Toyota Camry LE Review

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
Despite Toyota’s “when does a car become more than a car” zenvertising, Camry folk treat their rides like a household appliance: use, admire occasionally, forget. For the 2007 model year, America's favorite four-wheeled conveyance has become… a stylish appliance. That said, the new Toyota Camry is no Sub-Zero ‘fridge or Dyson upright. For all its extensive improvements, the model has sacrificed much of its traditional depth of character on the altar of style and profit. In fact, the new Camry raises an important question: has the perennial mid-size sales champ finally let down its guard?

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.

The grandiosity continues within. The Camry’s once frumpy interior now sports a spizzarkle of curves, two-tone plastics, fake aluminum and premium cloth trimmings. (Quasi-brougham velour front seats mock Recaro's finest.) At first sight, the hard plastics seem tucked away. Look a little closer, feel around a bit, and the quality subsides. The passenger side dash and window switchgear flaunt inconsistent, Hyundai Excel-ish gaps. The dash-to-console trim needs a good automotive orthodontist. The petro-chemicals’ unyielding character speaks of factories even GM would fear to frequent. Rounding out the Camry LE’s shit list: chintzy door handles attached to tin-can portals that shut with all the reassurance of an Enron 401k.

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.

A quick drive confirms the Camry as a complete killjoy. Although Toyota’s engineers have stiffened the chassis and placed MacPherson struts and gas shocks all ‘round, push the Camry LE into a corner and it shoves back. Excessive body roll, copious understeer and numb steering give the model all the dynamic appeal of a Stannah Chair Lift. Grippy V-rated rubber notwithstanding, lose adhesion and there's no turning back (or forth). If you like a lick of speed, it’s best to order the optional stability control; the Camry LE is only an emergency maneuver away from sudden impact.

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.

If the Camry’s moves fail to entertain, the jukebox-themed stereo illumination (Miami Vice turquoise) gets the party started. Drag racing dB freaks take note: the JBL Audio system pounds out 40-acres of bass, with enough mids and highs to impress all but an IASCA fiend. The JBL-sourced goodness illuminates the Camry's single largest flaw. While the woofers put out like a drug-hazed orgy, they vibrate the rear package tray with gay abandon. But that's not all folks. On uneven pavement, our test whip produced a deep-seated dash squeak only remedied by the stereo's extra wattage. Keep in mind, this hallmark of Toyota quality had all of 3000 miles on its odometer.

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.]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Chuck D Chuck D on Jan 11, 2007

    Drove Saabs and Volvos long before they became yuppy badges. Autocrossed them too. Now have three Camrys one with 15x7 Borbets, strut tower bar, kraut shocks, and a brake upgrade.. sends BMW boys back to dealerman for tuneups. OK the Gen 4 V6 IS a rare 5 speed, but it is fast, trouble free and flys under the radar. Oil gel??? Toyota has been fixing cars with 25,000 miles on them and the FACTORY installed oil filter, usnally the minivan. You know the drill, it is "unmanly" to even CHECK the oil in the wife's car. It has often been said by people who know as opposed to those who bloviate that the Gen 3 Camry was about as well built as one could ask for back then. We have one and I agree.

  • Romanjetfighter Romanjetfighter on May 25, 2008

    I just got a 2009 Camry LE yesterday. I bought it without test-driving it or even looking inside of it because I was just too excited to get my first car (I passed my driving test less than 24 hours before) and it's a Camry so you can't go wrong, right? -The steering wheel is a bit too skinny and feels hard, compared to my mom's 1996 Camry. -The steering feel is non-existant and it's super light. Upside - easy to maneuver. -The seats fabric is nice and grippy. -The turn stalk/window controls don't move with buttery consistancy. -The doors, imho, DO thunk with reassurance, and it doesn't feel cheap. Not as solid and vaulty like my friend's 2007 C230, but that's 10k more. -Misaligned plastic dash. -I like the combination of projector and reflective lamps in the headlights. -Turn radius is nice. Overall, I think it's a good car, but they could've done a better job. Thank god for good resale value! I'm unloading this fucker once I graduate college! Don't understand why LE is 1k more for just keyless entry and one power seat, though.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.