By on October 27, 2008

During his first inaugural speech, given at the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Once again, Americans find themselves living through days of economic infamy. Uncertain times and erratic energy costs have cured fearing suburbanites of their predilection for gargantuan SUVs. It’s time for practical pragmatism; inexpensive family haulers that dine lightly on 85 octane and stay firmly bolted together for years to come. To fully understand this segment, I tested and compared a quartet of economy sedans. First up: the Toyota Camry.

As fear-fearing Americans fretted over the possibility of $200 per barrel oil, the Camry surpassed the venerable Ford F150 as the national best seller. The Camry is synonymous with reliability: a veritable rolling appliance. The Camry is now the benchmark against which all others are measured. The mid-sized market is crowded with more models than is practical to test at one time. Of course the Honda Accord LX, also a sales leader with significant mindshare for affordable quality, had to be included. To round out the field I chose Toyota and Honda’s leading home country competition, Mazda Mazda6 Sport and Nissan Altima 2.5.

In keeping with the economy theme, I opted for entry level four-cylinder, front wheel-drive models with base option packages. The four cars are remarkably similar in size, capacities, fuel economy, power, options and price. Drawing distinctions between the sedans largely fell to subjective styling taste and driving impressions.  Before I delve too deeply, I suppose it’s proper for me to disclaim that I’ve owned three Toyota Camrys and currently drive an aging Accord LX. As you will see, this didn’t necessarily help either of these cars in this comparison.

The success of the Camry franchise is indisputable. What’s even more remarkable: with the possible exception of the first generation, on the aesthetics scale Camry looks have ranged from dull to homely. I guess that shows what a reputation of practical reliability can do for you.

The current model, with us since March 2006, is the ugliest-ever iteration. What Adrian van Hooydonk did for trunk lids, Toyota’s designers have done to Camry’s front end (pray that the automobile industry doesn’t follow suit).  The Camry’s hood and grille are formed into an unsightly bulge in the center, as if an Alien baby were about to emerge. Or, if you prefer, it’s straight from E!’s “Rhinoplasty gone wrong!” series.

The Camry’s countenance looks like it was inspired by a Sperm whale’s brow. It prompts the sardonic critic to ask, is that a 12-cylinder under your bonnet or are you just happy to see me? Camry’s Bangalized hind quarters are nearly as unsightly as the front. In profile the Camry looks like a cooked Ball Park Frank®.

What a relief to get behind the wheel, where occupants are greeted by purposeful class-compliant gauges and switches. HVAC knobs turn with all the firm assurance of dials on a safe. Otherwise, the components are largely made from weight (and money) saving hard plastics that are a qualitative step down from Camry’s of yore.

Let’s face it, none of these 3300 lbs cars with economical four cylinder power plants are gonna set your hair on fire when your inner hoon gets feeling a little randy. Among these weaklings, Camry is the wimpiest by 12 hp.  Yet mom and dad will happily shuttle young’uns from home and school to football practice and dance lessons.  Stoplight to stoplight dashes from zero to forty and back to zero are what this 158 hp 2.4-liter engine does best.

Just don’t count on getting out from behind a slow-moving semi on a two lane highway without your heart rate going anaerobic. The move from fifty to eighty mph is almost as slow as waiting for a Dancing with the Stars verdict.

Flop and wallow. The Camry’s handling dynamics in a nutshell. Driven hard, the Camry gets your blood pumping; again  for all of the wrong reasons. Through twists and turns the Toyota pitches and rolls with a distinctly nautical flavor. In every respect, the Camry, which lacks so much as a hand brake, is the least driver’s-oriented car of the bunch. BUT this is a superb passenger’s car. Its refined, glossy-smooth ride outclasses its mid-sized competitors. Horrendous county roads are quietly dispatched with limousine luxury worthy of its Lexus-badged siblings.

Comfort-oriented buyers might find Camry’s ride sufficient cause to overlook its visual and performance shortcomings.  For me, it’s not nearly enough.

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69 Comments on “Comparison Test/Review: Fourth Place: 2009 Toyota Camry...”


  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    I realize that you couldn’t do ‘all’ the cars in such a segment, but I’d have liked to see at least 2-3 more…
    glaringly missing is the Hyundia Sonata,
    would also be nice to have seen the fusion and perhaps a malibu – just for some general bashing…

  • avatar
    dilbert

    Crystal ball says: Mazda, Nissan, Honda, Toyota.

  • avatar

    I must agree with improvement-needed: the Sonata, Malibu, and Fusion would be good to see in this comparison. Maybe the VW Passat as well, except that its price is likely out of line.

    My personal pet peeve with most Camry reviews, including this one, is that they test the LE or XLE then evaluate the car from an enthusiasts perspective. The SE would be much more appropriate.

    Ugly is subjective. I personally found the previous generation car much uglier.

    And, finally, reliability. A year ago TrueDelta was the first to warn of transmission problems in V6 Camrys. Later, we were the first to note that that problem had gone away, and the four-cylinder was never affected.

    In other words, while the Camry sees a bit shoddy inside, they aren’t requiring many repairs, at least not yet.

    TrueDelta will have updated results around November 12. The latest results are always displayed here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/latest_results.php

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I agree 100% with 90% of the stuff you said!

    I’m one of those idiots who bot this car without test-driving it or looking at the really crappy interior quality. It was because it was a Toyota and you can usually depend on Toyota to produce a good car.

    However, on the good side, it’s nearly 3k cheaper than the Accord, is smaller/easier to park, and I really like the side profile and the bangle butt… looks best when viewed during sunset. :)

    On the power side, you really have to mash the pedal to the medal if you want any acceleration between 20-50mph and it’s really loud. Seats make my ass sore after 15 minutes, but it’s got like 50 airbags. :) The basic radio/stereo is pretty good. I wish the ASL factored in the windows being up or down…

    If you’re considering this car, VSC is a must because the handling’s so mushy it’s unsafe at high speeds. :O I made my mom cry by taking a really curvy road at 40 mph.

    I’m glad I got the LE and not an expensiver version… paying more than 20k OTD for this is crazy.

  • avatar
    jwltch

    With the Camry, you have to own it to appreciate it. I was not a Camry fan at all. I thought all previous models were bland and boring. And they are. But, I really like the current design, actually. And after a year of trouble free ownership I really like and appreciate mine and have grown to like the previous generations, as well.

  • avatar
    JJ

    My personal preference based on brands would be

    Honda-Mazda-Nissan-Toyota

    But, as only the Mazda6 is offered in a similar form in Europe I can’t really tell what the outcome of this will/should be.

    Honda should make great cars all the time but sometimes just seems to choose not to. Mazda is on and off, sometimes you think they finally reached the level you’d want them to and then they mess up again, plus many of their regular cars don’t age well (in terms of design). Most of the times I can’t be bothered by Nissan, they still make crappy plastic interiors that will be the worst out there if Chrysler folds, but that V6 is nice.

    Toyota is just trying to make a world where car enthousiasm doesn’t exist anymore by forcing innocent car buyers to buy their cars for the sake of reliability and then subsequently, through continous subliminal messaging, replace all associations those people might have with the concept of “car” with the associations one has with the concept of “blender”. That way making sure that those people will have no option but to buy Toyotas for the rest of their sorry lives.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I am a huge fan of this car (really). I think it’s spot on for what the Camry buyers would want, especially in 4-cylinder LE trim. The other trim levels, in my opinion, are just more money and not worth it.

    I rented a Camry from Enterprise for a drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas last summer and found it a thoroughly pleasant machine.

    Obviously it has no sporting character, but that was never the intention (I have no experience with the SE model) and I think it serves those intentions well. It’s appropriately bland (as opposed to the new Accord, which I find odd) and yes the interior is way below Audi levels.

    But if you look at it as an appliance and nothing more, it very much does what Toyota set out for it to do.

  • avatar
    chanman

    For some reason I was expecting this senence “Horrendous county roads are quietly dispatched with…”

    to end with something about the dispassionate casualness of a hardened hitman, but the sentence as it stands *does* tell us more about the Camry.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    How about a recent test from Driving Television in Canada on four cyclinder base models:

    1. Honda Accord – 99 points/115 points
    2. Chevrolet Malibu – 98 points
    3. Nissan Altima – 97 points
    4. Hyundai Sonata – 93 points
    Subaru Legacy – 93 points
    Volkswagen Passat – 93 points
    7. Toyota Camry – 90 points
    8. Ford Fusion – 83 points
    9. Kia Magentis – 74 points
    10. Dodge Avenger – 63 points

    Mazda 6 wasn’t included because ’09 wasn’t available for their testing.
    Overall price was not used in the rankings or final score.

  • avatar
    carguy622

    The Camry will get you from point A to B in comfort for years to come. It’s just too bad that when you arrive at point B you remember nothing of the drive there. A family sedan doesn’t have to be this boring, does it?

    At least they got the ride right, unlike most cars that go for cushy and end up feeling nautical.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    My personal pet peeve with most Camry reviews, including this one, is that they test the LE or XLE then evaluate the car from an enthusiasts perspective. The SE would be much more appropriate.

    Actually my test model was not the LE, XLE or SE. It was the unlettered “base model” formerly know as the CE. The premise of this test was to determine the best family car for budget minded buyers. Each is an entry level model. As my upcoming reviews show, other automakers found a way to infuse a little sporting verve into their sedans. Toyota chose not to.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    However, on the good side, it’s nearly 3k cheaper than the Accord…

    The pricing of the four tested sedans was tightly grouped. The Camry cost just $707 less than the Accord LX tested.

  • avatar
    unregular

    proboscis monkey car

    oop! oop!

    the Mazda6 in this test – the ’09?

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    On looks, I’d say this generation is by far the best looking since the 1986 SV20 Camry. It’s okey, it’s not hideous as the last generation, the 2003 SV30 Camry.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    the Mazda6 in this test – the ‘09?

    All four cars tested (Accord, Altima, Camry, Mazda6) were ’09s.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    It is NOT all about performance! Cars have REAL purposes in the REAL world outside of having fun.
    Never, ever forget how important the ownership experience is. I do care how much HP a car has and how many Gs it can pull, if it is a hassle to own it is NOT a fun car.

    Each and every 3/4/5 door sedan/hatch/wagon/CUV/ SUV on the market today is an APPLIANCE! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know there are many deluded folks out there that somehow believe that their 328s or WRXs are NOT appliances but come on and get real, look around you are you commute to work this morning.

    If you do not understand the Camry, count the number of 20 year old Camrys you will still see on the road today. It is important to remember the Camry was NOT the best seller in 1988, the Ford Taurus was and needless to say 1988 Taurus are non-existant today, along with VW Quantuams, Nissan Stanzas, Mazda 626s, Chevy Corsicas, Chysler Aclaims, Mitsu, Galants, etc. The only other 20 year old car in this class you still encounter with regularity is a Honda Accord and in all honesty they have not held up as well.

    Outside of body rust on the rear quarter panel a Camry is all but indestructible. If a Camry spends its nights and winters in a garage it will last forever. Now mind you, I speak from a NYC perspective and this city is brutal on cars yet Camrys manage to handle this city with ease.

    Over the long haul Mazdas and those other “low priced” performance cars are junk!, Yes they are fun to drive new but they quickly wear out like a cheap pair of sneakers. This is due to the fact that Mazda is trying to sell “zoom zoom” to overcome shortcoming in build quality. It is easy to put together a cheaper car and than install go fast bits and pieces that only shorten the life of the vehicle in the long run than to build a $20,000 car with a solid body structure that would make a $50,000 car proud.

    I like Toyota’s approach. Toyota sells you a rock solid car and than will show you the TRD Catalog if you are so inclined to want to “abuse” your car. There is a trade off. The reason Toyotas have such longevity is due to the fact that they are set up to minimize stress on components, which does equate to a bit more “give” in the handling.
    Performance tires, sturts, brakes, exhuast, etc are all expensive to replace. People with mortgages and tuition payments to make, THAT DO NOT LIKE DEBT will generally pass on this stuff for the better more reliable car.

    It is important to remember that cars in general are a major hassle to own and operate. Toyota understands this fact and is actually listening to people and building the cars that they want to own; durable, reliable, comfortable, inexpensive to own and operate, great resale value.

    While the Camry is not the best “drivers” car, its resale value certiainly proves out that is one of the best cars money can buy.

  • avatar

    How is this only 2 stars? Sure, it may not be fun to drive in a sporty sense but come on, the cars are highly reliable, durable, and ride very well. Blah blah blah, it’s all been said in the comments already. 2 stars seems ridiculous for this car when it’s already proved itself a value purchase for the mainstream. I can’t see giving this a rating equivalent to something like an Aveo.

    The Camry is definitely not by any means one of the worst-cars on the road, which the rating implies.

  • avatar
    jybt

    Because the Hyundai Sonata does the same thing vastly better for less, perhaps?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    OK, here’s the deal…

    Mr. Montgomery is reviewing this car with a slight enthusiast’s perspective in mind. That’s more than fine since all of us do have a bit of that focus within us.

    As someone who owned a Camry for 12 years and 239k, you can definitely count me among those here who understand the importance of the ‘economic proposition’ when owning a car. But…. as it was pointed out in the review, you can’t rely on that alone. Especially in an automotive world where virtually everything can last 12 years and 200k with minimal issues. Our world isn’t based on reputations that were made in 1988 or 1998 and neither should this review.

    One more aside, the longest lasting vehicle from the late 1980′s was the Volvo 240. Not even the Camry can come close to the powertrain durability of that vehicle and a lot of it has to do with the actual material quality of the powertrain. I love Camcords quite a bit but if you’re looking at the durability issue, RWD Volvo’s from late 80′s to mid-90′s (sans the nix 960) are the gold standard.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    The hood bulge is something to get used to due to new European pedestrian safety regulations. The tacked-on trunk lid on this one should also cover you for that speedy reverse hit as well.

    I think that the current “Family Camry” is actually better looking than the last gen by far, particularly in darker colors. The rear is tidy with a bit of Lexus curve. The front isn’t offensive. We wont’ talk much about that side view…

    I can’t say anything positive about the last gen in any sense. It was just god-awful conservative and downright dowdy. A beige one would be your rolling badge of proof that you respect your choice in cars about as much as that of a washing machine. At least Honda has held on to some semblance of a soul – its willingness to play, it’s tactile goodness. Driving an Accord never made me feel like I’d given up any hope of style or automotive goodness and fun like the Camry makes me feel.

    Talk all you want about the new Accord’s bloat. It still has that crisp feel to the steering and controls that tells you right away it’s a Honda. The Camry feels rubbery and institutional in comparison.

    I second the questioning of the two star rating. Where did you pull that from? The Camry is a snooze-fest, but it is definitely not a two-star vehicle overall in any trim.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    It is silly to talk about how a Altima or Sonota handled a highway on-ramp so much better than the Camry. If that mattered to the 98% of the buyers of $20,000 mid-sized sedans the sales leaders would be different.

    What matters is when you go to the dealers and start slaming doors and the like the Camry undeniably feels like the superior choice. The doors on a Mazda6 feel like they are made out of tin foil compared to the Camry. Hyundai’s body panels dent if you simple blow on them. Nissan are full of style but on closer inspection the “cut-corners” are readily visible. The Camry on the otherhand has far less “flash” but far more substance to it.

    While the interior is less than what I have come to expect from Toyota it does have that feel to it were it will last forever; the bin doors are solid, the fabric has a high quality feel to it, door handle and switches all feel durable and sturdy.

    Notice both leaders in this class (Camry and Accord) do not put much emphasis on performnace. They do NOT have too! These cars are so good that they do not need an extre “edge” to generate interest and sales. Mazda has been trying to push the 6 as a “fun to drive” car and has meet with little success. There are not enough “kool-aide” drinkers to buy that arguement.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    Can you folks honestly say that you’ll be having any more fun driving an Accord or a 6 in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or on long trips on the interstate? A family car is a family car: large, heavy, and designed to go from point A to point B. If you’ve bought one of these cars, it is because you intend to use it to go from point A to point B. Stop denying this fact.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I was seriously considering a 2009 Camry as a daily driver but the one thing that drove me nuts about it was the dashboard. It has a dip in the center where the clock is that casts a big, half-moon shaped reflection on the windshield. The only time it went away is when it was dark out, and its all I could focus on while driving. Every time I am next to one on the road I look at the windshield and see that reflection. Has anyone else noticed this?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What a relief to get behind the wheel, where occupants are greeted by purposeful class-compliant gauges and switches. HVAC knobs turn with all the firm assurance of dials on a safe. Otherwise, the components are largely made from weight (and money) saving hard plastics that are a qualitative step down from Camry’s of yore.

    Two things:

    One, Toyota nailed the ergonomics. Spend time in the Accord (button bonanza), Sonata (teeny knobs), Fusion (teeny knobs at level with your shins) or Malibu (not bad, but the control context sometimes odd) and the Camry’s interior stack looks like a work of genuis. You can operate the damn thing with mittens on. Easily.

    Two, Hard plastics where you don’t rest your elbow don’t matter, as long as the fit is decent. The only reason dashboards are soft is because they’re aping leather dashes of yore. Since we’re not even aping the appearance of leather, let alone actually using it, who cares? My Fit’s dash is comprised of rock-hard plastics, they all fit together well (unlike the soft-but-misaligned panels in my Saab), and I never touch them. And that’s ok, as it would be in the Camry.

    I think entirely too much is made out of the lack of soft-touch plastics where people rarely touch, especially in mainstream cars.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    ctoan: Yes. Ask RF about the Accord’s steering wheel for one reason why.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    RE: Mr. Montgomery

    Oops, my bad. Somehow my calculations were off. Before the 1k rebate, they’re just a few hundred apart. I got the 3k from when we went car shopping a few months ago when the Honda dealer wanted 20.5k for the base LX, and the Camry was offered for 18.3. After TTL, it would’ve been nearly 3k difference.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    One more aside, the longest lasting vehicle from the late 1980’s was the Volvo 240. Not even the Camry can come close to the powertrain durability of that vehicle and a lot of it has to do with the actual material quality of the powertrain. I love Camcords quite a bit but if you’re looking at the durability issue, RWD Volvo’s from late 80’s to mid-90’s (sans the nix 960) are the gold standard.

    The point that people should not miss is that the crown once worn by the Volvo 240 past on to the Camry back in the 1990s. The Camry is the Volvo 240 of our current times.

    There was once a time when the makers of the best cars in the world did not concern themselves with how “sporty” there cars were (looking at you Mercedes Benz). The goal was to build the best cars and the measurement for best was longevity.
    Notice that Lexus captures the “best car” crown from MB and now MB thinks it is a sportscar company; body kits, big wheels, superchargers, all attached to poorly built unreliable cars.

    Today any Toyota will run circles around any Volvo built today in terms of quality and reliabilty. That Volvo magic quickly disappeared with the change over the FWD. Remember Toyota made a big switch to FWD in the first half of the 1980s and did NOT see any decrease in it quality, if not an increase.

    In all fairness if I were to only go back to 2000 I would say that Altimas, Sonotas, Mazda626, and Legacies have not shown the same level of durabilty as the Camry counterparts. Honestly what really matters, an extra hundreth of a G or headlights that do not cloud up due to improper seeling. Do you really care if you car makes it to 60 2 tenths quicker if the glovebox door is hanging off?

    The real question here is, if you were given $7000 today and had to purchase a used one of these cars which one would you trust?

  • avatar
    John B

    No Malibu? Why not, I would very much like to see a comparison – more so given GM’s problems.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Great review and good summary of what the modern day Camry is.

    PS: “heart rate going anaerobic”?
    Technically “anaerobic” refers to metabolic respiration and not the heart rate. It is when the lungs and blood stream can no longer keep up with the oxygen demand of the muscles and the body switches to an alternative (and much less efficient) method of synthesising ATP that does not require oxygen.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Technically “anaerobic” refers to metabolic respiration and not the heart rate. It is when the lungs and blood stream can no longer keep up with the oxygen demand of the muscles and the body switches to an alternative (and much less efficient) method of synthesising ATP that does not require oxygen.

    In a cardiac stress test, anaerobic is defined as 80% to 90% of an individual’s Maximum Heart Rate (i.e. in terms of beats per minute that is higher than Aerobic and less than VO2 Max).

  • avatar
    gamper

    Thanks for the review. I have always thought the Camry got sort of a bad rap for its styling. I find it innoffensive, but far from stylish. I drove a 4 cyl model a while back. My impressions from its body roll and dive during braking are the main characteristics that have stayed with me to this day from the experience. I cannot help but wonder though if the drive would have been helped by better tires, it seemed like they gave up very quickly.

  • avatar
    red60r

    The current Camry grille harks back to the 1951 Studebaker.
    See pic at: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1950-1951-studebaker.htm

  • avatar
    Verbal

    romanjetfighter “…and I really like the side profile and the bangle butt… looks best when viewed during sunset. :)”

    I find the Camry looks best when viewed in total darkness.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    The best Camry I’ve driven was a ’94. Felt and drove much more like a more expensive car in that it had the level of driver isolation from the road the way that Lexus has.

    My rental car experiences with 4 cyl Camrys have been dull and dangerous. Same level of isolation, poor 30-50 and 50-70 mph acceleration, iffy braking, iffy emergency handling.

    I appreciate Camry’s dependability and economy of ownership, but I would not feel safe relying on that car’s ability to quickly respond to avoid an accident.

  • avatar

    gamper : I cannot help but wonder though if the drive would have been helped by better tires, it seemed like they gave up very quickly.

    The 2006 Camry I tested had V-rated tires, Michelin branded IIRC. The tires aren’t the problem: and once they get replaced with WalMart specials, there’ll be precious little grip for America’s top understeerer.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    Toyota handling= Japanese Buick.

  • avatar
    netrun

    I can see why you wouldn’t be giving a CamCord 4 out of 5 stars on TTAC, a pistonhead based car site.

    But 2 out of 5 stars makes a strong statement that there is something inherently wrong with the vehicle and that TTAC is recommending it’s readers steer clear of purchasing said vehicle. Same way if a vehicle is rated 4 out of 5 stars, TTAC is then recommends such a vehicle to their readers. This is inherently the point of such a “star” system.

    That said, two stars is not within the realm of believability when it comes to the Camry. TTAC, not Toyota, loses credibility with such a claim. Especially when you clearly state:” Drawing distinctions between the sedans largely fell to subjective styling taste and driving impressions.”

    Great site, nicely written review, but overall it seems clear that while a base four cylinder Camry may not stir the automotive passions of an A5, it shouldn’t be taken out back and shot because of it. The Camry ain’t no Aveo.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I can’t see giving this a rating equivalent to something like an Aveo… The Camry is definitely not by any means one of the worst-cars on the road, which the rating implies.

    But 2 out of 5 stars makes a strong statement that there is something inherently wrong with the vehicle and that TTAC is recommending it’s readers steer clear of purchasing said vehicle… The Camry ain’t no Aveo.

    The Aveo was not part of this test. Neither was a Mercedes S600. This is a comparison test among four economical entry-level sedans. Rating them all three stars wouldn’t communicate anything. Camry was the worst. The two was awarded to illustrate that distinction.

  • avatar
    BobJava

    Did I just read that it doesn’t have a handbrake?

    When I climbed into this car, I just couldn’t get over (or around) the terrible placement of the gigantic handlebar on the inside of the door. Aside from the ugliness, it blocks the controls. If I’m resting my arm on the idiotic sloped ledge on the door, shouldn’t I be able to move my arm forward to reach the window and door buttons? Terrible. Just like the interior in general.

    In the end, it was easy to dismiss this Camry (for a number of reasons, most mentioned in this review) — especially when Sonatas were going for 14-16k and had a lot more standard features.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    A family sedan doesn’t have to be this boring, does it?

    It’s a family sedan. If you want excitement, buy a G8 GT.

  • avatar
    Thinx

    now MB thinks it is a sportscar company; body kits, big wheels, superchargers, all attached to poorly built unreliable cars.

    No disagreement about the marque – MBz is chasing after a “sporty” image, which IMO would be alright if they did not lose their reputation for engineering, taste and build quality. The problem is that the cheap, tacked on sportiness has killed their image for tasteful cars, particularly at the top-end; and the low-budget crap (M-class) has screwed up their quality average.

    The only part of the MBz range that is still relatively good is their mid-size E-Class, although it doesn’t compare very well with the Lexus LS which overlaps some of the E-Class range.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Ah, the silly handbrake. Am I the only one who prefers the parking brake to be foot activated? I prefer a foot brake even on a stick-shift car , provided the release is hand operated.

    Case in point: Girlfriend parked her car on a hill, put it in park, and set the handbrake by pulling it up 2 clicks. I told her to put the car back in neutral and see if we would roll. Sure enough, we went rolling backwards no problem. Try as hard as she could, she couldn’t pull the brake hard enough with her [awkwardly positioned] arm to stop the rolling. I then wrenched the break to the “proper” position… and she wasn’t able to release it!

    The foot-activated parking brake has so many benefits: easier to engage, easier to disengage (with hand release), gives your foot something to do after releasing the clutch, doesn’t clutter up the central console. On the downside: the passenger can’t reach it in an emergency and you can’t modulate the release, which means you only get one try when starting the car going up a hill.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @Quasimondo

    Or buy one of the other cars in this segment that don’t sacrifice driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    ambulancechaser

    What do you mean you don’t have time to test the other cars in this class? What else do you have to test? Another Lamborghini or Ferrari? Cause that’ll be some useful consumer information. See, I don’t need somebody to tell me how awesome some new exotic car that less than 1% of the population will ever hope to own is. If you are going to rip Consumer Reports and the big car rags for writing biased and shoddy reviews, that means you’ve got to back that up with some action and show’em how it should be done. Your review of similarly priced domestics is due no later than the end of the month.

  • avatar

    ambulancechaser :

    I’m not sure about the time line. But fair enough. You want this one Bill?

  • avatar

    Giving all the midsize offering 3 stars actually would be more informative than giving the Camry two stars. They really are about the same to most people.

    Have to agree with netrun and whatdoIknow1, the 2 star rating given to the Camry is the same recommendation given to the Aveo and as such it is disservice to anyone researching a plain jane midsize car. 2 stars for a sports sedan segment review is one thing but is the Camry really the Aveo in the middle of the road plain jane midsize market?

    Maybe the rating sytem should be 100 points maximum instead of five?

  • avatar
    noreserve

    William C Montgomery :


    Rating them all three stars wouldn’t communicate anything. Camry was the worst. The two was awarded to illustrate that distinction.

    But what if they WERE all three star vehicles? Seems to me that each vehicle should be rated without relation to where the others place. If I made a B and three other students also made Bs, then the act of simply comparing the four of us would not reduce my grade.

    Perhaps dispensing with the star rating for a comparo would work best. The winner is going to be the one you subjectively award, regardless. A number system of 0-100, A-F, or stars is, in the end, still subjective – you’re just putting a number/letter/star on a specific qualitative measurement.

    I can dig that a Camry and an Accord may both be 4 stars (for example), but I want to know which qualities place one above the other overall in your estimation to be the desired choice.

    A star system is not granular enough to convey distinction here. As an example, our friends at C&D use a 0-100 system for different areas. These are added up to come up with the winner. They probably surprise themselves in some cases, given how closely the top 1-3 vehicles are during the evaluation. They may not know until the final tally which one comes out on top.

    It would be fine to me if you had already evaluated the Accord, Camry, Altima, Malibu, 6, etc. individually and awarded them their respective stars. A comparo, to me, implies that the vehicles are compared directly, jumping between vehicles, caressing plastic and steering wheels while going over ride/handling and brake feel one more time. Some things won’t stand out until you go back and forth in the parking lot, for example. Things like the relative sound and feel of doors closing, trunk hinges intruding, etc. Their original stars never change. There just emerges a new winner now that you’ve had a chance to shine the light on them all at the same time.

    That kind of testing, of course, implies that you have vehicles available together and, preferably, more than one person’s input. I’m sure that it could be accomplished by TTAC, but it would bring a host of logistical issues with it.

    Final comments… I really hope that you can see fit to change the star rating to what the Camry really deserves. I think there is credibility to be lost here for TTAC if you stand by a 2-star rating for a solid vehicle like the Camry, boring as it may be.

  • avatar
    iganpo

    The best Camry I’ve driven was a ‘94. Felt and drove much more like a more expensive car in that it had the level of driver isolation from the road the way that Lexus has.

    My rental car experiences with 4 cyl Camrys have been dull and dangerous. Same level of isolation, poor 30-50 and 50-70 mph acceleration, iffy braking, iffy emergency handling.

    Would wholeheartedly agree with the first point. My ’93 Camry (same generation as ’94) had fit and finish and ergonomics and styling superior to its competitors. Felt like the first true “modern” car. V6 DOHC engine was whisper smooth. From that point on seems like Toyota just rested on its laurels and didn’t make any substantial improvements to the Camry line.

    However, the brakes of the ’07 4 cylinder I rented for a week are super strong and predictable. Much better than the ones in all past Camrys I’ve owned. I would also say the handling and suspension was much more composed than my ’01 V6 Camry. Not that the ’07 is any driver’s car, but the ’01 has got to be mushiest Camry ever. The ’07′s electric assisted steering does feel weird in comparison to the ’01′s hydraulic steering though.

    Too bad about the European pedestrian safety requirements. Aerodynamic, oversized, upright grills just don’t look right to me.

    Surprised there weren’t more complaints about the Indiglo radio panel and HVAC controls. For a car that’s supposed to be an inoffensive appliance, this little splash of spunk is most unwelcome. I want my black/gray plastic buttons with backlit green-white text.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    I really like the new Camry. But then again, the model I rented was the SE.

  • avatar
    jybt

    What’s “inherently wrong” with the Camry is the Sonata isn’t ugly, isn’t cheap inside, is equally reliable, gets better performance, ride, handling, MPG, and is bigger inside – all for less money.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Those people who own the 20 year old Camrys don’t understand the new Camry. They’re buying Sonatas now.
    Don’t leave out the Kia Optima in your quest for appliance-dom.
    People are claiming that these are “family sedans”. How many families do you see in mid size cars these days? These are cars for individuals.

  • avatar
    unregular

    i would not be caught dead in this car.

    LOOK at that interior. GAZE on that bloated sideview. REVEL in it’s probiscus monkey nose. WAFT in it’s “i don’t care about cars” stench. BATHE in it’s utter lack of.. ANYTHING!

    if i wanted a car that would last me 20 years, i’d want something that i’d WANT TO OWN FOR 20 YEARS.

    if i owned this car for that long… well you’d find me, sitting in it, in a closed garage, with the car running, after maybe four years.

    and i’d guess at that point you DID catch me dead in it.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I’m not sure about the time line. But fair enough. You want this one Bill?

    Sure.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    and i’d guess at that point you DID catch me dead in it.

    The funny thing is, because of emissions controls, it’s almost impossible to kill yourself this way in a new Camry.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    It would be fine to me if you had already evaluated the Accord, Camry, Altima, Malibu, 6, etc. individually and awarded them their respective stars. A comparo, to me, implies that the vehicles are compared directly, jumping between vehicles, caressing plastic and steering wheels while going over ride/handling and brake feel one more time. Some things won’t stand out until you go back and forth in the parking lot, for example. Things like the relative sound and feel of doors closing, trunk hinges intruding, etc. Their original stars never change. There just emerges a new winner now that you’ve had a chance to shine the light on them all at the same time.

    Stay tuned. The other three reviews referenced will post soon (this week, I think). This will provide some of the context you are looking for.

    FYI, these vehicles were truly tested back-to-back-to-back in quick succession with one another over the same roads so I was able to make the comparative evaluations that you explain above. (Except for the caressing part. I didn’t caress.)

    I’m not going to reveal any of the other results at this time. But I’ve got to say that I was surprised by which cars performed the best and which didn’t do so well. The results actually ran counter to my predispositions.

  • avatar
    James2

    Isn’t it ironic that the Camry’s defenders are so passionate about a car that utterly lacks passion?

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @James2 : They’re trying to defend the fact they bought a car based on reputation without test driving the competition. Then they pull up the reliability card, somehow overlooking the horrendous reliability record of the 2006-current gen camry (Transmission flaring, hesitation, etc.) Then they talk about build quality, even though it’s pretty much bottom of the barrel in this class when compared to the Altima, Accord, Malibu, and Mazda6. Then they defend the horrible driving dynamics as “there’s no reason for a mid-size sedan to be sporty,” despite the fact that just about every other manufacturer has found out how to engineer a well rounded sedan with things like steering feel, properly controlled ride motions, etc.

    Having driven these back to back, the order is obvious: Altima > Mazda6 > Accord > Camry.

    The Altima is the fastest and has the tidiest dimensions without being cramped. Also best fuel economy and best platform, best transmission. Also gets a lot of ‘little’ details right, like keyless entry, good HVAC (see Accord) , and good instrumentation. The interior is a little cheap, but still better than the Accord’s and Camry’s.

    The Mazda6 is competent but the engine isn’t as good as the Accord’s (more refinement) or Altima’s (more torque) The steering isn’t as good as the Altima’s, and despite its extra size isn’t noticeably roomier.

    The Accord is too much of a barge, and although it has the best back seat, is a pig to drive. Its 5 speed transmission is trash, and despite the fact it’s huge, it comes up short on practicality (the rear seat doesn’t split-fold, the trunk is small, and as noted on the TTAC review, the HVAC system is underpowered for the car.) The steering also lacks the communication of that found in the Mazda and Altima.

    Also, for those who think the Sonata is class competitive: it’s way more of a Buick than the Camry. Its chassis isn’t anywhere near as stiff as the Altima’s, much less Accord’s.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    RF: Kudos for letting that comment stand and stepping up.

    But since I’m here…I’m guessing #3=Altima; #2=Accord and #1=Mazda.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    If you do not understand the Camry, count the number of 20 year old Camrys you will still see on the road today. It is important to remember the Camry was NOT the best seller in 1988, the Ford Taurus was and needless to say 1988 Taurus are non-existant today, along with VW Quantuams, Nissan Stanzas, Mazda 626s, Chevy Corsicas, Chysler Aclaims, Mitsu, Galants, etc. The only other 20 year old car in this class you still encounter with regularity is a Honda Accord and in all honesty they have not held up as well.

    I beg to differ. I still see old Taurus models with reasonable frequency, as well as Acclaims. In fact I see more old K cars than old Camrys, though that may be due to stock of cars owned by elderly drivers that have died off. If you look for a particular car, you will be surprised how often you see them. Don’t think I’ve seen any Citations however…

    Camrys are Maytags on wheels, with all the good and bad that implies. In my book, if a car is passionless and does not offer driving enjoyment, it will never grace my driveway. For those who don’t care about such things, the Camry is about as good as it gets. I have to say based on what Camry drivers expect, this car deserves four stars. One could successfully argue that any car, even appliance class cars, should offer better dynamics than this. But for most buyers in this class, they probably don’t care. If they did, they would be in an Accord.

    whatdoiknow1 wrote:
    Toyota sells you a rock solid car and than will show you the TRD Catalog if you are so inclined to want to “abuse” your car….

    Not one for much fun behind the wheel, are you? “Abuse”? I really got quite a chuckle of of that. I guess I abuse all of my cars then. Even the maligned domestic ones, too. None seem worse for the fun, either. And all my family’s cars are kept well over 150K miles; some have gone over 250K.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Having driven these back to back, the order is obvious: Altima > Mazda6 > Accord > Camry.

    +1. Although, I can’t speak for the 09′s.

    Nissan’s V6 gets all the press, but their 2.5 l four is solid.

  • avatar
    M20E30

    I’m kinda sick of people bashing the Camry’s driving dynamics. I KNOW IT’S NOT A HANDLER. EVERYBODY HAS BEEN SAYING THIS SINCE 1983! It is designed to be a comfortable family hauler with solid reliabilty, and it has done that job admirably for 25 years.

    “if i owned this car for that long… well you’d find me, sitting in it, in a closed garage, with the car running, after maybe four years.”

    I see Camrys(sp.?) old enough to vote daily. Toyota must have been doing something right.

  • avatar
    BlindOne

    All the Toyota fanboi’s are out in force, eh? Like I’ve always said, if you hate cars, you’ll love Toyota. Company hasn’t done anything interesting since the MR2/Supra days.

    As far as this iteration of the Camry, it’s ugly, slow, doesn’t handle….uhhh…why wouldn’t it be a 2 star review? Out of the 4 models mentioned it’s the last one I’d buy. I don’t care if the Camry lasts 250K miles if the Altima lasts 225K and smokes it in every other category.

    Best looker is easily the new 6 followed by the Altima.

  • avatar
    unregular

    M20E30 – shouldn’t you be posting on comfortablefamilyhauler.com?

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Toyota is making me crazy with their bending the sheet metal, literally modeling the styling of their cars to feature / display their corporate logo.
    It is pompous, ugly, egotistical, and commercialistic.
    Stop it, Toyota!

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    I own the previous generation Camry and it is rock solid. It has effortless acceleration and quietness. Its also kind of boring but its paid for.

    Recently my brother came to visit and he has the new Camry. He got it in the only color they make–Silver.

    What surprised me is how many high end features it had. Like a power passenger seat and dual climate control. It is my understanding the Camry is now on the Avalon platform. But it didnt appear to be any bigger than the old version. The plastic wood on the doors reminded me of 1980′s GM cars.

    My other complaint was the GPS in the middle of the dashboard. It was like having a mini blue tv on all the time. I didnt see a way to turn it off. The other issue I had was the front and rear look. Where are the bumpers? Why dont cars have bumpers anymore?

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I wouldn’t care if this were the most dependable car on the planet; i just couldn’t look at this boring appliance in my driveway for 5 years. And as far as the Accord, the overabundance of buttons in the interior and some odd styling elements on the exterior, would keep me away too. Am i the only one that thinks the Accord door handles look like they are upside down?

  • avatar
    200k-min

    If you do not understand the Camry, count the number of 20 year old Camrys you will still see on the road today. It is important to remember the Camry was NOT the best seller in 1988, the Ford Taurus was and needless to say 1988 Taurus are non-existant today, along with VW Quantuams, Nissan Stanzas, Mazda 626s, Chevy Corsicas, Chysler Aclaims, Mitsu, Galants, etc. The only other 20 year old car in this class you still encounter with regularity is a Honda Accord and in all honesty they have not held up as well.

    After reading this comment a couple days back I decided to pay close attention to what I saw on the roads over a weekend. Honestly, I didn’t seen one 20 year old Camry. Did see two gen 1 Taurus…one a wagon and the other a SHO, for what that’s worth. Saw an old Maxima, early 90′s 4DSC model. Couple very old Accords and Civic’s…1990 model or older. This was in Minnesota so winter does take a toll on cars.

    Generally, I think the “legendary build quaility” is more or less Toyota marketing at the hands of their fan base. The best Camry I’ve ever driven in the 1993-1996 model…and I still see many of them on the road, but no more than I see Accords of the same years.

    I drive vehicles to insane high mileage…but also drive them hard. The key to having a vehicle that acts like an appliance is proper maintenace, bar none. From experience it wasn’t tough to get over 200k miles from a 1990 Taurus without any transmission work or major engine overhaul. Most Camry diciples don’t believe me…especially for a car I would regulary try to crack 100mph in (I was in my 20′s and a bit foolish). Now I’m sure a Camry would outlast any domestic if you treated them both like shit and never maintained them, but I am also sure that the Camry would fail. Being that readers of TTAC probably care enough about their cars to get the oil changed, engine tuned, etc. I’m amazed that anyone would be cheering the Camry…and claiming that the build quaility is head and shoulders above their competition. Case in point, the Mazda 6 is far more fun to drive and will last just as long as any Camry if you have enough mind to properly take care of the thing. If you don’t care to follow a maintenance schedule (which toyota also has) why would you be reading TTAC anyway?

  • avatar
    APfromToronto

    Hope you guys review the SE-V6 Camry. I test drove a hybrid Camry at a mall nearby where Toyota was having hybrid test drive promo and I actually liked it. Except for the whine that I think was coming from the transmission? (Didn’t bother to ask them), and the fact that it didn’t take off like a regular car from a stop. But I like a comfort oriented car. I also test drove the Hybrid Highlander and didn’t like that as I could sense the weight of the battery at the back!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The current 07-09 style Camry is the perfect car for people that don’t care about cars. The vast majority of folks that I see driving them are over 70 years old in fact. The 158 Hp 2.4 4 cylinder as found in base, LE, SE and XLE models gets the job done but note is less powerfull than all it’s 09 competitors including the new restyled Kia Optima/Hyundai Sonota which have 169 HP from the base 2.4 engine, the new Malibu 2.4 which has 169 HP, the Nissan Altima which packs 175 HP, the Accord which had 177 or 190 HP 2.4′s and the Ford Fusion which has 160 HP and will soon have over 170 for the new model. The drab all gray interior with so many odd fitting pieces and cut lines screams rental car and the electric steering assist, ponderous handling with float and wallow will never inspire confidence in me. The exterior is a mixed bag. Like so many car manufacturers are doing today, Toyota stupidly removed(decontented/cheapened) the bodyside door moldings which protect from careless parking lot dings and dress up the plain boring sides of the vehicle which just goes a long way in making this car a forgettable appliance. The grille is odd along with the bangle butt stolen from BMW. The overall appearance of this car isn’t horrible but neither is it inspired. The new Malibu and Altima win hands down on exterior styling. As a choice in a sea of boring mid size Asian car choices, the Camry comes near the bottom of my long list.


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