QOTD: Camry, Camry, on the Wall, Which Is the Greatest Toyota Camry of Them All?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
qotd camry camry on the wall which is the greatest toyota camry of them all

The 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?

Let’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?

The 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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  • Bd2 Bd2 on Sep 08, 2017

    ’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.

  • Biff Stallion Biff Stallion on Mar 03, 2019

    THIS is what QUALITY really is... I have a Generation 4 (2001) with 92,000 miles on it. I had to change the struts because one of the struts broke. That is it. Original A/C, power steering, radiator, everything. Still running beautiful. NEVER waxed NEVER garaged. I drove it easily 300 miles from Boston to Troy, NY never worrying about anything. Try getting this quality out of modern cars or older american cars.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.