By on November 21, 2016

2004 toyota camry le v6 pei farm - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Having endured 12 hard Canadian winters on an island covered in red dirt, this 2004 Toyota Camry is about to enter its thirteenth; its tenth since my father-in-law took ownership.

That red dirt is truly key to the story, because its color comes from Prince Edward Island’s high iron oxide content. Yes, that iron oxide. Rust.

But the Camry, undercoated three times since 2007, is an almost rust-free wonder with nearly 340,000 miles under its belt.

The steering sucks. The grey paint is greying.

Everything else is more representative of a Camry freshly driven off the lot in 2004 than a car that spent tens of thousands of miles on salty, snow-covered roads being driven back and forth between Summerside and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

On PEI, the snow blows off potato fields and drifts beside barns and on top of roads, leaving exposed red dirt that then blows across the road, as well. It is, to put it lightly, a brutal climate for cars, and it’s not dramatically improved in gorgeous summers when this Camry — washed only by the rain — traverses unpaved red dirt roads to beaches littered about the island. Forget the manicured tracks leading to beaches in PEI National Park at Cavendish and Brackley and Rustico. This Camry aims for Thunder Cove, Bothwell, and Blooming Point.

2004 toyota camry le v6 pei farm - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

So where are the rattles? Where are the suspension noises, the unhappy underhood belts, the rear bulkhead squeaks?

Evidently assembled to a high standard by a team of professionals in Kentucky, this 2004 Toyota Camry is a relatively quiet car even by modern standards. Tire hum from the 205/65R15 GT Radial Champiro IcePros is excessive, but wind noise is kept to a minimum and the 210-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine purrs quietly. Don’t expect jaw-dropping acceleration off the line — the five-speed automatic is geared for smoothness, not to snap off shifts. (Expect a 0-60 time above seven seconds for the old car rather than below six for the new car.) But with 220 lb-ft of torque, power is always on tap. Overtaking on a rural two-lane is a breeze.

The fact that this aged car never discourages its driver from pinning the throttle to the floor is the real story of the powertrain’s prowess. Quick? Sure, quick enough, but it’s more encouraging to discover the absence of unrefined clatter and bangs.

2004 toyota camry le v6 interior - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Fuel economy is not terribly out of line with the current V6-engined Camry. Rated at an adjusted 18/27 miles per gallon, city and highway, in 2004, a new Camry V6 is estimated to achieve 21 city; 30 highway. Admittedly, the new, slightly heavier Camry is a substantially more powerful car further emboldened by a more alert six-speed automatic. Also, this nearly 13-year-old Camry V6 has been known to see its mileage fall to 15-17 mpg in urban environs, where it fortunately spends little of its time.

Brake work is both the most recent and the most frequent work completed on this Camry over its life with my in-laws. At present, brake feel and response is surprisingly decent, as is the car’s ride quality on typically unpolished PEI roads.

With a massive straight-ahead dead zone that’s bordered by notchy impediments on either side of center, this Camry’s steering “feel” is not something you’ll want to feel. It diminishes confidence in cornering, lacking any precision for a car that wasn’t exactly strong on interaction when it was driven off the lot.

Link this steering column with the slowly fading paint, sublimely simple interior controls, a dearth of interior lighting, and terrific visibility, and there’s no difficulty establishing the age of this car.

2004 toyota camry le v6 rear badge - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Yet it’s not an undersized midsize sedan in 2016. A brand new Camry is less than two inches longer, one inch wider, and stands equally tall. Rear legroom is up by an inch in the new car; rear hiproom has hardly changed. Cargo volume is down by nearly 8 percent. This is a roadtripper’s car, as evidenced by the countless journeys it’s made between Prince Edward Island and Toronto over the last decade.

But is it a roadtripper’s car now? The father-in-law’s daily driver and cross-country commuter is now a 2013 Hyundai Elantra with enough features to embarrass just about anything from 2004, let alone a Camry with unheated cloth seats.

Less than 48 hours ago, we had a fairly thorough conversation about the Camry’s potential replacement. He’d like another V6 engine, a properly roomy car with real cargo volume, and a substantial weightiness when crossing the Confederation Bridge in high winds. We ran through a long list of possibilities.

2004 toyota camry le v6 odometer - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cas

And then I drove the Camry. I’ve driven this car many times before, but it had been years. And rarely was I in the driver’s seat outside the city of Halifax. Indeed, I may never have had an opportunity to let the Camry stretch its legs on Prince Edward Island.

What a car. A Toyota Camry, even with a powerful V6, isn’t what I would have purchased in 2004. A 2016 Toyota Camry XSE V6 isn’t what I would purchase now. But with limited brake and suspension work, never a fault thrown up by the engine or transmission, and never a trace of body work required, the Camry’s legendary durability has lived up to its billing with this particular example.

Say what you will about its dull styling, its comfort-oriented chassis, and the interior that designers forgot to design. For the non-car lover, this Camry V6 was the car to have in 2004.

Perhaps nostalgia’s getting the better of me, but I’m hoping the in-laws don’t trade it in when they find a replacement. In another decade, their grandchildren need a first car. And at the rate it goings, this 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 will be rolling along just fine.

[Images: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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122 Comments on “2004 Toyota Camry LE V6: 340,000-Mile Used Car Review...”


  • avatar
    brettc

    Sounds like it has lived quite a life there in PEI and is still going strong. Never been there in the winter, but I’ve heard they can be harsh.

    We have a neighbour with a Camry of this vintage, but it’s a 4 cylinder. I have no idea what it has for mileage, but our neighbours are not car people. They just want to get in and get from point A to B. The Camry does that well for a lot of people that don’t care about driving.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Providing the finest build quality in the world must be a double-edged sword, repeat-customer wise.

    “dull styling, its comfort-oriented chassis, and the interior that designers forgot to design”

    Heaven

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Quality definitely makes it harder to sell more units to your customer base, but it definitely makes it easier bring people back to the show room. Toyota does a very good job of retaining customers even though they lag at some of the things people claim to care about – low purchasing prices, lack of available content, and Toyota is usually behind the curve on infotainment.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        missing…Low purchasing price? Camry is as cheap as it gets. they basically paying you to take one

        • 0 avatar
          yamahog

          Go look at the prices of Malibootys and 200s and let me know how cheap the Camry is. And it’s unusual for Toyota to cut these sorts of deals on Camrys, I bet they’re trying to cling to the ‘America’s best selling sedan’ title. I bet we’ll see a return to higher transaction prices with the next gen car.

          I can’t think of a single class where Toyota has the cheapest offering. But please correct me, I could be mistaken.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            To be fair, you can buy an LE 4cyl for $18k in most of the country without a whole lot of haggling. I’d say that’s on par with most other cheap midsizers that I know of.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Anybody complaining about high Camry price is living in unreal world. You can buy them now with 25% off MSRP. Even my bro almost bought into it. But Honda dealer sold him Accord with similar deal. And my bro loves Accord. He has his 5th now

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        @slavuta

        I said Toyota tends to not have low purchasing prices. The current Camry deal is an abnormality. Ask a Toyota dealer to cut 20% off the MSRP on a Tacoma, 4Runner, or Land Cruiser and they’ll laugh in your face. And you won’t see these prices when the next gen camry arrives.

        Your milage may vary. But I haven’t seen an LE trim 2017 Camry advertised below 21.1k in my neck of the woods (Minnesota) and Chevy dealers have base Malibus for 21.7k. 2016 Chyrsler 200s are advertised with sub-20k for new ones.

        And the Camry is not “as cheap as it gets”, there are many cars that cost less. The Corolla, the Sentra, Fiesta, Focus, ect.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          The Camry is bigger than the other cars you list as cheaper. You can do a Camry LE with AT/AC/PB/PW/CC in Houston for under $20k all day long. Remarkable value.

          Reliability and retained-value wise the Camry slays the Malibu and 200.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            Funny considering that all 3 sell for the same basic price used for 2015 and 2016 base and mid level examples at several local dealers.Used Camry LE’s, Malibu LS and 200’s are all over the place.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    This is why people buy them! I loved reading this, appreciate truly long term reports like this.

    My uncle’s cabbie friend runs a Camry just like this (with XLE equivalent Euro-market trim, 4cyl motor) in Biysk Russia, he runs it with a CNG conversion kit. True mileage unknown like most older used cars there. It’s been put through the ringer on some of the worst roads and coldest winters perhaps known to man. At this point the transmission and engine have had internal work done, but again there’s no knowing how many miles of these brutal roads it may have been subjected to at this point. We took a 5 hour trip in it from Novosibirsk to a village near Biysk. We fit all our luggage, and it was a quiet comfortable ride, if nerve wracking for my poor fiance who had never been in a Russian cab before (I told him to tone things down when I suddenly realized she was on the verge of tears).

    Roads of Biysk for reference.

    youtu.be/vgIHrsfZi7o

    I’ve been meaning to upload footage of the road to my grandma’s village from our trip this summer, if you can believe it, it is worse than what’s in the video above.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      No mud holes big enough to swallow a Kamaz? Where is the Siberia? (Just kidding.)

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        No but they do use entire bricks to fill potholes (you can see some in the video). Man I really need to upload that video of mine. It’s us driving into my grandma’s village in my cousin’s worn out ’92 Corona, using the shoulder much of the way because the “pavement” is a cratered minefield of potholes on top of potholes. When you do have to use that part of the road, you creep along at 5mph if you care about your car at all. If you’re a maniac like that cabbie friend, you fly through at 40mph and pray. Just a few good hits from one of those potholes will blow a strut.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        dal, I didn’t want to dissapoint, here is a mudhole swallowing up a Kamaz and some JDM 4wds in the the Russian Far East (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy):

        youtu.be/Wjjdhwt5R2w?t=101

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      When I look up parts for American Lexus Cars / Japanese Toyotas, I see parts for the ‘rough road package’. Usually on GSs / Crowns and it seems to be a unique spring / strut combination.

      Do you know what it is and whether it makes a difference on roads like the ones you’ve shared?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The big change is taller springs (not hugely so, 15mm or so) with different tuning to prevent bottoming out. Also included in these packages are full size spares with raised trunk floors to accommodate them, and sometimes factory skid plates.

        On a lot of the JDM used imports, guys jack them up with simple spring spacers. There’s some very odd looking old Toyota rolling around Siberia :) Think of it as “anti stance.”

        s.drom.ru/1/reviews/photos/toyota/corona/big_68868_52628_add_1.jpeg

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Too many Russian tanks/heavy military vehicles tearing up the road? What a lousy way to go!

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        No just graft at local levels of government in the “regions.” :( Add to that poor engineering of the roads to begin with, poor quality of materials used in their construction, and a truly terrible climate.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Are CNG stations common in Russia? Obviously that’s a great setup for cold weather starts.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        indifan there’s a good amount.

        http://gazmap.ru/karti/gazovie-zapravki-propan-na-karte

        In Biysk (city of 210k people) it looks like there are 8 stations, and commonly found along the highway as well (or what passes for a highway). I’d say most taxis (both Lada and imports) run on CNG, and many if not most SUV owners do the conversion. The conversion kit for the average fuel injected car runs about $1000-$1500 if I’m not mistaken. The fuel cost is half of gasoline so it’s quite economically sound. Lord knows Russia has more than enough natural gas to go around!

    • 0 avatar
      would-be gearhead

      Roads of Biysk? Looks like L.A. after a rain!

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Good article. Hits home a bit for me. Year ago bought an 06 Corolla CE from my sister. Needed cheap wheels and I knew how it was maintained since new. Good buy. Got 130k miles on it now.

    The car stinks. No ABS. No stability control. No side airbags. Headlights are terrible. All the wheel covers have fallen off. It’s slow. Driving position is bad. Seats too soft. Brakes are garbage. Rock chips and scratches paint. Gets blown in slightest wind.

    But… Mechanically, where it really counts, this car is a tank. Sounds just like this camry. It just runs, there are no bangs or squeaks or clunks from engine, Trans, or suspension. Steering is still spot on and smooth. I replaced a squeaky belt myself.

    I always hated Toyota/Lexus from a driver’s perspective. But I have a lot of respect for what these cars do. Might get a beat up body but they’ll run basically forever, and run well. It’s very impressive.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “So where are the rattles? Where are the suspension noises, the unhappy underhood belts, the rear bulkhead squeaks?”

    In the Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      Ha.

      My Brother has a 2002 Honda Civic and my Dad has a 2001 Camry V6 and this is so true. Both cars are well maintained.

      The Civic was purchased new, spent half it’s life in Sacramento, and has had quite a bit of front end work done and a new air conditioner.

      The Camry? 15 Minnesota winters on just fluid changes, brakes, tune up, and two timing belts. Runs and drives very smooth.

      • 0 avatar
        fireballs76

        My favorite folks have a ’99 Camry LE with the six in it. Bought brand new that year & still going strong after all these years, though only in the 150k mile range. No major repairs other than a water pump & routine things, also in MN. The other crazy thing is it has no freaking rust after all the salty winters here, and the folks are not OCD about cleaning it. They built em right back then. My 2010 Ram has rust issues & I’m very OCD about cleaning it.

        Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      That about some up my “Golden Age” Accords, granted they were old cars but still a bit rattly (the 92 pretty much had a built in vibrate function when stopped).

      My cheap, crusty Toyota Tercel before that? Surprisingly smooth for what was a fairly small car with little maintenance.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    My second Corolla engine with major oil burning problems. Not worth repairing, due to the amount of miles and condition of the car,
    good to see not all Toyota engines suffer from the same problem.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Corollaman are these 1zz motors? They’re notorious oil burners unless impeccably maintained with synthetic (not bloody likely). I’d argue that it’s not too difficult to repair, easier than swapping an engine (IMO). My brother recently did rings and some valve lapping on his friend’s ’96 Prizm with 240k miles (4AFE motor), cut the oil consumption to basically nothing. Sure probably not economically viable on a $1500 car especially with dealer rates, but I guess the guy just really liked his car.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      Very few suffer from that problem. 1999 to 2002 Corollas IIRC? And even then isn’t there evidence that one of the engine plants made engines that weren’t as affected? I know some started burning really early but it seems a good number of the engines got to 200k-250k before they started burning oil like crazy which isn’t too shabby (though it doesn’t meet the Toyota standard).

      IMO, the head bolt issue on the 2002-2007 2.4l inline-4s was worse, most of them had the problem manifest around 100k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Corollaman

        yes, they are (were) the second was a rebuilt unit that worked w/o any fuss till it reached 150k miles and just like the first one, the oil burning got worse to the point were I am considering setting up some kind of oil IV system. Parts are cheap, labor is not.

      • 0 avatar
        Corollaman

        I am looking to replace it with a 2001 I4 Camry with about 90k miles. I was well maintained by an older gentleman.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I have an 07 2.4, it burns about a quart between oil changes. Toyota’s issued a recall to fix it, but I’m thinking I’m better off leaving it alone.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      The other thing IIRC with the Corollas is their tiny oil sump – something like 3.5 quarts including filter.

      You don’t want to be a quart low with that small amount of oil to begin with!

      My nephew has one and a month or two ago they noticed that the oil was no longer registering on the dipstick.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Wait, I thought these cars were disposable versus the ’97 and earlier models, and that I shouldn’t expect them to last a year outside the warranty period. Plus, triple door seals.

    Did the internet hive mind get it wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Haha the “good stuff” is still baked in, but a lot of the niceties and interior materials/touches that made the older cars FEEL like a million bucks was going by the wayside. Also, these first years of the 2.4L 4Cyl 2AZ-FE are known to have head-bolt issues (expensive to fix!).

      Worth noting especially given that the author compares dimensions to the current car, we’re still using the same “K” platform! I guess that speaks rather well of it. Excellent packaging IMO, rear seat is very roomy, lots of trunk space, not terribly heavy. Very solid and rattle free even on cars with astronomical mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The XV10 and XV20 Camry/ES and the XF10 LS laugh at this 340k “accomplishment” of the XV30.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Just rolled up my 204k mile XV10 ES300 on some snow tires and junkyard steelies. Went with a nice fat 70 series sidewall because they were cheaper. Soft cushy ride, an increase in ground clearance, my winter warrior is ready. Driving it to my bro’s place out in PA over thanksgiving for a t-belt job and a few other odds and ends.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      I’ve learned that a lot of people on the internet are fake, or are clueless. My dad bought a 2003 Honda Accord V6. Online it’s considered one of the worst cars ever. He just passed 250,000 miles and the car runs great, and could easily do 275,000 miles.

      The people I see having problems with Toyota, Honda, or Hyundai reliability tend to drive without any maintenance until a check engine light comes on or the car wont start anymore, or drive on bald tires.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        250K on the original tranny? That’s impressive. Between my 2001 Odyssey and the 1999 that my sister has, we have now been through SIX transmissions! Granted that an Accord is a lighter vehicle . . .

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Yup, as per the norm the internet hive is wrong again. I promise if these Camrys were as bad as the internet says, people would’ve quit buying them sometime ago.

  • avatar
    analoggrotto

    Articles like this are why I come back to TTAC, you guys respect the average car buyer without being Consumer Reports. So many magazines seem obsessed with the “sports car for all” mentality where somehow there is a Kyle Bush or M Schumacher hidden deep within the soul of every man, woman and child. Witness the automotive media’s obsession with Mazda and Car and Driver’s insistence that the Honda Accord is a bonafide sports car (it bloody isnt). Yet the solution to most folk’s automotive needs is really a Corolla (or Rav4) or Camry (or Highlander) and the return customers and sales charts generally support this.

    My mom has a 2004 Camry LE 4 cylinder with less than 150k miles; sometimes I take it for an errand when its blocking my elise.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I’m surprised by the driver’s seat. Has it been replaced?

  • avatar
    MatadorX

    Yeah as soon as I saw the mileage, I knew this particular Camry had the venerable 3MZ-FE, VVT-I in this spec. No way the early 2AZ-FE would have lasted this long. Cylinder head gasket failure, ring failure both led to oil/coolant use in this gen if unchecked and eventual catastrophic engine failure. Only one way to avoid it, checking the 3.0 V6 box, which back then could be had on even a bare bones Camry CE. Toyota really cost cut this gen IMO as opposed to earlier and later ones. Unflappable J Vin XLEs excepted, they suffered from failing headliners, failing dashes, cheap thin paint that burned off in 5-6 years in sunbelt states, the aforementioned crappy early 2AZ, and other non Toyoda like problems.

    I say all this as a 100% Toyota lover, 2015 2AZ-FE Scion owner (they finallly fixed the ring issue in 2015, its least year) who has IMO the last best Camry, a 2001 V6 LE, loaded to the gills (Leather, roof, spoiler, JBL, gold package, wood, OEM alarm, OEM Fogs) special ordered with a 5MT!!! Guy bought it new as his first ever new car at 42. This was the last year Toyota offered the v6/MT in the Camry (the Solara you could get for a feww more years). She has been an absolute tank. Upfitted with wagon rear springs and stiffer J Vin spec coil up front, KYBs, new control arms, ball joints, and inner Tie rods ready for the next 100K. Bought her for $2200 with 150k dealer maintained miles, which is a steal/low mileage for the year. No rust, nice shiny vintage red pearl paint, good leather.

    The V6 makes these cars. After Toyota did away with the oil cooler on the I4 in 1997, the 4 cylinders began to fail like crazy. Go to any pick a part any many many Camry 2.4’s will have a con-rod sticking through the block. No oil cooler=hot oil baking on rings sticking them closed=oil consumption=eventual dry sump=rod through block. Luckily the 1MZ while it bakes oil tends to be OK if changed frequently, they finally put the cooler on when the 1MZ became the 3MZ.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      What as the pitfalls of Toyota product 1996 to say 2010?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Interesting insight Matador. That aquiantance of mine in Russia must have a J-car, judging by the XLE descriptor.

      My ES has the 1MZ, looks clean as a whistle and burns no oil, the guy I bought it from was even more OCD about oil changes than I am (always at the Toyota dealer, always at 5k intervals). My struts feel a little tired, the rear has a bit of sag and I can hear some faint thuds from the rear end. I don’t like how stiff KYBs are, I’m leaning towards Gabriel Ultra quick struts in the back.

      Your Camry sounds like quite a peach, and I agree that the V6 smoothness matches the feel of the rest of the car (smooth transmission, smooth suspension, etc).

    • 0 avatar
      Dann

      “This (2001) was the last year Toyota offered the v6/MT in the Camry…”

      Interesting, we could get the XV30 with V6/manual combo in Australia until 2006, most were in Sportivo spec.

    • 0 avatar
      afedaken

      I had one of those 1M-Z with the E153 V6/5SP Camrys. The thing was a blast! Mostly debadged, so it made a great sleeper.

      When it finally went it was the transmission at 160k. That engine was smooth and quiet for its entire life. Can’t say it was necessarily the transmissions fault; I hooned it at every opportunity.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    12 years in a Camry sounds like hell. I had a brief inkling for a 12-14 SE V6 and didn’t mind the way it drove, but it was going to be a temporary thing and even that was too much. I’ll deal with the occasional unplanned repair for a car that puts a smile on my face

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Not all of us want to miss shifts in Civics :p

      I enjoy my commute on boring highway roads much more in my 20 year old Lexus with an automatic transmission, V6, smooth ride, heated seats and low road noise than I did in my ’12 Civic LX. Of course the Civic also knocked down 35+ mpg regularly to the ES’s 23mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      This is coming from someone names sportyaccordy? Camry and Accord or so damn different? Hilarious

  • avatar

    My MIL had a 2003 I4 that ran perfectly, with the notable exception of a weird squeak in the steering column (that only squeaked when you turned the wheel). She eventually gave it to my BIL, who dailyed it until he sold it off to get his Dad’s truck (’09 Tacoma).

    I got their old 2003 RAV4L, although I don’t recall the miles on it when I got it 4.5 years ago. I do know that it’s sitting at 165K miles, and save for some new engine mounts and an AC compressor that locked up last year, it’s been running strong. I’ve driven it from Fort Worth to Vegas to Portland, and “back” to Dallas (all the places that we’ve lived since January 2015), carrying various amounts of stuff for me and my family.

    The best part(s) about it are the interior quality and the loads of room behind the front seats. I’ve carried everything from my bike to a MCM desk back there.

    I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep it, but I expect it to keep running for long after I get rid of it.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    The whole appliance thing is such an annoying label, especially since we’re dealing with midsize cars here. The 2004 Taurus and Malibu and (agh) Sebring were no less appliance-y. It’s a lazy label, mostly applied by people who are either fanboys or would never drive a midsize car anyway.

    For the record I have a 2015 Mazda6, and I upgraded from a 2000 Camry. It is not some night and day difference. The Camry was a better car in a lot of ways. Back then it even had okay steering! Though I will say my dad has a 2015 Camry, and I don’t like it anywhere near as much as my 2000. It’s noisier, the ride is actually firmer without being any sportier, and the front seats are incredibly uncomfortable.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    “Less than 48 hours ago, we had a fairly thorough conversation about the Camry’s potential replacement. He’d like another V6 engine, a properly roomy car with real cargo volume, and a substantial weightiness”

    Sounds like a Toyota Venza. I believe 2016 is the last year to get a brand new one in Canada.

  • avatar
    vvk

    If the steering is so bad, why is it not fixed?

    Are you telling us that the suspension has not been rebuilt for 340k miles and the ride is still buttoned down and well damped? Some magical ball joints and shocks in there…

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      FWIW my ’96 ES300 with 204k miles has all original tie rods and ball joints and control arms, everything is still tight. All I did was replace the rear swaybar bushings ($30 for OE parts and half an hour of time). Struts could use a refreshing but the car still rides smooth and controlled. It truly is amazing. I do think that the author’s car must have had SOMETHING replaced at some point, struts I would hope.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        In another post, you say: “my new ‘slow and steady’ $1600 ES300.” It sounds like you bought this one well used. I am just curious how you are so sure it is not on its third set of control arms?

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I bought it with full maintenance records from 30k miles when the 2nd owner bought it in 1998. Additionally, I can just tell looking at the arms, definitely factory stock judging by the amount of surface rust, etc. Same goes for struts, etc. The Maxima I flipped actually had the rear struts replaced already, with the same Monroe Quickstrut brand I ended up installing.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I wondered about that too. My 188k mile Acura Legend has had all ball joints and some control arms replaced, and clearly needs new struts, strut mounts, and motor/transmission mounts.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        That’s because it’s a Honda dal :p

        I grew up around 1990s Civics and Accords and know all about it. That and CV axles and rear quarter panel rot and weak knee’d AC. Still like them, but have switched allegiance to the big “T.” For driving fun and reliability there’s Honda. For comfort, reliability, and durability, there’s Toyota/Lexus (although the LS Lexi always struggled with control arm bushing longevity due to their weight I guess).

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Indeed, my 2008 LS needed all 8 new front control arms at 44k miles. The original bushings looked like a rat had eaten them. The part design was revised, though, and the later parts seem to be doing better.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Four control arms per axle? Er, eight (can you count today 28?)

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Eek! The Japanese went all German on us it seems haha.

            I’ll take my nice and simple McPherson any day! I have a multi-link IRS out back, but it is problem free and replacing individual arms is cheap and easy (if rarely necessary). Much better than the stupid rusty beam rear axle on that Maxima I had for a bit.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Indeed, 8 arms per axle. Very German. Fortunately it’s only the front ones, which take a lot more abuse, that are prone to premature failure.

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            Yeah, dal is right. The Ls460s have an unusually complex (for Toyota) suspension. They have 4 control arms and each control arm has 2 bushings, each wheel has 8 control arm bushings. The upper control arm bushings fail prematurely. There are aftermarket bushings made of polyurathane that don’t ride as nice but they last longer, and I think toyota recently (in the last 2 years) started offering the bushings as stand alone parts.

            The 2012+ LSs seem to have the problem fixed but who knows?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Toyota came out with a new bushing design late in the 2010 model year and the 2011+ cars are doing much better. The new parts also fit onto 2007-2010 cars (my 2008 has them now). We’ll see whether “much better” means they fail at 120k or 200k miles, but in any case they are not failing at 40k or less the way the 2007-10 ones did.

        • 0 avatar
          yamahog

          The control arm bushings on the LSs are more of an annoyance than a ‘critical issue’ and they did get them solved for the old style LSs (1990-2006) by the final 2 years of each generation. The LS460s had their own fun issue.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            On my LS460, there were several symptoms of the failing control arms. In decreasing order of severity:

            1) Severe enough asymmetrical tire wear that the 800-mile drive home from the selling dealer put the inside edge of the front tires, which had been low but should have had several thousand miles left, below the wear bars.

            2) Various clunks and clacks, most reproducibly on hard braking.

            3) Steering that was quite a bit more vague than it should have been (in fairness, I never experienced how a LS460 *should* steer until I got my car fixed; I expect all the ones I test drove had worn bushings).

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            I was replying to a thread about the earlier LSs – specifically the comment about lower control arm bushings. A lot of 01/02 LS430s are riding around on degraded front control arm bushings and it doesn’t really seem to affect them. It makes the steering sloppier (but not much worse) and affects the caster of the wheels but not enough to bring them out of spec. Some owners have successfully ignored the symptoms of of failing LCA bushings for 50k+ miles.

            The upper control arm bushings on the LS460 are the ones that have the most problems. It’s inaccurate to describe your problem as problems with the upper control arms, the upper control arm bushings failed. Many people pop better bushings into the arms that came with the car and report an improvement in functionality.

            Not everything is about your low watermark LS.

  • avatar
    wsn

    I have the exactly same car (same year, same trim, same engine, same Canada) except for the colour.

    I am still using it for daily commute.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    I am currently driving a very similar car..a 2003 Toyota Camry V6 Camry LE. I inherited it from my Dad after he died. He was an outside salesperson and needed a reliable vehicle. It was his fourth Camry. It currently has 150K and it has no rattles. It’s not my first car choice but we just bought a house and buying a new car was deemed a bad idea. It makes a daily 150 mile commute to NYC from CT and returns an average of about 25 mpg. It’s comfortable, has ample power, and has a cavernous trunk. It’s interior simplicity is a plus not a minus to me. I could do without a lot of the technocrap they put in cars today.

    It handles okay and the brake pedal has a little bit of mush to its feel but you can’t have everything…

    I consider this generation Camry handsome compared to what the current Toyota looks like now.

    It is proof that Americans can build a reliable car…under the right management.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “I could do without a lot of the technocrap they put in cars today.”

      …but you’re fine with the technocrap they put in cars in 2004 that people complained about then, while wistfully discussing cars from 1992?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Take a look at the dash Perisoft, not much different than a 1990s car (more basic in fact than my climate controlled ’96 ES). I think bluegoose is referring to the lack of “infotainment” and intuitive knobs for basic things like HVAC.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          Good comment, gtemnykh. Maybe Perisoft is really young and hasn’t actually driven a 1992 vintage car? These changes don’t occur at a constant rate. Within a given market segment, a typical ’03 car likely would be a lot closer in the form and function of its dashboard controls to a ’92 than it would be to a ’14.

          Sorry about your dad, bluegoose.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        I’d claim that there is a serious difference between technocrap you installed in a DIN mount or a GPS stuffed on your dashboard and the technocrap that is foisted on you by your particular make and model (and you can be certain is deliberately crippled on all but the halo car in the name of market segmentation).

        Give me a DIN mount any day.

      • 0 avatar
        bluegoose

        I don’t need GPS. I have it my phone. I don’t need lane change warning, blind spot warning, or anything else of that nature. The GPS unit in the current new car is a win for planned obsolescence. It will cost you upwards of $2000 to fix it. THAT is what I am talking about.

        I would not have chosen to drive this car, but its not a horrible car to drive. When you have a 150 mile commute, reliability becomes your top punch list item.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Back when Mark asked what sort of stuff we’d like to see–this is what I attempted to add before the comment gremlins ate my contribution. I really like seeing what some long-term experiences are. Us cheapskates who buy old junk and keep it as long as we can like seeing real-world evidence of what our future holds.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      A million times this. I’d be over the moon about more articles like this. I need to get off my butt and volunteer to write up my short lived fling with a beater maxima this summer and my new ‘slow and steady’ $1600 ES300. Ask not what TTAC might do for you, but what you might do for TTAC! :P

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Do it. I’d toss in a write-up on my own adventures with the Echo, but it’s all really boring stuff like tossing the junky Chinese coilpacks and replacing the idle control valve.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’ll be game to write up my 2010 Highlander when I pass the 100,000 mile mark (which will certainly be by next summer.) Having bought used 60,000 of those miles will belong to me.

        Tomorrow is my first appointment at the dealership for my recalls. Its my first Toyota dealership experience other than their quick lube. My experience will likely color my thoughts about whether my first Toyota is my last.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Do it gtemnykh! I want to read about that cheap ES.

        As a Ramsey-ite I could write how awesome it is to be financially responsible by driving an ’06 Odyssey. Maintenance is easy! Like when I went to change the 20$ PCV valve and it snapped off inside the engine, so I had to visit a shop to get it out. Many hours and two head gaskets later (might as well right?) that 20$ follow-the-youtube-video repair turned to 500 CAD. Fun times!…

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Alright ya’ll, banged out a first draft of my Maxima escapades tonight. Will probably have to cut it down a ton, if you haven’t noticed from my comments I get quite carried away and verbose. Tons of photos too documenting a lot of the work. Depending on how that may turn out, an ES300 saga may follow!

      • 0 avatar
        Bokonon

        I would be interested in reading your future writeup about the beater Maxima, gtemnykk … since I own a beater Maxima myself. The car has its drawbacks (like the solid rear axle), but I actually enjoy driving it and working on it.

        One thing I notice is that there are still a TON of old Maximas around. They seem to last for a very long time … unless rust gets them. Lots of rust issues with the rear wheel wells and quarter panels.

        Cheers!

      • 0 avatar
        DavidB

        I’d love to read more articles like this. And gtemnykh, especially yours. I’m driving an ’02 ES300 I bought in spring of ’15 that had 89,000 miles. It now has 105,000 miles and rides like new. It was well maintained and now wears new Michelins and doesn’t have a single squeak. Quiet, smooth, powerful enough.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      zamoti & all others who commented –

      – agreed –

      THIS IS WHAT TTAC DOES BEST & A BIG PART OF ITS SPIRITUAL RAISON DE ETRE (plus thumb-in-the-eye-of-manufacturers rental car & owner car reviews, plus ripping apart of automotive marketing/snake-oil/advertising).

  • avatar

    I hate the way these look, especially compared to previous generations. The Lexus version is actually worse.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Thanks for the great review, enjoyed it.

    I was in a couple of DC cabs this pass weekend and they were both Camrys. Not sure of the years but I think 2012/2013 (fake leather dashes). Was amazed that they both drove great with no rattles. Much more room in them than a Crown Vic, 3 adults and 2 kids fit in fine. I don’t know why cab companies didn’t switch sooner.

  • avatar
    TCowner

    The timing of this article is perfect – I just bought a clean 1999 Avalon XLS for my daughter yesterday, with 95k miles for $2,400. One owner and maintained at the Toyota dealership. I really can’t believe how nice this car runs and drives, and the quality of the interior. Looking forward to running this one a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      Good luck with the car. Sounds like you found a great deal.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Nice! Should be a good car for her, definitely check if the t-belt has been done! Avalons were very much on my radar before I picked up my ES. If something happened to the Lexus and I had to go beater shopping again, I’d aim for a 2nd gen Avalon (the one based on this Camry) with the cool Mercedes-aping pseudo-monoblock wheels, or a gen 1 with a bench seat and column shifter.

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez_Returns

        Your taste in boring Toyotas is pretty similar to mine. I replaced my 1996 Avalon with a 2005 ES330 a little over a year ago. Bought the Avalon in 2009 w/ 64k miles, one owner, garaged. Bought the ES330 w/ 51k miles, one owner, garaged, dealer maintained. With both cars, I had originally intended to buy something 3-5 years newer, but found that these cars offered the best combination of value and what I was looking for (comfort, reliability, decent power). The Avalon was super comfortable but had it’s issues- kept it to 106k and in it’s last year needed to replace axles and motor mounts, and it had a bad valve cover gasket leak from the rear cylinder bank that I never bothered to fix. Also ate brakes and tires faster than a small car, but can’t really fault it there. Not terrible, but much more maintenance/repairs than the 2wd Tacoma I had before. I’m hoping the ES330 will be better. I did look at newer Camrys and Avalons, but the quality delta between Lexus and Toyota of this era is much higher than during the 90s despite being pretty close in cost as older vehicles. Also considered the ES350, but the interior there was a real downgrade.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Interesting in that I was just talking to my son about his older Toyota. He steadfastly refuses to part with his 1997 Tercel. Now nearly 20 years old and with well over 230k on it, besides regular maintenance and normal wear and tear, it’s been the most solid and reliable car that we’ve ever owned. I bought it for my sister back in 2007 with 120k on it. She drove it for a few years, then I took it until my son was a senior in high school. His first year at the Air Force Academy, he wasn’t allowed his own vehicle, so I (happily) kept the little bomber. As soon as he was able to, I sent the Tercel out to Colorado Springs, where he drove the living snot out of it. The car has since traversed to Texas and now the east coast (driven…not towed or transported!). She sure isn’t fancy, but the build quality is insanely good and the interior has nicer touch points than many new cars. Of course, with less than 100 HP, a manual trans (yes…a 25-year old owner who can actually drive a stick shift!), manual crank windows and not much else for options, not much can break. He’ll part with it the day it completely falls apart…which may be a long time to come.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    0-60 in 7 seconds is not slow, my we have gotten spoiled haven’t we in the last 20 years or so.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    When this car was being made was right around the time I took a high school field trip to the Georgetown, KY factory where they were making all the beige Camrys. I can only assume the workers, upon seeing my delight at actually being INSIDE a car factory, worked extra hard for the rest of the year.

    You’re welcome!

    *Still remember in their lobby, the final 1991 Camry they made. XLE V6, pearl, red leather, moonroof, power belts, full moon alloys and something like 500 miles on it. A beauty.*

    • 0 avatar
      analoggrotto

      Oh man I had a ’91 Camry. 4 cylinder DX automatic with a blue corduroy interior and this baby blue metallic exterior.

      And those power belts, I never used the lap belt out of false sense of security that the 2 point power belts provided. So glad that feature went extinct.

      What a horrible car that was.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Thank you. Very enjoyable review.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    I googled and saw that for 2004 in this middle-middle class car there was already a goddam sizeable LCD screen option.

    Thin edge of the wedge.

  • avatar
    Jim123

    I realized about 5 years ago that the Camry is the de facto granny go-to car of the modern era. Notice no one seems to reference Bucks as such anymore? Worse still, my mother-in-law drives one in 4 cyl XLE trim exactly.like.this.one. I tease her about it being the anonymous, shapeless blob representation of a competitor’s product in a commercial. However, I’m deeply jealous inside as she continues to gleefully drive 35 in the left lane of the expressway while my POS BMW sits on the side of the road with yet another problem…

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The sad reality is that the modern “lease special” Germans in their white/grey/black hues blend in every bit as much in a yuppie parking garage. You gotta get the “Baruth” package with lime green paint to stand out.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I see your Camry with 340k, and I raise you a slightly older Hyundai with 460k+:
    https://highmileclub.wordpress.com/tag/hyundai-sonata/

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Very nice, informative review.

    It’s interesting to see cars with such high mileage. Here in the Montreal area, between urban driving (low miles and high wear and tear compared to rural areas due to traffic conditions), terrible roads, and the salt covering everything in the winter months, it’s fairly rare to see cars with this kind of mileage. Nice to see what’s possible, even if it doesn’t alleviate the incessant rattles and beginnings of rust on my 150k mile Concorde.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My parents close friends of 20 years had a 2006 XLE V6 and the same body style as this car. It was the polar opposite of this review. Warped brake rotors. Failed intake gasket. Failed master cylinder. Expensive exhaust replacement. Noisy front wheel bearings that needed replacement. This was with under 100K miles too. And many owners have had failed 2.2/2.4 and 3.0/3.3 V6 engines with the famous sludge/oil burning issues. I know because my friend’s repair shop has replaced many of these engines. Here in Upstate, NY sees few of this generation still left on the road.

    Does this mean that all Camry’s of this generation were bad? More than likely not as this review points out. But you can take virtually any mid size sedan from this time era with high mileage and it can still have the original engine/transmission and still ride very well and many such a car has rolled through my buddies dealership wether it’s a GM, Ford, Hyundai, Honda or Toyota just like this car.
    I find the 92-96 versions of the Camry to be the real cock roaches of the road however.


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