. The 2002-'06 Toyota Camry is a comfortable sedan that offers a roomy cabin, a choice of inline-4 or V6 power and, depending on trim level and optional equipment, most of the latest safety features such as stability control and side curtain airbags.

toyota camry headlightsHowever, prior to 2005, the base Camry did not come standard with antilock brakes. Like other Camrys, we generally found this generation to be very good in terms of room, comfort and feature content.Three engines were available for this generation. The first was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that made 154 hp (145 with PZEV emission controls). It was mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission (four-speed prior to '05) and should be powerful enough for the majority of buyers. A 3.0-liter V6 that generated 190 hp was also available (18 hp less prior to '04) on the LE and XLE trim levels, while a 210-hp, 3.3-liter V6 (introduced for 2004) was available on the SE model only. These six-cylinder Camrys came with the automatic only.

In previous years, these power numbers were higher because of a change in measurement that occurred in 2006, although actual output never changed. Many desirable modern features were also available, including side airbags and antilock brakes (which became standard on all trim levels except the base CE). Although a Camry older than 1997 is likely to have quite a few miles on it, it is still something to consider for folks on a tight budget. Provided it has been faithfully maintained, a 1992-'96 Camry (which was available in coupe, sedan and wagon body styles) should be able to spin its odometer to nearly 200,000 miles without major problems. It's this final trait, more than any other, that has kept the Toyota Camry popular with buyers over the last two decades.