2001 Camry New Car Test Drive
Is there a 'best-of' automotive list that DOESN'T include the top-selling Toyota Camry? For nearly 20 years the Camry has defined the family sedan. In its current iteration, the Camry offers a comfortable cabin, spacious trunk, and smooth and quiet-running engines. Plus, the Camry has a well-deserved reputation for high reliability. This is certainly a tough combination to beat.
The current model is getting a little long in the tooth. An all-new 2002 model is just around the corner. The Solara offers buyers all of the benefits of the Toyota Camry (smooth, powerful engines, quiet interiors, and rock-solid dependability) in a slick, two-door body style.
Opting for a Solara SE with the 200-hp V6 and available five-speed manual transmission gives the car a sporty edge. Or, the Solara can be ordered as a full-blown luxury coupe with leather upholstery, a concert hall sound system, and automatic climate control. Or, it can be a convertible, delivering top-down, fun in the sun.
Either way, the Solara delivers a blend of comfort, style and reliability that is tough to beat. It shares the Toyota Camry platform, offering solid value and Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability. This makes it a compelling alternative to expensive cars such as the Acura 3.2 CL, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, and Volvo C70.
Camry is offered in three trim levels: CE, LE and XLE. The Camry is available only as a four-door sedan; the coupe and convertible versions are called the Solara, which is sold as a separate model. (Look for the nctd.com review of the Toyota Solara.)
The standard engine is a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 136 horsepower. LE V6 and XLE V6 are equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 194 horsepower. LE and XLE models come with a high level of standard equipment, but the CE offers plenty of comfort, convenience and performance at a lower price.
CE ($17,675) comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox; an automatic brings the price to $18,475. CE does not come standard with air conditioning, so you may want Value Package #1 ($778), which adds air conditioning, variable intermittent wipers, floor mats, and power windows, door locks and mirrors.
The mid-range LE ($20,425) has proven to be the most popular of the three models. It comes standard with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, intermittent wipers, power door locks, mirrors and windows. LE also offers a wide range of options open to buyers. Like other models, it can be equipped with either the four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine; LE V6 retails for $23,185 and comes with antilock brakes. You can also get an LE V6 with a five-speed manual transmission for $22,385.
New for 2001 is the Gallery Series for the LE. It includes unique two-tone paint and seat fabric, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, carbon fiber interior trim, chrome door lock levers and interior vents, chrome-tipped exhaust, special badging, and five-spoke aluminum wheels.
The flagship XLE ($24,095) and XLE V6 ($26,225) models add a premium JBL AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, immobilizing anti-theft device, remote keyless entry and aluminum alloy wheels. A more elegant interior with premium cloth upholstery is a big part of the XLE attraction. Value Package #2 adds leather seating surfaces and trim, a power driver's seat, an in-dash six-CD changer, side-impact air bags and a power moonroof to the XLE for $1,606 or to the XLE V6 for $1,106. XLE V6 comes with 16-inch wheels and tires in place of the 14- and 15-inch rubber on the other models. The Solara comes in three variants: an SE version with a base-level 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine; an SE version with a 3.0-liter V6; and the top-of-the-line SLE, featuring the V6, plus many standard luxury appointments (most of which are optional on the SE V6).
A five-speed manual transmission comes with the four-cylinder and SE V6 models (a four-speed automatic is an $800 option). Top-level SLEs only offer the automatic.
Solara convertibles add a rear spoiler and retractable power top with heated glass rear window. The manual transmission is not offered with the soft top models.