FOR TOO LONG, "family car" has been a code for automotive celibacy.Indeed, were it left up to the so-called family car, there might not beany families at all.

The rolling rectangles often included in the family-car fleetfrequently were unexciting vehicles big enough to haul five or sixpeople and their belongings. You did not love these cars. You held on tothem for the children.

And what did the children do? As soon as they could scrape up a fewbucks for wheels of their own, they went out and bought themselves somefun! Witness the fast-paced sales of machines like the Honda CRX and theFord Escort GT.

But that's been part of the rub: The "fun cars" often were too smallto be practical, and the "family cars" often were too big or toopractical to be fun.

Enter the 1987 Toyota Camry Deluxe sedan, a family car surely enough.But this one will put a twinkle in your eye and a beat in your heart. Ithas rhythm, grace and beauty. You hold onto this car because you love it -- passionately.

As for the children, they're going to beg for the keys to this one.Don't give in. If they ever get their hands on your Camry, it'll be agesbefore you ever see it again.

Complaints: The test Camry's radio is awful. It is an electronicallytuned AM/FM stereo, sans cassette, with a confusing combination ofpush-pull-dial volume and speaker controls. FM stereo reception in thismid-level, four-speaker, Toyota-made sound system is prone to staticinterference, even with the manual antenna fully drawn. 'Tis a bummer inthis hummer.

And this: Who forgot to install the tachometer, the gizmo thatmonitors engine revolutions per minute? The test Camry is equipped witha five-speed manual gearbox. It needs a tach. It's not some sillyoption, Toyota.

Praise: The Camry was so much fun, I almost resented giving it up.That manual gearbox made for short, sure, precise shifting, enhanced bya user-friendly clutch. The car itself feels solid. No tinny stuff here.Yet the Camry, at 2,734 pounds, is no overweight clunker.

What's here is well-proportioned. The cabin seats five comfortably.Trunk capacity is 15.4 cubic feet, quite adequate, and about a10-percent improvement over trunk space in previous Camry models.

The cabin is well done in cloth and vinyl. This is a good-feelingcar.

Acceleration and handling: The 1987 Camry is no racer, but it's a farcry from the ho-hum performance of previous Camry models. The test caris powered by a two-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder gasoline engine thatgives you the equivalent of six-cylinder boost, 115 horsepower at 5,200rpms.

The suspension is a combination of MacPherson struts andgas-pressurized shock absorbers, front and rear, augmented by a frontstabilizer bar and parallel lower bars in the rear. Good balance andturning. You can really drive this one.

Head-turning quotient: A welcome respite from the boxy look. Smooth,rounded, sensuous exterior lines.

Mileage: About 26 to the gallon (15.9-gallon tank), combinedcity-highway, running with mixed loads (one to five occupants) and withclimate-control system operating most of the time.

Price as tested: $12,317, with less than $800 in options. Includes$325 destination charge in the mid-Atlantic region, which has thehighest Toyota destination charges in the nation, according to recordscompiled by California-based Automotive Invoice Service.