Toyota totally redesigned its midsize, mainstream, front-wheel-drive Camry sedan for the 2002 model year, hoping the fifth-generation Camry would broaden the automaker's image. Other than a newly optional navigation system for the SE V6 model, little has changed for the 2006 model year.
For 2005, four-cylinder-powered models could be equipped with a five-speed-automatic transmission as an alternative to the five-speed manual. All 2005 models received standard antilock brakes, and the front and rear styling was freshened. The Camry model line includes the Standard, LE, upscale XLE and sporty SE, which has different suspension tuning.
Built on a 107.1-inch wheelbase and measuring 189.2 inches long overall, the Camry is about the same size as the Honda Accord. The sporty SE sedan features fog lamps and a black grille with chrome trim.
Even though Honda offers its Accord in both coupe and sedan forms, the Camry is only available as a four-door. Toyota's Camry Solara coupe and convertible, which were redesigned for 2004, have different styling and are listed separately in the cars.com Research section. Standard and LE sedans have 15-inch tires, but upper models are fitted with 16- or 17-inch rubber.
Interior space is ample for four adults and acceptable for five. The driver's seat has enough fore-and-aft travel to accommodate tall and short people. Standard 60/40-split, folding rear seatbacks supplement the load volume of the trunk, which holds 16.7 cubic feet of cargo.
Additional equipment on the XLE includes power front seats, heated mirrors, automatic climate control and a six-CD changer. Leather-trimmed seats are installed in the XLE V6. The sportier SE sedan gets unique sport fabric upholstery, a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel and gearshift lever, and amber gauges.
The Camry can be fitted with one of three engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 3.0-liter V-6 or a 3.3-liter V-6. The 3.3-liter V-6 is available only in the SE. Using new testing standards developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers for 2006 models, the four-cylinder is rated at 154 horsepower, the 3.0-liter V-6 produces 190 hp, and the 3.3-liter V-6 makes 210 hp. A 145-hp version of the four-cylinder meets PZEV requirements. The four-cylinder teams with a five-speed-manual or five-speed-automatic transmission, but V-6s are available only with the five-speed automatic.
Antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain-type airbags are optional. The driver's front airbag has three-stage deployment. Toyota's Vehicle Stability Control electronic stability system is optional.
If the Camry has been criticized for anything, it's bland styling. Most Camry customers aren't seeking flashy looks, but rather Toyota's reputation for reliability, high quality and excellent resale value.
All the desirable Camry attributes are here. Owners get a 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 about as quiet as models powered by a V-6.
Only a little penalty in ride comfort is evident in the sporty SE, which promises somewhat tauter handling than other Camry models. The manual transmission performs admirably, and its lever clicks crisply through the gears.