The family sedan has gone soft during the past few years, as every entry in the segment has gotten larger, plusher, heavier and more expensive.
However, the addition of six or more airbags, vehicle stability control and elaborate electronic navigation and sound systems, among a growing list of features – all added weight and have worked against drivers by causing more frequent visits to the pump.
Increasing amounts of sophisticated technology, such as variable timing for engine valves, six-speed automatic transmissions and direct fuel injection have helped to keep the cars reasonably fuel efficient and – for the moment – out of gas guzzler tax range, but a balancing act is underway at competing makers.
The latest iteration of the Toyota Camry, introduced in 1997, is no exception. This sixth generation Camry is classified by the EPA as a midsize car with more than 116 cubic feet of passenger and trunk volume. (Camry was introduced in 1982 as a compact replacement for the Corona, and has been a growing car in the midsize class since 1992.) As the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. for eight years running, 12 of the past 13 years, Camry is the benchmark for the class. Through the end of April, Camry total sales are at 96,509, up 5.4% percent over this time last year.
Camry’s current prices range from $19,395 for the sedan with a new six-speed manual transmission to $29,245 for the XLE with a six-speed automatic transmission. The high mileage, low emissions Camry Hybrid carries a price of $26,400. (Add $750 for delivery.)
The top of the line XLE tested, totaled $31,475, although a shopper can likely do better than that – minus 5% to 10%, maybe more – given Toyota’s current use of incentives to regain momentum lost in the marketplace caused by the unintended acceleration recalls. This massive setback to Toyota’s heretofore good image has also caused Consumer Reports to suspend its long standing “recommended buy” on all Camry models, except for the hybrid, which is not affected. (more…)