Toyota Camry LE Review
Our inquiry starts with the sheetmetal. The automobile that once defined mid-market inoffensiveness now pays lip service to high priced sports sedan standards– like Kenny G dorking-up a John Coltrane classic. The Camry’s new schnoz says Mazda 6- albeit an older, overweight version with multiple neoplastic lesions. The Camry’s back end is pure BMW-Bangle– though Chris and Co. wisely treated their over-sized taillights to high dose design-studio chemotherapy, and Toyota didn’t. On the positive side, 16" rims hide the Camry's added height, and its cab-forward stance speeds up the biggie-sized silhouette.
All is not lost; the Camry’s interior comes with the model’s hallmark (velvet-flocked) coin tray and a trick dashboard storage binnacle. The cargo hole offers an MP3 connection and a false wall to hide the associated wiring while in play. The Camry’s wheel-mounted buttonology is welcome, but gives mixed messages. The left side implies "you're stupid" (with four words to describe a single button) while the right proclaims "you're cheap" (with a non-functional plastic plug). The trunk is a marvel of packaging efficiency; complete with built-in bottle holder, easy close deck lid, embroidered trunk mat and convenient seat release pull knobs.
While this whip has no road-hugging flava, the ride is supa-smooth. Potholes, speed bumps and rough pavement are no match for this softly sprung baby-Lexus. The power stats seem fairly dire: 158 horses @ 6000 rpm and 161 ft.-lbs. @ 4000rpm. But thanks to its VVT-I engineering and crisp, wide-ratio five-speed automatic, the Camry’s standard 2.4-liter four-pot serves-up surprising amounts of grunt throughout the powerband, with minimal noise and thrash. A leggy top gear makes highway cruising a thoroughly effortless exercise. Even without considering the Camry’s admirable fuel economy, its power train is more than merely adequate for all but the [displaced] performance junky.
Given the current mechanical problems with the Avalon, massive worldwide recalls and our tester's quality shortcomings, the question must be raised: is Toyota cutting too many corners? For over a decade the Camry LE consistently provided the American consumer the four-wheeled equivalent of the FDIC. Now that a Ford Fusion SE offers tighter panel gaps, unique style, strong V6 power and uber accident-avoidance adhesion for the same 24-large; now that Hyundai’s in the hunt, Toyota's breadwinner may no longer have a "lock" on the high quality, high value sedan market.
[Toyota provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance, taxes and a tank of gas.]
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