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BRINGING HOME THE BREAD AND BUTTER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Oct 10, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

THE BEST COMBINATION By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

When you drive on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles, the mid-size sedan that you see the most is the Toyota Camry. It has been the nation's sales leader in the lucrative mid-size sedan market for the past seven years. After my seven-day test drive I now know why the Camry keeps selling so well. The reason is that Toyota has put it all together so well in a very nice package for the average American family to drive and enjoy - it offers the best combination of style, roominess, comfort, performance, safety features and reliability - at a fair price. I've driven the new mid-size sedans from GM, Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and in my opinion the Camry is the best in overall satisfaction. There are three Camry models to choose from. The XE is the base model coming standard with a 2.4 liter in-line four-cylinder engine making 160 hp and 151 lb. ft. of torque and is now mated to the V6 model Camry's five-speed electronically operated automatic transmission. The sporty SE model comes with a 3.3-liter V6 engine, making a robust 225 hp and 240 lb. ft. of torque. The SE suspension is sport-tuned with stiffer springs and re-valved gas-charged shocks riding on 17-inch wheels and tires.

I tested the SLE model that is powered by a 3.0 liter V6 engine making 210 hp and 225 lb. ft. of torque. The SLE model features more luxury items like power adjustable, leather seating with heated front buckets, automatic climate control, self-dimming rearview mirror with compass, and a power sunroof. In 2005, the styling upgrades included a redesigned grille and larger headlamp clusters behind clear lenses, giving it a bolder face. The SE and SLE come standard with fog lamps integrated into the lower bumper. Redesigned rear lamps now feature circular lighting elements. The Camry's tall profile means more headroom for up to four-adult passengers. The interior of the SLE comes with faux wood interior trim that gives the car a warmer feel, even though it is plastic. The cockpit is driver-friendly with all controls, buttons and switches within easy reach and fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving. The instrument panel is easy to see with a big 120 mph speedometer, 8,000 rpm tachometer and smaller fuel and engine coolant temperature gauges at each side. The standard four-spoke, tilting/telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel has buttons for the premium JBL AM-FM/CD stereo that comes with eight speakers. There are also buttons to bring up important vehicle information, i.e., instant/average mpg, outside temperature, with readouts placed on a long screen above the center stack. The SLE has plenty of storage space for items that you usually need each time you drive the car. You'll find storage in each door bottom, in the deep, pop-open storage bin below the center stack, in the dual cupholders, map pockets behind the front seatbacks, and in the deep console bin with a padded top. The locking glovebox keeps important papers extra secure. The rear 60/40-split rear seat comes with a pull-down armrest with dual cupholders, and when folders really enlarges the already excellent cargo carrying capacity. Behind the center console are air-ducts to bring cool or heated air to the back seats.

You will find these above mentioned features in all of the competing mid-size sedans, but the interior of the Toyota Camry just seems a bit higher in fit, finish, and quality of materials which are important factors when making your decision in which brand sedan to purchase. The other important decision making factor is the ride, and the Camry's ride is also a little better than the rest. The XLE easily glides down the freeway at speed, and takes out the harsh bumps when traveling over poorly paved surfaces. The car's 210 hp V6 has plenty of power for merging safely into fast moving freeway traffic and when passing slower moving vehicles. The engine and five-speed automatic transmission work quietly and smoothly adding to the quietness inside the cabin. I like the idea of Toyota installing a strut tower brace that stiffens the all-important front MacPherson strut independent suspension that includes coil springs, gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar inside an anti-vibration subframe. The independent rear suspension is also placed inside an anti-vibration subframe and features dual-links, coil springs, gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar. With front and rear subframes the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) is minimal. The power-assisted rack & pinion steering is tuned right for excellent response with a good feel for the road. The Camry slows down quickly with large power-assisted, steel disc brakes with ABS. Up front are 11.7-inch rotors clamped with dual piston calipers, and the rear solid rotors measure 10.5 inches and are clamped with single-piston calipers. Enhancing braking power is electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

The XLE rides on 16x6.5 aluminum alloy wheels and 215/60R16 all-season radial tires adding to the smooth and quiet ride. Other standard equipment in the XLE, not mentioned above, include power-remote sideview mirrors, grab handles above each door, theater-dimming map lamps, auto climate control with air filtration, cruise control, power windows/door locks, variable-intermittent wipers/washer, rear window defogger, remote keyless entry, and thick-pile carpeting. Another big deciding factor in your purchase is safety features and Toyota gives you standard dual-stage front airbags, front/rear crush zones, three-point safety belts for all seating positions, including front seat pretensioners and load-limiters, five-way adjustable head-restraints, Child Restraint LATCH system, and Daylight Running Lamps. Front side-airbags and side-curtain airbags are optional. Other options include power adjustable pedals, vehicle stability control (VSC), heated front seats, Toyota Navigation System/JBL Premium Audio System, and a rear cargo net. Of course the biggest deciding factor in purchasing a new vehicle is the price and the Toyota Camry is very competitive with prices ranging from $18,500.00 to $27,750.00 for the fully loaded XLE model that I tested. Fuel mileage ranges for the 2.4 liter engine is 24 mpg in the city, 33mpg on the highway, while the V6 models garner 20mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. With sales in 2004 over 459,000 units, the Camry is a must to check out. © All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz For more information on Toyota products, go to www.toyota.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle: 2005 Toyota Camry XLE Price of vehicle: $29,289.00 includes $515.00 destination charges Engine type: 3.0 liter, aluminum block/heads, DOHC, 24-valve,VVT-i V6 Horesepower: 210 hp at 5,800 rpm Torque: 225 lb. ft. of torque at 3,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: Five-speed, electronically controlled automatic Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar in an anti-vibration subframe Rear suspension: Independent, dual-links, with coil springs, gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar in an anti-vibration subframe Wheels/tires: 16x6.5 aluminum alloy wheels/215/60R16 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front - 11.7-inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers Rear - 10.5-inch solid discs clamped with single-piston calipers ABS and EBD Overall length: 189.2 in. Overall width: 70.7 in. Overall height: 58.3 in. Curb weight: 3,241 lbs. EPA mileage estimates: 20 mpg/city, 28 mpg/highway 0-60mph: 7.4 seconds

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