2011 Toyota Camry XLE: Excellent, Luxurious and Economical
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
The Toyota Celica Camry was launched to the Japanese market as a narrow-body successor to the Carina in 1980 and became its own line in 1982. Introduced to America for 1983, it has been a success story in the U.S. from the beginning.
The top-selling passenger car in America for eight consecutive years – third in total vehicle sales behind only Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado -- Camry, an anglicized version of the Japanese word “Kan-Muri”, or “crown,” has been the No.1 passenger car sold in the United States for 12 of the past 13 years. Slightly behind Toyota Corolla in sales so far this year, Camry is nearing the end of its seventh generation and the mid-size sedan is focusing on fuel economy while upgrading its upper lines (LE, SE and XLE trims) and adding a hybrid to the mix.
Built at various facilities including the Tsutsumi Plant in Toyota City, Japan, TMMK in Georgetown, Kentucky, and the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant in Lafayette, Indiana, Camry is stately and crisp with elegant lines. For the second consecutive year, I tested a Barcelona Red Camry matched to a gray Ash leather interior. With a sporty, yet regal demeanor, my test Camry XLE measured 189.2 inches long, 57.9 inches high and 71.7 inches wide on a 109.3-inch wheelbase with ground clearance of 5.3 inches, while its curb weight came in at 3496 lbs.
Enhanced by its exclusive black, honeycomb-style grille, aerodynamic multi-reflector halogen headlamps with blackout sport trim, integrated front fog lamps, 17-inch-6-spoke alloy wheels, chrome-tipped exhaust, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers and side rocker panel moldings, Camry is luxurious in appearance without carrying a luxury price.
Additionally, Camry's body structure is designed to absorb collision-impact forces and help minimize impact deformation to the passenger cabin. High-strength steel is used for B-pillar and rocker panel reinforcements to help manage overall body deformation in the event of certain side collisions. The seat frames also are designed to help absorb side collision loads.
Blending performance and economy my Camry powered up with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, linked to Toyota Direct Ignition and an EFI fuel system. The arrangement produces 268hp and 248 lbs-ft of torque. The chain-driven camshafts employ Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence, which controls valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts for optimal performance and efficiency at all engine speeds. The system is EPA estimated at 19mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway, and my mixed-use testing yielded an average of 24.4mpg. For the more “green-savvy,” Camry also offers a DOHC 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which provides 179 hp and 171 lbs-ft for an EPA estimate of 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway rating with the six-speed automatic transmission and 22/33 with the six-speed manual. Also available is the Camry hybrid, at 187hp and a 31/35 EPA estimate.
Showing some muscle, the 3.5-liter Camry accelerates smoothly and efficiently on the highway, which translated on the track to a 7.1-second zero-to-60mph sprint and a 15.4-second quarter-mile run. On the autocross and in quick country road turns, the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering exhibited some understeer, and some rear-end sway, but the independent MacPherson strut front suspension and independent dual-link rear created a linear ride, absorbing most post-winter/early spring potholes and macadam irregularities.
Road noise seems to have been toned down since last year and the car seemed to ride lower and more aerodynamically than it did in my 2010 tests.
Inside, Camry continues to sophisticate its theme. The 2011 XLE is endowed with multiple storage spaces, large console with accessory-power sockets, rear console box and an accessory box behind the gear shift lever.
With seating for five the cabin imparts 38.8 inches of front headroom space with 37.8 in the second row, legroom measures 41.7 in the row one and 38.3 in the second seats, and shoulder room is 57.8 and 56.9.
The Camry XLE's list of standard features includes an upgraded dual-zone automatic climate control system with steering-wheel controls, plus Plasmacluster™ ionizer technology to help reduce airborne mold spores, microbes, fungi, odors, germs and bacteria inside the passenger cabin. Other XLE features include a premium 440-watt JBL audio system with Bluetooth® technology and plays CDs and MP3 files; wood-style trim; power glass moonroof; reclining rear seats; fog lamps; and aluminum wheels.
Standard safety features include an anti-lock brake system, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control with traction control and a full complement of airbags including a driver's knee airbag.
The base Camry LE with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine starts at $23,085, but my test vehicle in XLE trim with 3.5-liter power started at $29,470. Upgraded with Extra Value Package 3 for $1520, my vehicle added a voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system with integrated backup camera, 8-speaker JBL® AM/FM 4-disc CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, XM® Radio with XM NavTraffic®, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology. Adding delivery and processing charges of $760, my vehicle stickered for $31,750.
Camry XLE could stand for an eXcellent, Luxurious and Economical mid-size sedan.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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