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

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

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.

Timothy Cain
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  • 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.

  • Timothy Timothy on Jan 13, 2024

    The pre-facelift 3rd gen SE sedan. 3VZ-FE V6, 5-speed manual, special seats and trim, special SE-only wheels(standard on the JDM Scepter), stiffer suspension, and available with all of the XLE luxuries like leather, CD player with premium sound, power moonroof, keyless entry with alarm. All of this in 1992 and 1993.(the SE carried over with the facelift in 94 but with the 1MZ-FE V6 and only with the automatic.)They are incredibly rare. I've owned 3 of them. Black, white, burgundy. I'd trade my '98 Maxima GXE 5-speed in a second if I find another.

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
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