When Toyota redesigned the current Camry midsize sedan for the 2002 model year, the TV commercials took an oooooh, aaaaaah, styling-that-moves-you approach. After a while they stopped that. It turned out U.S. consumers weren't particularly moved by the styling. It was different, yes, but still conservative — some would say bland, boring.
This didn't stop the Camry from being the best-selling car in the country for the intervening years. But there's tough competition in the field, and it's now clear that bold styling sells. Bland may now be riskier than taking a chance on a strong design statement. Finally, Toyota has heard the call.
The 2007 models hit dealerships in March 2006 equipped with upgraded drivetrains and other refinements. Roughly three months later, hybrid versions built right here in the U.S. hit the streets. The trim levels, in ascending value, are CE, LE, the sporty SE and the premium XLE.
Unfortunately, the Camry Hybrid follows the current formula: It's a hybrid equivalent of the Camry's top, XLE, trim level. So first you have to pony up the cash for the most expensive trim, then pay whatever premium is on top of that for the hybrid aspect. Someday hybrid technology will be a drivetrain option on any trim level, but not until costs come down dramatically.
The Camry redesign isn't a complete, bumper-to-bumper reengineering job, but it's substantial. The wheelbase has gained about two inches, though Toyota says the turning diameter has decreased to 36.1 feet from 36.7 feet (V-6 models). The car's nose is blunter and sportier, and it trades the 2006 model's organic shapes for more sculpted, angular forms. The tail recalls the Avalon full-size sedan, and the fenders have shoulders that give the trunk lid a hump — a style introduced on recent BMWs but stolen and executed better by other manufacturers, including Lexus on the GS 300/430 sedan.
Standard wheels now measure 16 rather than 15 inches, and the Camry SE has 17-inch aluminum wheels and summer performance tires (all-season tires are an option). It also has an exclusive black honeycomb grille, ground effects and tinted headlight lenses.
Interior changes for the 2007 model include close to half an inch more backseat legroom. In the top, XLE, trim level, the backrests recline 8 degrees farther, but they don't fold to extend cargo space into the cabin. Likewise, the Camry SE's seats don't fold due to a V-shaped brace intended to stiffen the car's structure, improving handling. The Camry Hybrid has a small, off-center pass-thru, but that's more than the Honda Accord Hybrid has. The CE and LE trims have split, folding backseats.
New for 2007, Toyota has added a telescoping function to the Camry's tilt steering wheel. New standard upholstery fabric is treated by the Fraichir process, which Toyota describes as "coated with a naturally occurring component called Sericin, which is extracted from silkworm cocoons and refined. This substance is used because it contains a natural moisturizing component." If there is a way to market this feature without making it seem gross, Toyota clearly hasn't found it.
The SE trim level gets its own sport-trimmed interior in darker colors, amber gauges and a three-spoke steering wheel.
Another development in the XLE and Camry Hybrid is a ventilation system that uses "Plasmacluster ionizer technology to help reduce airborne mold spores, microbes, fungi, odors, germs and bacteria inside the passenger cabin." Perhaps it can do something about that Sericin stuff.
Under the Hood
The base, four-cylinder engine is the same size at 2.4 liters, but Toyota says it is significantly improved. It generates 158 horsepower and 161 pounds-feet of torque. With it, a five-speed-manual transmission is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. The optional 3.5-liter V-6, already in service in the Avalon, is an upsized version of the current Camry's 3.3-liter. It produces 268 hp and 248 pounds-feet of torque. Paired with a new six-speed-automatic transmission, it's claimed to provide a 40 percent increase in acceleration over the 2006 Camry V6. The transmission can be shifted manually, and it has a gear train with a Ravigneaux-type compound planetary gear for reduced size, weight and friction. (We don't know what that means, but how could a car with this be boring?)
The Camry Hybrid's version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive is similar to that of the Prius in that it uses a four-cylinder, not a V-6, along with an electric motor. Here the system generates a combined 187 hp. Toyota says this allows the car to accelerate to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds.
EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for the cars are 24/34 mpg (city/highway) for the four-cylinder manual, 24/33 for the four-cylinder automatic, 22/31 for the V-6 and 40/38 for the hybrid.
The hybrid comes with an additional eight-year/100,000-mile warranty that covers all hybrid components, including the high-voltage battery.
Suspension changes abound, especially in the SE, which in the past has been firmer than the other trims in terms of ride quality, but has not been much of a performer. Now it has firmer springs, shock absorbers, stabilizer bars and bushings to improve handling and limit body roll. The other trim levels also boast improved suspension components.
Safety features are plentiful. All trim levels have four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. Airbags include dual-stage frontal bags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, side curtain-type airbags and a driver's knee airbag, the latter intended to keep the occupant from sliding down and forward (submarining) in a collision. The seats are designed to mitigate whiplash injuries. Traction control and an electronic stability system are a single option available on any trim level.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||April 4, 2006|
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||February 23, 2006|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||February 17, 2007|
|Mark Glover||The Sacramento Bee||September 8, 2006|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||July 23, 2006|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||June 28, 2006|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||June 8, 2006|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||April 16, 2006|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||March 29, 2006|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||February 4, 2006|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||February 1, 2006|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||February 1, 2006|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||January 29, 2006|
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