2004 Toyota Camry

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2006 Toyota Camry

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 6

Bottom Line:

A zero-personality car for those just interested in a reliable, comfortable sedan.
Pros:
  • Reliable
  • Refined
  • Good resale value
Cons:
  • Rather imprecise steering
  • Overly soft suspension
  • Mushy brake pedal

The midsize Toyota Camry sedan is the top-selling car in America but is aimed at dispassionate motorists who just want a reliable, refined sedan. A redesigned Camry arrives in 2006 as an early 2007 model, but not before many 2006 Camrys are likely to be sold.

The 2006 Camry reminds me of a 1980s midrange General Motors sedan, but without Toyota's refinement. Virtually all trim levels of this Toyota have rather imprecise steering, a soft suspension that provides a smooth ride but mediocre handling and a mushy brake pedal. (The Toyota Solara coupe and convertible, derived from the Camry sedan, aren't entertaining to drive, either.)

"With the (2006) Camry sedan, Toyota may have perfected the family car," Toyota says. Let's hope not. Cars such as the new, rival Ford Fusion sedan are as practical and more fun to drive.

The 2006 Camry is virtually unchanged from the 2005 model because of the upcoming, redesigned Camry. The 2005 version outsold any car from GM, Ford or DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler unit

Sporty Try
At least one Camry sedan—the SE—is a little sporty. It lists at $24,025 when equipped with a 210-horsepower V6, which is the Camry's most powerful engine. The SE has revised steering and a "sport" suspension. Cosmetic changes include a blackout grille, and there's a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The SE also has wider tires on 17-inch alloy wheels for superior handling. The Standard and LE trim levels have rather narrow 15-inch wheels, while the SE 4-cylinder version and top-line Camry XLE have 16-inch wheels. The XLE has upscale items such as leather upholstery, besides a power sunroof.

Sporty cars should be offered with a manual gearbox, but the SE V6 comes only with a 5-speed automatic transmission. That's because all Camry V6s are hooked to that automatic. Those wanting a Camry with the car's 5-speed manual gearbox must order a 2.4-liter, 154-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, which provides acceleration best described as "adequate."

Costly V6 Versions
The 4-cylinder engine seems out of place in the SE, but an SE with that engine does cost less than with the 210-horsepower V6. The SE 4-cylinder version is priced at $20,375 with the manual and at $21,205 with the automatic.

My test Camry LE had Toyota's smooth 3.0-liter 190-horsepower V6. It provided lively performance (0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds), but doesn't quite match the car's 210-horsepower V6.

In any case, the most popular Camry is the midrange LE with the 4-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, not a very sexy combination.

Camry list prices range from $18,445 to $25,805, and 4-cylinder Camrys are less expensive than V6 versions. The lowest-cost Camry V6 is the LE, priced at $22,780.

Camry V6 versions always have cost appreciably more than 4-cylinder versions, which is partly why most Camry buyers opt for four cylinders.

Highest Fuel Economy
Of course, the 4-cylinder delivers the highest EPA-estimated fuel economy: 24 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway with the manual transmission and 24 and 34 with the responsive automatic.

The 190-horsepower V6 provides 20 and 28, while figures for the 210-horsepower V6 are 21 and 29. All engines can use regular-grade fuel.

Fairly Well Equipped
There are a wide range of option packages, but even the entry Standard version of the Camry is fairly well equipped. It has such items as air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD player, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel and power mirrors, windows and door locks.

As for safety, one might think that Toyota would give all its family-oriented Camry versions standard front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags. After all, both types of airbags are standard on the Kia Rio compact economy car, which starts at $10,570.

Extra-Cost Airbags
However, those bags are a $650 option for all Camrys. A Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) anti-skid system also costs $650 for Camry SE and XLE versions. You can get the bags and VSC in a $2,300 option package. At least anti-lock brakes are standard for all Camrys.

The Camry is billed as a 5-seater, but only four adults fit comfortably because the middle of the back seat is too hard for comfort. However, wide door openings facilitate slipping in and out of the quiet, attractive interior.

Gauges can be quickly read, but sound system controls are placed too high on the dashboard, especially for those with short arms. Lower climate controls are more easily reached.

There are plenty of cockpit storage areas, including door pockets and large covered bins in the dashboard and console areas. Dual cupholders are handily placed in the front console and folding rear center armrest.

Large Trunk
The large trunk has a wide opening. All versions of the car have a split/folding rear seat, but seatbacks don't sit flat enough when flipped forward to enlarge the cargo area. Also, the pass-through area between the trunk and rear seat is only moderately large.

Best-seller status enhances sales of the Camry, which lacks emotion but has a legendary "run-forever" reputation and high resale value. That's more than enough for many midsize sedan buyers.

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BB04 - 9/20/2014 1:28:56 AM