toyota cars

Toyota Camry history and car reviews

Toyota Camry information

Camry test drives

2002 toyota camry le

In the Japanese market, the Camry name first showed up as a model of the Celica - the Toyota Celica Camry - a four door Celica.

The Toyota Camry was first sold in the United States in mid-1983, replacing the rear-wheel-drive Corona, a small, rust-prone but likeable vehicle whose name was related to the word crown - the name used by the Toyota Crown (the Japanese word for crown is pronounced like “camry.”) The original humble Camry was to become America's best selling car, as well as the basis for a luxury car (Lexus ES300), a full-sized highway cruiser (Toyota Avalon), and a two-door coupe and convertible (Solara).

The Camry was large for a Japanese car, with a 102 inch wheelbase, in keeping with its Americanized design. Its four cylinder engine produced 92 horsepower, good for the time and more than enough given the car’s weight; it had far more torque than the Accord’s engine, too. Both a hatchback and sedan were available – with four doors only.  Transmissions were a five-speed manual or automatic. The engine was eager to run, with a high-tech, high-pitched sound when revved high. It's easy to laugh at 92 horsepower, but in a light body and with a five-speed stick (or, later, a four-speed automatic), the Camry could outrace many cars with bigger engines and more weight. From the start, all “real” Camrys were front wheel drive or, starting in 1988, all wheel drive.

The Camry’s comfort, sound insulation, gas mileage, and reliability soon made it a big seller. Work soon began on an American factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, which would be Toyota’s second American plant and their first non-union plant – as well as their first plant to be built independently (the first one, which built Corollas, was a joint venture with General Motors).

The first generation Camry was available in sedan and hatchback versions (both with four doors), with a single fuel-injected 2.0 liter engine (keeping in mind that the Tercel would keep a carburetor until the 1990s!). A 73 - 79 hp turbodiesel (with high torque and an extra 3 mpg or so) was actually optional from 1984 to 1986, but it's quite rare. The car was generally very reliable though many people had problems with the oil pump gaskets on early models, as well as the electronic ignition computer and the automatic transmission (an advanced design offering four speeds).

The first generation lasted four years; in 1985, two more horsepower were found and flush mounted headlights were added for better airflow. The 1987 redesign brought an improved engine, with 115 horsepower thanks to four valves per cylinder and dual overhead cams. That was 17 hp more than the Accord, and noise and vibration were cut even further; the automatic was refined, and the sheet metal cleaned. The unpopular hatchback was replaced by a more American-style wagon. Production started at the Kentucky plant during this generation.

Only one year later, a small V6, essential for some people in the American market, appeared. With only 2.5 liters, it managed to crank out a strong 153 horsepower thanks to dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Smooth and quiet, it was about as powerful as competitors’ 3-liter engines. All wheel drive was brought out, with the manual transmission in 1988 and both transmissions in 1989. Antilock brakes became optional in 1991 on some models, and a knock sensor was added to the V6.

In 1992, four short years after the prior redesign, yet another iteration was introduced,  again growing to meet American tastes. The wheelbase increased by just one inch, the width by two, and the length by a full six inches. Sound insulation was again increased, and a modified version became the Lexus ES 300. Antilock brakes became optional across the board. The engine was enlarged to 2.2 liters, producing 130 horsepower, while the V6 was expanded to 3 liters and 185 horsepower. For the first time, a Camry could do zero to sixty in under 8 seconds, at that time a bellweather of speed (this was with the V6 and manual gearbox). To go along with that level of performance buyers could get the SE model with a performance suspension, larger tires, quicker steering ratio, and higher final drive ratio, along with different seats, rear spoiler, and “sporty” trim. The wagon, which had disappeared for a while, came back with a third-seat option for seven passenger seating. The automatic gained fuzzy logic during this generation; and the modern trim levels (DX for Deluxe, LX for luxury, XLE for extra luxury, SE for sport) started.

The American plant was by now going full steam, building three quarters of all Camrys sold across the world. The Camry was never especially popular outside the US, though, due to its size and expense.

In 1994, a two-door Camry was brought out, a passenger side airbag added, the V6 redesigned for a three-horsepower boost, and the automatic given new controls to reduce gear-hunting. Just one year later, the Camry received a sheet metal refresh.

In 1997, the Camry was redesigned again, with the two-door and wagon dropped, and another two-inch wheelbase gain. The SE was temporarily dropped; horsepower increased to 133 on the four, and 194 on the six. The CE V6 with manual was a Road Runner-style sleeper, able to do 0-60 in under 8 seconds. Traction control was optional on some models, antilock brakes standard on all but the least expensive model.

1998 brought side impact airbags as an option on all models, an engine immobilizer (since the Camry had become one of the most stolen vehicles), and low-emission status for both engines.

An extended-wheelbase version of the Camry called the Avalon was brought out and became very successful, despite the first generation's Chevy Celebrity-style interior, due to its comfortable, soft ride and surprising straight-line acceleration. The second-generation Avalon improved cornering quite a bit while bringing the interior upscale.

A new coupe, the Solara, arrived in 1999, with a sportier feel, available sport package, and different sheet metal; it would last through 2009.  Daytime running lights arrived as well.

The year 2000 brought new sheet metal and the Toyota Camry Solara convertible. Designed in California, the Solara convertible was a joint venture between Toyota Canada and ASC, the same partnership responsible for Celica convertibles dating back to 1983. The Solara convertible got extra body reinforcement to compensate for the lack of a roof; it had a power folding soft top with power rear side windows and a large glass rear window. A 200 hp, 3 liter V6 engine was available in the SE and SLE models, while a 2.2 liter 135 engine was standard on the SE. With the V6, the Solara got 19 mpg city, 26 highway, not bad for a convertible with a V6. The four cylinder added four miles per gallon, and was classified as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. A long list of standard equipment, such as air conditioning and six-speaker CD/cassette, was on each model; the SLE had luxury features, such as a 300 watt JBL sound system with automatic equalizer settings for having the top up or down, and for different vehicle speeds.

A new generation was brought out in 2002, with yet another two inch wheelbase gain and a 2.5 inch height gain. The trunk moved up from 14.1 to 16.7 cubic feet. The V6 went to ultra-low-emissions status with 192 horsepower, and a new 2.4 liter four-cylinder produces 157 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. The V6-manual option is gone along with the CE trim. The interior was modernized quite a bit, with less of the “center stack” feel and a more intentional appearance (see our review).

The six-generation Camry, starting in 2007, brings back the CE, adds a six-speed sequential transmission for the V6, and promises a hybrid synergy drive model producing 192 hp from a four cylinder (147 hp) 2.4 liter Atkinson cycle gas engine and a 45 hp electric motor. The V6 (not available on CE) has been expanded to 3.5 liters and now produces a prodigious 268 hp.

The 7-th generation Camry was introduced on August 23, 2011. It has 3 different engine choices from the previous model. The trim levels include the L, LE, XLE, SE, XLE V6, SE V6, and Hybrid.

Common Camry repairs

So far, not unexpectedly, there are few common repairs for the Camry. 

Under stop and go driving or heavy acceleration, the foul smell of sulfur may appear on some 2002-2004 models with the 2.4 liter engine. If that happens, the dealer can, under TSB EG013R-04, replace the catalytic converter and, in some cases, recalibrate the engine computer. 

Some early 2005 Camrys may have broken or hard-opening console storage box doors; these can be replaced by the dealer as well. The new part number is the same as the old one.

Spark plug changing; removal of the intake plenum

Matt Yi wrote that, on the 1989 V6 Camry, “you can get at the front three plug easy but the back three plugs were a royal pain to get at. With the right extensions, u-joints, and some patience - you can work them out. I found it easier to pull the intake plenum and work from there. Even then, it was a pretty tight fit. That's probably why Toyota put in platinum tipped plugs - since they are so hard to take out.”

To get to the plugs -

1. Remove the intake plenum and fuel rail (depending on model-could work around it), relieve fuel pressure in system (fuel injection fuse) and use a rag to catch fuel spray as you remove fuel feed to plenum, EGR, and misc piping. Be careful of the intake plenum and EGR as they can be easily dented or twisted out of shape. Need to replace plenum gasket and fuel fitting gaskets. If you removed fuel rail - need the o-rings for that as well. [Editor’s note: you may want to get a very clean container to catch the fuel, because there is often a lot of it. Be careful relieving the fuel pressure in the system; read a manual.]

2. Use some extensions and a u-joint with a 3/8" ratchet and work your arm around the intake plenum. I believe I used a 2" or 4" extension, u-joint, and a 6" or 8" extension to 3/8" ratchet. You can get two plugs out from the driver's side - the other has to come out of the side. But I did this years ago. Be nice if you are flexible and have thinner/longer arms.

In either method I would highly recommend that you:

Taking off the door panels

“willit_fixit” and Matt Yi  discussed this on the forums:

Remove three screws from the door panel and pop the clips along the bottom edge, front edge, and rear edge of the door panel. There is a plastic cover that is in the rear corner of the window that sits on top of the sill formed by the door panel; the plastic cover should slide up and out. Try prying on the bottom edge of the cover with the flat end of trim tool wrapped in some cloth or a putty knife. If it does budge - try putting some upward and inward pressure to pop the clip out. That should give you enough room to hinge out the panel and remove it from the window channel. Don't give up - some clips can be pretty stubborn. That's why the cars stay relatively rattle free and why most rattles are produced after some trim has been removed, ie. aftermarket radio install or security system. When the plastic cover is out, lift up the panel and carefully take it out (after having disconnected all the electrical wires.)

Here are those Toyota Camry links again:

Toyota Camry information

Camry test drives