The Toyota Camry is the best-selling car in America, the crown jewel of cars in the auto industry. Toyota tells us the name "Camry" comes from kan-muri, which in Japanese means "crown." That seems appropriate given that the Camry outsells such popular gems as the Honda Accord and Ford Taurus.
The Camry appears to be a perfect transportation appliance, flawlessly performing its duties, never annoying its owner. It rides smoothly, softly over beat-up city streets. The interior is ergonomically excellent, with big climate and audio knobs that are easy to adjust. The seats are comfortable.
The Toyota Camry was all-new last year. A longer wheelbase brought significantly increased rear-seat legroom. Its new look is at once taller and more rounded, in keeping with current fashion.
For 2003, the Camry offers more standard and optional equipment. All models now come with remote keyless entry, while the XLE model adds fog lights, and a six-disc CD changer for its JBL audio system. Also new is the availability of power adjustable pedals.
Given Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability, the 2003 Camry should once again prove to be the ideal car for about 400,000 buyers who don't want to worry about their car.
Toyota knows how to build quiet cars with a comfortable ride. Toyota's Lexus division has excelled in this area and this expertise appears to have worked its way over to the Camry. Engines are quieter than in pre-2002 models, while an innovative engine mounting system further reduces vibration. Stiff body structure and asphalt sheet insulation assures that even when the four-cylinder engine is driven hard, engine noise is quite subdued.
This is an easy car to drive. There is nothing untoward or strange about the Camry; it does everything just right. An enthusiast driver would complain that it lacks character, but for the average driver that's a plus. No one driving a Camry has to think much about what's going on.
More than two-thirds of all Camrys are sold with the four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. The 2.4-liter inline-4 is inexpensive and fuel-efficient and provides plenty of power. Computer logic controls the automatic transmission; the car can tell when it is going up hill or down hill and the transmission shifts gears accordingly. It can hold a lower gear longer when necessary to avoid the annoying shifting up and down that occurs in some automatics.
The ride is pleasant, verging on luxurious, with enough cushioning to make passengers feel comfortable. The steering is light but not sloppy. Those who like sportier, more precise handling will notice that the different suspension setup and tires on the SE do make the car feel crisper, though it's still far from a sports sedan.
You'd never know from driving the car, but the gas pedal is a drive-by-wire affair. That means it is not connected directly to the engine by a cable; instead, it activates a sensor connected to a computer, just like the controls in modern aircraft. One advantage of this arrangement is that the optional Vehicle Skid Control system can take over the throttle in an emergency and apply just the right amount of throttle and braking to keep the vehicle on a more stable path.
Toyota admits that while few people aspire to own a Camry, lots of people recommend a Camry to their friends. The Camry is what's known as a safe buy. It pleases so many buyers by offending none. It is in many ways an unremarkable car, except for its total lack of identifiable flaws. It Toyota has tried hard to make the latest Camry a little more exciting while at the same time making sure it will still transport its occupants from A to B and back without any drama, nor any worries about reliability, year in and year out.
So the Toyota Camry is not be as exciting as the Nissan Altima or Volkswagen Passat. But if you prefer a car that blends in with the crowd, a smooth, comfortable car that delivers hassle-free transportation, a car that offers stellar reliability, then the Camry should prove an excellent choice. That's why the Camry will likely continue as America's most popular new car.