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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2005
Vehicle Overview A second-generation Camry Solara coupe debuted as a 2004 model and featured more power from the available V-6 and a fresh look. All engineering and design work was done in the United States, and the Solara is manufactured in Kentucky.
Touted by general manager Don Esmond as "sportier, more powerful and more refined" than before, the redesigned midsize Solara initially came only as a two-door coupe. A convertible was added later. Styling of the current model is devoid of edges and curvier than the prior generation, which also included a convertible.
Solara coupes come in SE, SE Sport and SLE trim levels. Each version features a separate interior surface treatment. Convertibles come only with a 3.3-liter V-6 and a five-speed-automatic transmission, but a four-cylinder is offered in the coupe in addition to the V-6. Little has changed for the 2005 model year.
Exterior Designers of the second-generation model mixed convex and concave surfaces that flow through the length of the car. A pronounced "V" shape starts at the grille and separates elongated headlights. Fog lamps impart a wider, more aggressive look.
Rounded rear corners blend into an integrated bumper. Styling themes include an upswept belt line below the triangular rear quarter windows. Bumper height was reduced to impart a sportier stance, and body gaps were narrowed. Riding a 107.1-inch wheelbase, the Solara stretches to 192.5 inches long overall and stands 56.1 inches tall.
All Solaras have all-disc brakes. The SE Sport includes a sport-tuned suspension with stiffer springs, a six-piece body kit, 17-inch alloy wheels and aluminum-trimmed pedals. A rear spoiler is standard on convertibles.
Interior Up to five occupants fit inside the Solara coupe, but the convertible holds only four. The instrument panel has a center-mounted multifunction display. Trunk space totals 13.8 cubic feet in the coupe and 11.7 cubic feet in the convertible.
Each Solara model has a separate interior surface treatment. The SLE features woodgrain trim, while the SE has silver-metallic trim. A unique interior with black graphite-looking trim highlights the SE Sport. XM Satellite Radio and a DVD-based navigation system with a 6.5-inch viewing screen are optional.
With its top up, the convertible offers an additional 2 inches of rear headroom compared with the coupe. Convertibles have a magnetic front seat-belt guide to ease access into the rear seat.
Under the Hood Solara coupes can be equipped with either a 157-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.3-liter V-6 that produces 225 hp and 240 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-automatic transmission teams with the V-6, while four-cylinder models get either a five-speed-manual or four-speed-automatic transmission. Convertibles come only with V-6 power.
Safety Antilock brakes and seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard. Side curtain-type airbags are optional in coupes. Vehicle Stability Control is available for SLE models with V-6 power.
Driving Impressions In its first generation, the Solara coupe and convertible delivered an enjoyable road experience, coupled with ample performance and satisfactory handling talents. As expected, performance gets a boost with the extra output from Toyota's V-6. But overall, this quiet-running and rather refined Solara behaves roughly on a par with its predecessor.