Toyota fully redesigned its Camry for the 2002 model year, so the midsize front-wheel-drive sedan sees only a handful of revisions for 2003. Fog lamps have been added to the XLE version, and all models equipped with automatic transmissions can have optional power-adjustable pedals.
In its fifth-generation form, the Camry is quieter and larger inside, and it sits on a wheelbase thats 2 inches longer than before. The Japanese automaker hopes to regain its title of owning the top-selling passenger car, which was recently lost to Honda and its Accord.
Camry models include the standard LE, the upscale XLE and a sporty SE with different suspension tuning and 16-inch sport tires. A navigation system is offered as an optional feature. Most Camry models sold in the United States have been manufactured at Toyotas Georgetown, Ky., plant.
Toyota asserts that the current-generation Camry has crisper, bolder, more upscale styling than its predecessor even though its appearance has not changed dramatically. With a 107.1-inch wheelbase and measuring 189.2 inches long overall, the Camry is about the same size as the Honda Accord; but the Accord has been redesigned for the 2003 model year. The sporty SE sedan features fog lamps, a rear spoiler and a black grille with chrome trim.
The Accord comes as a coupe and a sedan, but the Camry is offered in four-door form only. Toyotas Camry Solara coupe and convertible have different styling than the regular Camry and are treated as separate models.
Interior space in the Camry is ample for four adults and acceptable for five, and the drivers seat has enough fore/aft travel to accommodate tall and short people. Standard 60/40-split rear seatbacks supplement the load volume of the trunk, which holds 16.7 cubic feet of cargo.
Additional equipment on the XLE model includes power front seats, heated mirrors, automatic climate control, an engine immobilizer/alarm, keyless entry and a rear sunshade. The sportier SE sedan gets unique sport fabric upholstery, brushed chrome interior trim, a leather-wrapped gearshift lever and sport gauges.
Under the Hood
Toyotas 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 157 horsepower and teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The 192-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 power plant comes with the automatic gearbox only.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats and curtain-type airbags are standard in the XLE. The front airbags deploy in three stages, which depends on crash conditions. Antilock brakes are standard on the XLE and on V-6-equipped models, and they are available as an option on the four-cylinder LE and SE sedans.
If the Camry has been criticized for anything in the past, its been bland styling. Most Camry consumers arent seeking flashy looks but rather Toyotas reputation for reliability, high quality and excellent resale value in its models.
All of the desirable Camry attributes are here; if anything, they are better than ever. Owners still get a pleasantly comfortable ride, ample interior space, blissful quietness and reasonably energetic performance. Acceleration reaches well past the acceptable mark with the four-cylinder engine, which is just about as quiet as the V-6.
Only a little penalty in ride comfort is evident in the sporty SE, which promises a little tauter handling than other Camry models; but the differences are less than dramatic. A manual-transmission Camry performs admirably, and its lever clicks crisply through the gears without a care.