By on September 7, 2017

Eight Toyota Camry Generations - Images: ToyotaThe launch of the 2018 Toyota Camry in July 2017 marked the arrival of America’s eighth Camry. Near the end of Ronald Reagan’s first term, the first Camry — not the first Camry, but the first Camry available for U.S. consumption — was launched in front-wheel-drive sedan and hatchback formats.

By 1997, the Camry was America’s best-selling car — a title it has held in each of the last 15 years.

The second-generation Camry spawned a V6 powerplant, available all-wheel drive, and a hatchback-replacing wagon. The third-generation Camry kept the sedan and wagon, dropped the AWD, added a coupe, and was built in America. The fourth iteration of the Camry, 1997-2001, dropped the wagon and began to be seen as the automatic choice for America’s midsize sedan buyers. The fifth Camry, which ran from 2002-2006, was sturdy enough to be form the foundation for two more Camry generations. The sixth Camry was the first to be available as a hybrid, but it put an end to the coupe, which in the prior two generations was known as Camry Solara. The seventh Camry, 2012-2017, sometimes hailed as the most American-made of all cars, benefited from a thorough refresh for 2015. The eighth Camry, at dealers now, represents much more than a major overhaul, with significant increases in fuel economy standing out as a leading improvement.

But which Toyota Camry is best of all?

1993 Toyota Camry - Image: ToyotaLet’s limit ourselves to sedans in order to avoid the classic choice: the 1992-1996 Camry Wagon.

It may be clear that America’s original Camry was too small. The second, if exposed to modern expectations, may now seem too archaic. The fourth’s exercise in blandness is a stretch too far. Did the fifth Camry do enough to move the game on? The sixth was noteworthy for bringing hybrids into the mainstream and sports-car acceleration to the midsize masses — it produced record sales as a result. Regarding the seventh Camry, we can once again ask whether it was a meaningful leap forward. As for the new 2018 Toyota Camry, are the objective improvements cancelled out by exterior styling that tries way too hard to steal limelight from the RAV4, C-HR, and Highlander?

And does that leave the 1992-1996 Toyota Camry as the best Camry of them all?1996 Toyota Camry - Image: ToyotaThe 133-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder sounds underwhelming now, but the ’96 Camry offered 147 lb-ft of torque, and the car weighed less than 3,000 pounds. The V6 option — 188 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque — was no less fuel-efficient than the inline-four.

Clearly not an exciting car to behold, the 1992 Toyota midsizer nevertheless brought a degree of aero interest to the Camry. It was also not quite as annoyingly ubiquitous as more recent examples. America’s third Camry was never America’s best-selling car — the Ford Taurus ruled the roost those days — as the third Camry averaged “only” 318,000 annual U.S. sales, not the 400,000-plus level of volume that became routine with successive generations.

Also, that wagon was pretty cool.

Your opinions may differ. Do tell: what’s the best Toyota Camry of them all?

[Images: Toyota]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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95 Comments on “QOTD: Camry, Camry, on the Wall, Which Is the Greatest Toyota Camry of Them All?...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    It has to be the ’92-’96 both in terms of where it stood relative to contemporaries in the 90s, as well as in an overall scheme of comparing how overbuilt they were compared to any other generation of Camry (or any other mainstream midsize sedan, period). I think it is best represented in 1MZ 3.0L V6 trim with the automatic transmission. We’ve hashed this out on TTAC before, I think you’ll find many in agreement with me.

    the ’97-’01 was a good car as well same bones as the ’92-’96 car, beginnings of cost cutting but still quite nice with very good materials inside and out. I’ll give a shout out to the K-platform introduced in ’02 for being so well designed that it was still competitive in 2017 in terms of NVH and competent packaging for interior room.

    • 0 avatar

      All this.

      And still, the newest and most and well-equipped ’96 Camry is the ’99 Avalon.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      92 was very reliable but still, the ’18 is easily the best. Because, even if it is not as reliable, it is plenty reliable and fun to drive [again], and has all the features and power.

      • 0 avatar

        It has features and power, but is not going to be anywhere near the build quality of that ’92.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Between my 150 relatives, they had at leas 10 of Camrys. I personally “bought” for them ’89, ’92, ‘2004. ’92 went for 20 years but not without changing struts, shocks, etc. But I don’t see what is so special about it? Who normally keeps Camry for 20 years? 2004 went for 14 years and 150K and is still driven somewhere. I happen to drive just about every Camry that existed but ’18. I see that 2008 materials-wise and build quality-wise is crap, and it also drives like appliance and they had engine sludge, etc. But still, I think, new one, with all the fixes to driving dynamics, etc, will probably be the best in 1 year.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          I’ve never driven or ridden in a third generation Camry that had impressive suspension or body integrity, and that includes when they were only a few years old. There are plenty of people who have a soft dashboard covering confused with a high quality car. While the fourth generation Camry wasn’t a step forward, every one since then has been.

          While the ES250 was spun off of the second generation Camry, the third generation was developed alongside the ES300. It was meant to be an inferior drive to its sibling, while the second generation was developed against its external competition instead. I’m not sure where the third generation love comes from, but it starts to seem like mass hysteria from the perspective of someone who has driven all of them and operated shops that worked on most of them.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “There are plenty of people who have a soft dashboard covering confused with a high quality car.”

            I think you must not know a high quality car if it ran you over!

            “It was meant to be an inferior drive to its sibling”

            Do you have any sort of evidence of this? My understanding of it was that the ES300 as we got it is a Toyota Windom in Japan, where wider cars are in a higher tax bracket and inherently shoved into luxury pricing. When the Taurus team tore into a ’92 Camry, the amount of parts that were in every way, shape and form literally the same ES300 bits astounded them. Toyota spent A LOT of money making the ’92 Camry blow the competition far out of the water. If you haven’t read Mary Walton’s book “Car,” I highly recommend it, if only to get context on just how much of a tour de force the ’92 Camry was and how it sent the Ford guys scrambling back to the drawing board with a new benchmark in mind.

            The ES’s ‘extras’ were mostly the frameless windows, twin projector headlights, and damn near one hundred pounds of extra asphalt sound deadening. Certainly suspension tuning was different to account for the difference in weight (strut part numbers are different from Camry to ES300), but look underneath at suspension components, it’s fundamentally the same stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        It’s not about reliability, I think it’s the total shift in what’s considered good materials and good quality both in terms of interior material selection, as well as things like paint and trim on the exterior. Those ’92-’96 Camries are just unreal in terms of how good those things are, the first inkling of what I’ve heard about the ’18 is not sounding too good. Additionally, the restrained and refined styling of those 90s cars is light years ahead of the overly aggressive mess of the ’18s (and modern Toyotas and Japanese cars in general).

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          My ’98 Protege material and build quality was not any worse than ’92 Camry. Only metal used in suspension parts and some exhaust parts was worse – it looked very rusted. But even so, Camry needed shocks and struts 13 years in. Protege went nearly 17 years on originals. In fact, I have not changed a single suspension part in Protege vs Camry. And interior in Protege held great, no noises, rattles, tear or even much wear. CD player broke. Camry, like many old Toyotas, had some plastic pieces come off. But then again, this is negligible considering age and mileage.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            If you were in a road salt environment, that Protege would have had the body well rotted out be the time the Camry showed the first signs of bubbling near the rear quarter panels.

            In regards to strut longevity, The Camry is quite a bit heftier than a tin-can Protege, and my understanding is that as a somewhat general rule, soft shocks with longer travel wear out faster than stiff short stroke dampers. Or maybe Mazda just got something right with their struts, the ones in my brother’s ’89 MPV still dampened when the perches were finally perforated with rust when the van was likewise 17 years old or so. The original struts/shocks on my ’96 ES300 (209k miles) finally started to get noisy after a winter of bad Indy roads, and I could tell they were not riding as well as they should already the fall prior. The ’00 Maxima before that with 145k miles was WAY overdue for shocks, to the point of impacts feeling downright painful and the car would just bob along going down the road (replaced with cheap Monroe quickstruts).

            Most of the 90s Japanese cars had very well assembled and durable interiors, I think the difference truly comes down to the richness and tightness with age, and things like how the automatic shifter felt moving through the gates on the Camry, or how using a window switch felt. They really over engineered and overspent on seemingly trivial things that on their own seem needless and silly, but taken in aggregate form the overall feeling of high quality.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            Yeah, we have family in the north of Canada who had a 92 and a 88. Both showed no sign of rust and both went past 400k miles with no major drivetrain overhaul.

            My first experience with a Camry was in my girlfriend’s dad’s 92. It had a gold colored exterior and creamy leather interior. Even at 13 years old, I was suitably impressed.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Well to be honest I’m surprised you’re saying the ’88 was rust resistant, they were horrible rusters in central NY, however stout the drivetrains and suspensions were. Any I still occasionally see on the local craigslist have total perforation of front fender and rear quarter panels and dog legs, outer door skins, etc. The ’92 was an absolute revelation as far as corrosion resistance goes. Not just a massive improvement for the class, but it much better than any non-German/Swedish competitor that I can think of (and better than some Germans like Mercedes W124 with rotting suspension mounting points).

    • 0 avatar
      MR2turbo4evr

      gtemnykh is right as always.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Count me in the group that doesn’t get the third generation. Then again I never paid attention to them new, only as 20 year old beaters.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        maybe you SHOULD consider it for your next beater :) It might be a very refreshing ownership experience compared to many other options in the low-cost category, assuming it isn’t a totally used up neglected example.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Well I highly recommend one as your next 20 year old beater! My $1600 ’96 ES300 was the best cheap car decision I’ve made, I regret selling it but I wanted a pickup for summer projects (and I didn’t want to shell out for new struts and a fresh set of tires). Compared to the ’00 Maxima that preceded it, it was built twice as well in terms of how things were holding up and how well it went down the road. Some of the most rust resistant vehicles of the era short of troublesome (in other expensive ways) Europeans.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Your ES300 cost $1600, but how much did you invest into it during that time (ignoring oil changes, tires, insurance etc)? Didnt it have a lot of miles?

          For me, the most “refreshing” Camry will always be the first two generations, due to being fairly simple cars with very Japanese-ish dashes.

          The third gen was spearheaded by an American for a very American market, a better car in every way sure, but the Camry had grown up by then.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The ES had 203k miles when I bought it, 209k when I sold it. I put a set of brakes on it (Powerstop front and rear rotor kit off rockauto, $150), rear swaybar bushings ($30), OEM Toyota front torque/engine mount ($40), new accessory belts ($18 for 2), a replacement blower motor Darlington transistor unit for $6 from the junkyard, a set of center HVAC vents for $40 off ebay. But admittedly the biggest job, one that I farmed out to my brother was the timing belt: $200 for a good Aisin kit with water pump and tensioner, another $300 for my brother to install. In hindsight, we should have just pulled the timing belt cover and checked the condition of the belt that was on there and called it good. It had been changed once before close to 100k miles. It’s a non-interference engine and frankly the belt looked perfect. Likewise when we pulled the waterpump it looked ideal and the bearing felt like new. Frankly, the new Aisin pump looked a bit ugly/sketchy with casting lines in it, I wouldn’t be surprised if they farmed out production to China like everyone else. So had I not splurged on the $500 timing belt job, it would be a very cheap ride indeed considering I sold it for $2200 this spring. To be fair part of that selling price was me advertising the timing belt having been changed. Had I pulled the trigger on new struts, I would have been looking at about $700 just in parts, there aren’t plug and play cheap Monroe strut assemblies for these unfortunately. But even as it was it drove and rode acceptably, just some bigger bumps were handled not as smoothly as one would expect of a Lexus.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            So roughly $2500 in total (including purchase price)? Thats not bad given the miles. I’d rather have a non-interference engine myself.

            Reading the arguments above, the 3rd-gen Camry was never an “inferior” Lexus. When the 3rd-gen Camry was conceived it was built to be an “undercover Lexus”, in some ways the Camry was more practical too like pass-through trunks (the Lexus ES has bolted re enforcement’s that prevent this). The fourth gen was certainly less Lexus.

            As for Proteges vs Camrys, one car is an expensive mid-sized car, the other a cheap econobox. I may not be into Camrys, but I outright AVOID anything Mazda.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            It might be telling however, that I’m back on the cheap beater prowl, and it’s not for a Lexus/Toyota, but a Maxima/I30. As well built and solid as the Lexus was, it just felt heavy and soft and comfortable. The Maxima was unequivocally more fun to tear around town in. Infact I just located a clean local ’99 Maxima with a mere 105k miles on the clock, will be checking it out this weekend.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            My only real Maxi experience was test driving a 4DSC, a nice car all around. just weak autos and what was a mediocre engine compared to the later VQ.

            Were there any big differences between the I30/Maxima? I know nothing of that generation beyond that rust pretty bad.

          • 0 avatar

            The I30 has more sound deadening, a softer suspension, came “loaded” as standard, and has a more plush interior when compared to the Maxima.

            When I had mine, I30s were A) a bit cheaper and B) easier to find in nice condition than their Maxima counterparts.

            The VQ30 is an excellent, buttery smooth engine. 190HP, plenty.

            A cloth interior and 5-speed manual were available for (I believe) only 1996, the year of introduction.

            Rear end restyling occurred for 1998, and the 98-99 look a little bit more modern. They also got some revised wheel designs and new paint colors. The I30 for 2000 was of considerably lower all-round quality than its predecessor.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            At Corey: Thats interesting that the I30 tends to be be cheaper, must not sell as well with Infiniti always being mispelled.

            On the Camrys “quality”, I just want to say that I have a very different matter of judging quality. For most people its body gaps, noise, how soft stuff is…

            I dont go by this with older cars. Instead I judge “quality” by what I find when I’m taking the car apart, I’ve done this with nearly all of my used cars to fix rattles and such. “Quality” means good parts, and being easy to work with, its why I tend to be a bit torn with some Volvos (generally easy diy, garbage interior quality), Hondas were the polar opposite for me.

            I’ve yet to take apart a Camry, but I’d like to the next time I visit the scrapyard.

          • 0 avatar

            I think the I30 is less popular, people forget about it, and also with Craigslist the spelling issue is certainly a consideration.

            Infinity
            Infinite
            I-30

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            My I30 candidate:
            https://bgky.craigslist.org/cto/d/1996-infinity-i30/6280894950.html

            Not really scared of the miles, the VQ is a long lived beast, the Jatco autos likewise are very decent units IMO, if it doesn’t slur shifts on the test drive its fine.

            As smooth as the 1MZ 3.0L in the Lexus was, the VQ was smoother yet, and would eat the ES’s lunch at a stoplight. It just felt more eager to spin up while maintaining turbine smoothness. A bit more efficient to boot. Some of that might come down to curb weight, the Maxima was at least a few hundred pounds lighter.

            Ryoku the old Camries hold up well to such scrutiny IMO. That overspending on every last bracket and bit shows decades later when it comes to wrenching on them.

          • 0 avatar

            Looks awful worn out there! The trunk alignment and headlamp alignment makes me think it’s been in accidents. No driver’s seat pic, either.

            Methinks you might be able to do better.

            Same color and wheels mine was ;).

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Hey good spot on the trunklid, although paint match looks fine, could just be a latch issue. The headlights though, that’s just standard fare for I30s of that age that have seen enough sun it seems. I likewise noticed the lack of including the driver’s seat bottom in the photo.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            “Infinity” eh? After 10 years or so you’d think that someone could spell their own cars name.

            It doesnt look too bad in the pics, its just a bit steep in price for the mileage imo.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “It doesnt look too bad in the pics, its just a bit steep in price for the mileage imo.”

            I learned with the Lexus that a single owner that maintained a vehicle trumps high miles (with exceptions of course). Having said that, some of those single owners will try to squeeze every last bit of life out of a car and ignore anything that their mechanic doesn’t deem absolutely critical so what I’ve seen as a trend is that suspension components get woefully neglected (namely shocks and struts). Also, the fact that it looks like this I30 spent its whole life outside of the salt belt adds tremendous value to these cars, as it avoids many pattern issues that crop up as things rust (core support rot, brake lines, rear calipers, cosmetic quarter panel rust).

            Compared to the 215k mile I30 for $The 105k mile Maxima is listed at $3k, and assuming the photos aren’t hiding something awful and its truly a turn key car that doesn’t need immediate involved maintenance/repairs (like a set of shocks and/or tires), the asking price is not unfair IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      The 2.0L/2.2L engines in the first Camrys, which replaced the good solid 18R engine in the Corona, were whiny asthmatic cr*pboxes that yelled their lungs out at 130 km/h.

      The 2.4L was better, but still a bit breathless.

      The current 2.5L is a good punchy four and really the best engine in any Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I don’t see how the 2.2L 5SFE can be called asthmatic compared to the relatively ancient R18? If anything I remember thinking they were pretty torquey 4cyls that hauled my friend’s sister’s ’98 4cyl LE automatic around pretty darn well. I think tests at the time had them under 9 seconds 0-60 with the 4spd auto. I agree that the current 2.5 is a very good motor for the class, the 6spd auto is a good pair with it. Of course, I’d call the beastly 2GRFE 3.5L V6 as the “best engine” in a Camry, or else the earlier 3.0L 1MZFE for how it highlighted the smoothness of the rest of the car and transmission.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Yeah,I drove a 2.2L 1996 for eight years and guitar man is off in the ether on that comment. Smooth and quiet runner with enough torque to move the car around well enough at low revs.

          I wonder if he’s thinking of the 1.8 & 2.0 in the first gen Camry. That one wasn’t impressive, but what was back then?

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The 1992-1996 generation is the best without doubt. I drove a few of them and they were among the best cruisers ever. Lexus quality and reliability at a moderate price.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I also always get a kick out of how much clearance and short front overhang the second gen ’87-’91 cars had. They are seriously competent rough-road vehicles. Comfortable and durable suspension, high clearance, and even an available full-time AWD system (more capable than most modern eco-focused setups).

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I like the 07-11, particularly in SE V6 trim. Looks good, can discipline a 350Z in a straight line (from a roll of course), dirt cheap, roomy, reliable, fuel efficient, refined etc.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The introduction of the 2GR V6 to the Camry was definitely a revelation in terms of straight line performance. And you’re right they’re great cars in terms of simply being competent, comfortable, and long lasting with minimal fuss. But sitting in the interior of one and poking around the dash, it is nothing short of criminal what Toyota had done to the Camry in terms of decontenting of that generation. Even a ’02-’06 car feels vastly better put together, to say nothing of a ‘fat’ ’92-’96. The one thing the ’07-’11 still did okay was the soft velour cloth seats. The ’12 fell even further in this regard, the facelifted ’15 at least fixed some of the dash cheapness.

  • avatar
    ash78

    ’92-’96, especially the later facelifted versions. Since you took the obvious wagon choice away, I’ll still say the sedan. In forest green with tan interior, please (full disclosure bias: 17 of my 23 driving years have been in tan/green cars).

    It was ahead of its time and the upper trims really felt like the Lexus ES from the same era. In fact, I’m convinced the ’97+ model was decontented to separate them from Lexus (the comparison tests seemed to bear this out, with Camry usually finishing in the middle, behind Accord and Passat, the latter of which I still drive — from that same era).

    Plus it just looked cool. People often forget the auto landscape before the Melted Bar of Soap became the design norm.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I’ve always liked the third gens, actually the only ones I do. My cousin bought a new black XLE??, the top one, and it did seem LS400 like. Another friend got a used one around 2003 and I was amazed at how new it appeared and rode with 60K on it. They all have a terrible smell from the factory that is very off-putting to me.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The ’92. But just keep in mind an LE with cloth seats and an automatic started at $30,118 in today’s dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Cars have gotten relatively cheaper over time, so it’s a tough comparison to make there. Sort of like talking about how my 1992 Motorola StarTac phone was $750…

      If anything, car prices (relative to content) have deflated over time.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Good point. I hadn’t looked up prices for other cars. A Taurus was $27k for a GL.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        It’s amazing what improvements in technology can do.

        In the 70s, a basic plug-in calculator cost $200.

        When I was a kid in the late ’90s, I remember adding a 200MB external hard drive to our home CPU. It cost something like $200-300 at the time. That money today can get you several terabytes of storage.

        It’s fun to look at old computer ads from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

        In 1997 my dad paid about $27k for his new Acura 2.2 CL. Before adjusting for inflation, for the same or less money today there are so many cars that are so much better in so many ways.

    • 0 avatar
      r129

      I read quite a few family sedan comparison tests that included the ’92-’96 Camry, and I remember it usually being the most expensive choice, especially as the value of the Yen became a greater issue. Car and Driver was very good about sticking to a particular price point, and the cars in the test would be equipped with as much equipment as you could buy for the price. I distinctly remember a test where a base Camry competed against American and Korean cars with leather interiors, and the Camry of course outperformed them. The Accord of the time could be equipped to a slightly less poverty-spec level for around the same price. If I recall correctly, the Camry was typically a 2nd or 3rd place performer in those tests, with the Accord and/or Passat usually coming out ahead.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        The irony being that the Accord and the Passat represented the best and worst buying decisions someone could make at the time.

        • 0 avatar
          ash78

          I just got rid of my ’98 Passat last year, and I’m currently in an ’01. Compared to anything else from those eras, it’s far and away the best of the bunch. Accord caught up in the early 2000s after a couple of years of benchmarking the Passat directly.

          The late 90s/early 2000s were not a great time for cars, by and large.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The Accord and Camry were such different cars from each other back then. The Accord was sprightlier, handled sharply, but was loud and low-slung. The Camry was hushed, more refined, and oozed quality but was numb.

        Now, put an Accord next to a Camry SE and there’s just not much to separate them. The Camry got sharper, the Accord a bit less so, and both feel much cheaper than they did before. The fundamentals of durability and utility are still there, but in far less impressive wrappers.

  • avatar

    We just need a numbers list, like with that Accord QOTD. Best to worst:

    3
    2
    4
    1
    5
    8
    6
    7

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I generally agree with this order. Unsure about 8. In a world of tiny turbos and CVTs, the powertrains could move it up the list for me. Paint and interior build quality on par with the Passat would help, but the hubbub is mixed on that so far.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I personally would put 7 ahead of 6, solved the oil burning issue of the early 2010+ 2.5Ls, interior quality started some kind of turn around in 2012 and really moved in the right direction for ’15, the Hybrids gained MPG. Simply by looks I guess I prefer the 6th gens to pre-restyle 7th “grounded to the ground” variants, but prefer post restyle 7th to both (yes in spite of DLO fail).

      2 and 4 being up there is a toss up to me, the 4th is unequivocally a better car in terms of comfort and performance, and is MUCH more rust resistant. But gen 2 is more appealing in a very-80s-japanese way, they remind me of the first wave of JDM imports I saw in Siberia as a kid so the nostalgia factor is strong. Also they had cool fulltime AWD and wagon variants in gen 2. Japan I’m certain had AWD variants of gen 4 (as well as the Gracia wagons I mentioned) but I’m looking strictly at the US market. Same argument applies to gen 1: gen 5 is obviously the “better” car in an objective sense, but the styling and and visceral appeal of the 1st gen can’t be denied.

      I started to give gen 5 more credit after seeing a ton of them start to show up in Siberia, mostly LHD imports from Western Europe. We hired a family friend with one to drive us from Novosibirsk to my mom’s side of the family near Biysk and I got to spend 5 hours in the back of this ’04 Camry with the 2.4L and automatic, and a zillion miles on it (odometer turned back multiple times, many people never even pay attention to them as fraud is so prevalent). Engine had been rebuilt, transmission had been rebuilt, suspension had probably gone through 7 or more sets of struts. This isn’t an insult to the build quality of the car, that’s just how hard Siberian roads and climatic condition are on cars. Anyways it was a really pleasant and comfortable place to spend 5 hours, the car did a very impressive job of isolating us from the worst potholes, excellent noise insulation as well. The trunk easily fit all of our luggage and a spare tire for the car (usual spare location occupied by LPG conversion).

  • avatar
    Speed3

    The 4th generation 97-01 has actually aged well in IMO. Whenever I see one in good condition I think how well they look now (you don’t see many domestics anymore from these model years btw.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree, I think they’re the best looking of the litter. And I still see them everywhere, if Toyota de-contented to cut costs they did it right, because damn those things were built well. Most of the ones I see look like they just rolled off the lot, Toyota was using some really good paint back then.

    • 0 avatar
      Emaline22

      I agree, my 01 v6 is looking pretty good compared to many domestics from the same year(s). It is my first car, with 124k the only interior piece that has broken is the little plastic mirror cover hinge (which was my own fault). The paint has held up remarkably well, but this is no surprise; I also own a 1980 4dr Corolla with beautiful brown paint that still has the metallic shine. It may not be fast by today’s standards, but it’s quick for getting around town. I love it and hope to run it to 300k.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Oh, this article is red meat for the Camcord haters. Let the flames flow.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm which Maytag washing machine is the greatest Maytag Washing Machine of all time… OF ALL TIME.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I got out of selling Toyotas just as the 3rd gen was hitting the stores. It was a big step up in price, but they were *very* nice cars.

    My choice is the 3rd gen.

  • avatar
    threeer

    After owning a 1981 Toyota Corolla for 10 years (plus), my parents moved to a 1993 Camry. Yes, in that lovely green with tan cloth interior. Simply put, it was probably the best car my parents ever owned. Stupid-reliable and rock-solid. Never in ten years of ownership did it strand my parents (and later, just my mother after my father passed at an all-too-young age). My mother runs 10 year cycles for cars, so when the 10-year mark came up, she went to a fully-loaded 2003 Corolla (leather AND sunroof!). But she still talks about missing the Camry, and she is not what I’d call a car person. That generation of Camry earned it’s reputation honestly.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    4th gen 97-01 is my favorite; it has the cleanest lines.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Ethics are not situational—-but cars are.

    In 1992, even a Toyota-hater had to accept that the Camry felt much richer than it cost.

    Subjectively and objectively, if you wanted a moderately priced, comfortable, efficient sedan, this was it!

    As a Toyota exec said, “we gave away too much”

    Never again. And since then, even after recovering from the 1997 cheapening, Camry has NOT been so superior, or even superior to, its competitors, even if as it has improved in absolute terms.

    The competition has closed the gap, and frequently bested the Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I had a guy on Jalopnik argue with me until he was blue in the face (as I imagined it) that a Cutlass Ciera and/or a Lumina at the time was a better car :/

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        A Lumina/Ciera? Really? They’re not bad cars but they’re nothing I’d put on a pedestal.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah I’m typically the first to jump to the defense of A-bodies as solid beaters and generally kind of cozy nostalgic conveyances, but a 3rd gen Camry they are not in any metric regarding performance or quality (okay, an A body with a 3.1/3.3 might actually get pretty good highway MPG).

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        The second generation Camry made the Cutlass Ciera seem positively ancient and ridiculous. Up against the 3rd gen it may as well have been a Chevy Citation.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Definitely the third version. Amazing build quality.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The early Camry pictured in the upper left. That exact car serves as my wife’s rural cousin’s pool heater to this day after the transmission bit the dust and body rotted away.

  • avatar
    AndyYS

    My 2001 Camry LE was a disappointment. It had a soft ride but considerable wind noise, uncomfortable seats, a poor radio and a rear window defroster that never worked right. It’s taken me until now to consider another Toyota (the 2018 Camry) but I’m not committed to it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My mother had a Camry of that generation and the defrost performance in general (vents or electrical) was very poor. Otherwise, it ate a couple alternators and a steering rack, all of which were rather expensive with few alternatives at the time.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    What’s my favorite Camry?

    The one without a dent in the back bumper.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    1995 Camry sedan. The 1996 version was just a smidge decontented from the previous year. The 1995 Camry sedan is one of the best 4-door cars every built.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    The Camry always was the second-fiddle Japanese midsize car until 1992. While the 1987-91 generation were built to last through a nuclear winter, I distinctly remember them being considered much less-desirable than the Accord and Maxima (the only other V6 Japanese FWD midsizer at the time), both of which looked and drove far more premium than the workaday Camry. It is so obvious that the third-generation Camry was an amalgamation of the 1989 Accord and 1989 Maxima, built with superior Toyota quality and a deliberate focus on comfort that American buyers wanted.

    My first car in 2002 was my parents’ hand-me-down 1993 Camry V6. I remember helping them to buy the car back in 1992, and my dad was sold when he saw an ES300 commercial on TV and recognized the 3VZ-FE as the same engine in the Camry. It gave us 246,000 miles and ran fine until my idiot cousin (who I now disowned for other reasons) got it towed away but had the transmission kickdown problem at the time.

    I have high hopes for the 2018 and I love the way it looks with the big windows and stance that reminds me of the fourth-generation Accord. However with the automotive media, I won’t trust anything they say until I drive it for myself. Hell, by their standards I was a genius for buying a Focus 5MT hatchback in 2014, and now I’m an idiot for buying one. I think the third-generation Camry is the best, but I hope the 2018 proves me wrong.

  • avatar
    reeiiggn

    Have owned a 91, 96 and 98. The 98 was easily my fave of three excellent cars. Black with black tint, it still looked respectable today. Bought it for $1500, never spent a dime on it other than tires, and never a single issue. Leather interior, sunroof, everything worked. It was slow, but the v6 sounded like a banshee when you got the revs up and it was at least fun if not fast. Wish I had just kept it until it died. Instead I sold it to get my wife an SUV.

  • avatar

    3rd gen. “Fat engineering” showed that Toyota could build a better Buick than GM. I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to attribute much of Toyota’s success today in North America to the early ’90s Camry.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I know this doesn’t answer the question, but IMO the fifth-gen has aged the worst out of any generation – BY FAR. It actually doesn’t look too bad in the red SE version in the photo up top, but it seems like 99% of fifth-gens sold were beige (gold?) on beige with wheelcovers. The back end was visually HUGE – so tall, with those huge oversized tail lamps and big bumpers that originated the “Camry dent.” Today they just look so sad, fat, and dowdy. Even contemporary Buick Centuries are more cheerful.

    Regarding the 7th gen, so was the original 7th gen the angular one with the mismatched “slash” tail lights? And then the version pictured was the refresh? If so that was a very heavy refresh. Was it an “emergency” one?

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      7th yes started as the “grounded to the ground” sharp cuts/creases 2012MY, and was refreshed for the 2015 MY with more softened/rounded styling, major “DLO fail” pseudo trim on the C pillar, and the best part: a substantially improved center stack and dash. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was infact an emergency refresh, I specifically find the interior and dash elements of my wife’s ’12 SE to be of appalling quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Sharp99

      The 5th generation went to Taurus and puffy looking, the 4th and 6th gens were more Camry looking.

  • avatar
    Sharp99

    I’ve had a 3rd, 4th gens, both 4 bangers, the 4th Gen (2001) is the one I still have, and my favorite. I don’t get the obsession with the 3rd Gen, while an excellent car, the 4th Gen improved on it in every way as far as I’ve ever seen. The 4th Gen is quieter, better a/c (amazingly still ice cold today), better standard features (power seat, keyless entry, auto and daytime running lights.
    I still see 4th generation Camry’s beat to hell in 100 degree weather with all its windows up. Of course the 4th Gen was cheaper to manufacture, that’s a good thing. (Another argument the 3rd Gen is supposedly better).I feel Toyota learned a lot about NVH for the 4th Gen, the car is still dead quiet all theses years later. IMHO the 4.5 Gen has aged the best, overall I think the 4th Gen is still the most handsome Camry to date, very clean and crisp design.

  • avatar
    Sharp99

    The only thing I remember missing from my 4th Gen that the 3rd had (both LE} was door flood lights. But it gained distributor-less ignition, keyless entry, abs, auto+daytime running lamps, 15″ vs 14″ wheels, I had my 3rd Gen along with my 4th for about a year, the 4th definitely felt more modern. Probably because of the aforementioned equipment.

  • avatar
    vwgolf420

    I like 2,3, and 7.

  • avatar
    96redse5sp

    In 1996, a dealership in Edison, NJ advertised a new Camry for only $14,999. I showed up and the advertised car was a stripped 4 banger, 2 door coupe with a manual transmission. They assured me that this wasn’t something I’d be interested in and for only a couple thousand more, they could get me into something really nice. The only reason they had this car on the lot was to advertise the low price and pull a bait and switch. They really did not want to sell it to me, but it was exactly what I was liking for. Great car. Sporty (looking) at a great price.

    I wish TTAC afforded me the chance to post a picture of how sporty looking those coupes could be…

  • avatar
    Sharp99

    4th gen, especially 2000 2001. Improved on everything from the 3rd gen plus the later 4th gen 00-01 got a lot of standard equipment in its last 2 year’s.

  • avatar
    Driver7

    gtemnykh – At 1:30 p.m. – Re: Arguing Camry vs. Lumina – those two cars exist in different universes.
    The Camry is a quality benchmark for midsize cars. A Lumina is Yet Another Goood Reason Customers Hated Chevrolet and G.M.
    A Lumina rental was *the* most depressing new/semi-new automotive experience I’ve ever had.
    gtemnykh has aptly summarized the mechanical virtues of the Camry, and the relative merits of different generations.
    Stylistically, the 2002-2006 Camry is the best-looking of the bunch.

    • 0 avatar
      Sharp99

      I can’t believe the lumina was even mentioned, the only thing the lumina did extremely well was drive millions more people to Toyota’s awaiting arms, my parents were one of them, I think by the time the lumina came to market, GM had given up on a Taurus/Camry/Accord market, and boy did it show.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    The first time I saw the 92-96 generation up close, it really did seem like a European luxury car in terms of fit, finish, and paint quality. Compared to the competition like a Taurus, Lumina, or Intrepid it’s even starker.

    The Accords of that era were also really high quality, but just seemed a lot smaller.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    So far, I would have to say the 4th Camry has been the best. To me, it’s the most American-looking Japanese car ever designed, and I still see these things all over the road. That says something.

    I would have to say, with apologies to Geozinger, that those 1997-2001 Camrys are now the “Cockroaches of the Road”©.

    It was the 1999 Camry that we should have bought, but when no one at the Cincinnati auto mall dealership even came over to speak to us, we decided to visit the Dodge dealer instead and bought a 1999 Stratus right off the showroom floor for at least $6.000.00 less. I really believe that if we had bought the Camry, we’d still be driving it today! To my eyes, it’s the most attractive generation until now.

    The 6th generation is by far, the ugliest, blandest, most miserable Camry ever, IMHO.

    I actually like the 2018 edition, at least in photos, as I haven’t seen one in the metal, yet.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      I agree, the 4th generation is what made the Taurus irrelevant. The 1997-1999 model years were in such high demand, the 1-2 year old off lease ones were selling for near new prices at the time. I remember at the time people were paying OVER MSRP just to have one, and the dealer couldn’t keep them in stock. The design aged very well and they don’t looked dated the way a 3rd gen looks. We actually bought an off lease one in 2001 and still have it 197k later on original everything. You should have gotten that ’99 :D

      One thing the 5th gen fixed though, is the absurdly low floor pan high. My 4th gen scrapes on every. little. bump. unless I crawl over them. But the build quality(both fit and material) tanked so far on the 5th generation ones, it’s pretty sad.

  • avatar
    bd2

    ’92-’96 as it was the closest one to Lexus build quality and materials.

    That cost $$ – which is why Toyota cheapened the Camry in following generations.


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