Up until the 1990s, America’s best selling car always wore a domestic badge. However, since then the biggest sellers, while still made in America, have carried import names. And for most of the last decade, that name was Toyota Camry. With more than 6 1/2 million on U.S. highways, Camry resides in more family garages than any other car. And for 2007, an all-new Camry is on deck with high hopes of continuing its winning ways.
A machine doesn’t get to be America’s best selling car if it doesn’t offer the top combination of comfort, safety, practicality, performance, and value. And the 2007 Toyota Camry is designed to offer all that, and more!
This all-new 6th-generation American-built Camry is, like its predecessor, built on a platform shared with the upscale Lexus ES 350. But now that means a roomier 2.2-inch longer 109.3-inch wheelbase, and a wider more stable track both front and rear. Plus a completely revised MacPherson strut front and dual-link rear suspension, which rolls on larger wheels: 16-inches standard, and 17-inches for the now more sport-tuned SE.
The Camry’s mechanicals are wrapped in the sportiest, most aggressive sheet metal ever, with tons more personality than last year. Now, the grille would suit any Mazda, but overall there is a sophistication to the styling, with premium details like S-type blistered wheel wells that move this Camry to a higher station.
Things are more enticing under the hood as well, with an expanded range of powerplants. The base engine is a mostly carry-over 2.4-liter twin-cam 4-cylinder with 158 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. But the 3.5-liter variable-timing V6, that’s also shared with the Lexus ES 350, is new, with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.
And finally there is the new Hybrid powertrain that mates a modified 2.4-liter four with 192 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque, with a strong 45 horsepower electric motor that has 199 pound-feet of torque of its own. Like other Toyota Hybrids, the Camry will run on any combination of gas or electric power.
All power drives the front wheels, through a 5-speed manual or automatic for the I4, a 6-speed automatic for the V6, or a continuously variable transmission for the Hybrid.
EPA mileage figures for the V6 automatic are 22 city/31 highway. We managed a reasonable 26 miles-per-gallon in mixed driving. A weekend in the Hybrid model, however, was enlightening. The EPA predicts 43 city/37 highway and we averaged a fine 38 miles-per-gallon. The hybrid drivetrain may sound like a 4-cylinder, but it feels more like a V6, delivering good reserve punch for fast traffic and highway passing.
But it was the new V6 we took to our track, and it’s capable of a 0 to 60 of 6.8 seconds. The quarter mile runs 14.9 seconds at 99 miles-per-hour. Both times are about a second and a half quicker than the previous Camry V6. The engine is as refined as it is fast, with a nice flat torque curve. The transmission’s shifts are smooth and precise, with perfectly matched gear ratios.
With optional stability and traction control, the 2007 model is also the most agile Camry ever. While even in SE trim this is hardly a sport sedan, the Camry does have only moderate front push and overall is very predictable. As before, however, the steering lacks feel, and there is a fair bit of body roll.
The nose dives a bit under braking as well, but stops from 60 are solid at 126 feet. There’s good pedal feel from the standard all-discs controlled by ABS and Brake Assist. Off the track, the new Camry’s ride is more Lexus than Toyota. It’s very smooth and quiet, with just a touch of hop over sharp bumps.
The interior would also fit an entry-level luxury car; smart looking, with interesting materials and plastics, and very well equipped. That includes seven standard airbags, driver’s knee, front side impact, and two row head curtains. The instrument panel design mixes a conservative 3-zone shape with unusual frosted green-tone plastics surrounding our XLE’s 440-watt 6-disc stereo with MP3 and Bluetooth capability, and dual-zone automatic climate controls. Navigation is an option.
Our car’s 8-way power driver’s seat works with the tilt and now also telescoping steering wheel, to provide an excellent driving position for all sizes. There is good leg but only adequate head room in the rear. Our XLE’s cushy folding bench also reclines and is split 40/20/40 for excellent flexibility. The trunk floor remains long and flat, but overall cargo space is reduced by some 2.2 cubic feet from last year, to a still acceptable 14.5.
Prices, however, have changed even less and range from $18,850 for the 4-cylinder CE manual, to $28,100 for our V6-powered XLE. Expect the Camry Hybrid to be priced around $27,000 when it arrives this summer.
The Toyota Camry has been the best selling car in the land for most of the last decade. But while the success of previous Camrys may have had as much to do with brand quality and reliability as actual design, the 6th generation car clearly stands on its own automotive legs. In fact we’ll be shocked if the 2007 Toyota Camry doesn’t continue its predecessor’s winning ways. It’s more refined, more powerful, very stylish, and safe, and even has efficient hybrid power. Indeed, the new Camry is going to be hard to beat.
Engine: 3.5-Liter Variabke-timing V6
Torque: 248 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.8 Seconds
60-0 MPH: 126 Feet
1/4 Mile: 14.9 Seconds @ 99 MPH
EPA: 22 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 26 MPG