2009 Camry New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Camry does just about everything very well and it's supported by Toyota's well-earned reputation for quality, reliability and resale value. It's the best-selling midsize sedan in America.
The Camry is exceptionally good in nearly every respect, bad in almost none, and it has a steady, set-and-forget quality that many drivers appreciate. This four-door sedan seats five in comfort, yet it's relatively compact and easy to park. It's smooth and quiet, but it can accelerate with vigor. Its cabin is attractive, functional and as refined as anything in its class. It's pleasant to drive in all circumstances.
The Camry benefited from a complete overhaul for 2007, starting with a new, airy interior and continuing with more powerful engines, more transmission choices and increased fuel efficiency. The Camry's aerodynamic styling shows more vitality than we've come to expect from a car many have labeled, and not necessarily in unkind fashion, as Japan's Buick. The only change of any significance for 2009 is that what was the base model, the Camry CE, is now known as just the Camry.
Models range from the well-equipped base Camry to the near-luxury Camry XLE. In between are the popular LE, a modest step up from the base and available with the V6, and the SE, decked out with suspension, tires and trim to please the sporty crowd.
The standard four-cylinder engine is not the strongest, though it's more than adequate with the manual transmission. The available V6 is one of the most powerful in the class and it's very smooth.
The Camry Hybrid features a combination electric motor/gasoline engine powertrain and a super-efficient continuously variable transmission, or CVT. The Hybrid is a good performer and one of the most fuel-efficient mid-size vehicles anywhere. It also makes a statement for environmentally conscious buyers, though it's worth noting that all Camry models offer good EPA mileage ratings and low emissions in their respective categories.
Since its debut in the United States well over two decades ago, the Camry has earned a reputation for smart design, pleasing function, great build quality and long-term durability. It's not all hype. The Toyota Camry remains the benchmark by which its competitors are judged.
The Toyota Camry is a four-door, five-passenger sedan offered in five trim levels, including the gas-electric Camry Hybrid. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower available with five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Camry V6 models get a 268-horspower 3.5-liter engine and a six-speed automatic with manual shift feature.
The Camry ($19,195) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning and pollen filter, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, manual tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, a multi-function information display with outside temperature, a 160-watt stereo with six speakers, single CD player and auxiliary jack for MP3 devices, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and 16-inch steel wheels. The CE comes standard with a manual transmission; a five-speed automatic transmission is optional ($1,000). The Camry LE ($20,600) and LE V6 ($24,215) add an eight-way power driver's seat and remote keyless entry.
Camry SE ($21,815) and SE V6 ($25,490) add a firmer, lowered suspension, flashy styling cues, unique interior trim, fog lights and P215/55R17 tires on 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Camry XLE ($25,575) features glossy wood-grain interior trim and comes standard with the automatic. XLE models add dual-zone auto climate control with an electronic ion filter, a JBL audio upgrade with 440 watts, six-CD changer, Bluetooth wireless telephone interface, power passenger seat, power sunroof, split 40/20/40 reclining rear seat, rear reading lamps, manual rear-window sunshade, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Leather comes standard on the XLE V6 ($28,695).
Camry Hybrid ($26,150) has a 147-hp version of the four-cylinder engine, matched with an electric motor and continuously variable transmission. The motor augments the gas engine's performance and captures energy that would otherwise be wasted as the car slows and brakes, so it can reduce fuel consumption substantially. The Hybrid is equipped comparably to the XLE four-cylinder, but adds Toyota's Smart Key pushbutton-start feature.
Options include premium JBL audio ($940) for the LE and SE; it can be packaged with a voice-activated navigation system in the SE V6 ($2,140) or XLE ($1,200). Stand-alone options include power tilt/slide sunroof ($940), Leather Package for SE V6 and Hybrid ($1,040), heated front seats ($440), auto-dimming rearview mirror ($150), heated outside mirrors ($30), and 16-inch alloy wheels ($410). Not all options are available for all trim levels.
Safety features on all Camrys include a full complement of airbags: Dual-stage front airbags, a driver's-knee airbag, upper body-protecting side-impact airbags for front passengers, and head-protecting side air curtains for the front and rear seats. All models come with anti-lock brakes (ABS), which aid steering control during a panic stop. The ABS features Brake Assist, which applies the brakes more forcefully and consistently when it senses the onset of a panic stop, and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), which balances brake application front and rear for optimal stopping distance. A tire-pressure monitor is standard. Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control are optional ($650) on the CE, LE, SE and XLE, and we strongly recommend getting it.