2010 Toyota Camry Review and Test Drive
The interior of the 2010 Toyota Camry, the best-selling passenger car in America for 11 of the past 12 years, continues to be quiet, regardless of what is happening outside. Wind noise barely intrudes at highway speeds, and loud stereos from other cars are nicely muffled. The seats, at least on our Camry SE test car, were comfortable and supportive, other than the lower cushion not being long enough to provide full leg support; and the SE instrument panel is attractive, with clear, easy-to-read gauges, including a gear readout for the sequential shifter.
Minor annoyances intrude upon a generally well-executed interior: the “headlights on” warning lamp, which seems unnecessary, and the yellow warning to tell you whether there is a passenger in the seat next to the driver.
As with all Toyotas, the headlights are bright and well focused. Visibility is good in all directions, with a relatively small blind spot due to a well designed rear pillar and large glass areas. Even with the dark gray interior, our Camry didn't seem too dark inside, thanks to all that glass.
The dashboard is classy and nicely done. There is a fading effect on the center stack which is unusual now (though those who had old-fashioned light-bulb-lit dashboards will remember it) and attractive, though eventually one realizes why that sort of thing faded away; the light blue illumination of the center stack is echoed in the climate control knobs.
The programming of the interior lighting is rather interesting. When you open the door, the opera light effect works ever so slowly, illuminating the interior at last; the ignition key ring goes on immediately. Then, if you turn the headlights on, the hazard flasher button and climate controls are illuminated. Not until you start up do the other interior lights go on, for whatever reason.
The climate controls are attractive and easy to use. They feel like the current Dodge climate controls, and function the same way: the outer part, which are a pleasure to move, controls temperature, fan setting, or vents, while the inner part is a button for recirculation, air conditioning, or the rear defroster. This is a commendable interface, probably the best we've ever used in both usability and feel.
Other controls are generally sensible, though the headlights take a little getting used to (off-Auto-parking-headlights); the traditional Toyota cruise stalk is unchanged from other models, and the geated gearshift is sensible arranged. The glove compartment release is oriented towards the driver but can be operated by the passenger; and the trunk lid and gas cap releases are both in the usual Toyota spots between the driver's seat and door. Kudos to Toyota for making locking gas caps standard, and not even pointing it out on the price sheet.
The single large glove compartment tends to be pre-filled with owners manuals and warrantees and such, but there are numerous other places for things to hide: a large under-stack covered compartment, a pair of covered cupholders, another covered console bin, map pockets on both doors, small bins on either side of the center stack, and the usual little Toyota storage bin on the left side of the wheel (this one is extra classy, being a pullout model). The air conditioner vents circulate air without being a nuisance or making much noise.
Above the center stack is a nicely done transition into the windshield area; the upper side is a dark matte color, designed to reduce reflections, and between two layers sits an unobtrusive clock. It's a classy effect.
We can't say the same about the interior lights, which use a theatrical opera dimming effect, but come on slowly enough that people have to wait for them at night; and they dim a bit too early if left to their own devices. The radio appears to shut off as soon as the key is moved to the exit position, which is a minor annoyance in an age of “power memory.” It's especially surprising given that all four windows have express down and express up, with pinch protection (so you can press the button just once and the windows will zoom all the way open or closed).
Camry upgraded the standard powertrain for 2010, replacing the 2.4 liter engine with a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with dual electronic-control variable valve timing. It produces 169 hp, except in the Camry SE, which gets 179 hp. Buyers of the four-cylinder get a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with sequential shift (manumatic). The manual should help drivers to make the most of the power band, while still having a good overdrive gear; while the manual has a good span from a moderately low first gear to a nicely high sixth. Highway cruising is quiet partly because of the transmission; the sixth gear has the engine barely off idle at 55, and the engine is not overworked at realistic highway speeds.
Our test car, a Camry SE sedan, had the 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine. It didn't make much power at lower engine speeds, but was a screamer above 4,000 rpm, quickly winding up and delivering punchy acceleration. Getting there was a problem, since the automatic was a bit slow to react — even in sequential mode, where shifts had a perceptible and annoying delay. The automatic was generally slow to downshift, and had a tendency to drop down a gear, causing a jerk, when coasting, perhaps to be ready if acceleration was needed. A faster-reacting transmission would be very welcome, regardless of how the speed was achieved, especially since it would reduce the “spongy” feeling of the powertrain — from the accelerator having little effect if the car was already under way, until a downshift could be achieved. (Part of this feeling might have come from a tendency for the transmission to stay in the highest gear possible — which was appreciated because with the engine at a mere 2,000 rpm, there was a noticeable and uncomfortable feeling of drag.)
That said, under full throttle, the Camry SE reacted relatively quickly, and once the engine was up in its power band, it zoomed satisfactorily. Under regular driving the engine was quiet — at idle, almost completely silent, with very little vibration even at a low 600 rpm or so. Highway power was a little disappointing but still more than sufficient for most driving; again, especially at highway speed limits, the engine was barely ticking over (in the interests of quiet, longevity, and fuel mileage), and given its power curve, a downshift was needed before pushes on the accelerator were rewarded with substantial changes in velocity.
Gas mileage with the four-cylinder automatic in the SE is rated at 22 city, 32 highway; the manual transmission adds just one more mile per gallon to the highway mileage. The automatic far outsells the manual in the United States, which explains why the car comes with a foot-operated emergency brake; it's the kind you press down once to set, and once again to release.
Going to the powerful 3.5 liter V6, with 268 horsepower and a six-speed automatic, drops gas mileage down to 19 city, 28 highway, a three mile per gallon drop which can be expected given the great increase in power. Also more powerful than the base four-cylinder model is the hybrid-electric version of the Camry, which with a 2.4 liter four cylinder coupled to a continuously-variable transmission is more responsive than the standard four-cylinder automatic; it is rated at a respectable 33 mpg city and 34 mpg highway (the Prius is rated at 51 city, 48 highway), which adds little to the highway mileage but slashes city gas consumption, while providing a more instant-on power.
Activated by dropping the shifter down one notch from Drive, the sequential control was easy to reach but not easy to reach by accident, and easy to operate. On the darker side, it seemed to always want to start out in fourth gear, or at least that's what the indicator claimed. We suspect that glitch will be resolved soon (perhaps by the time you read this).
Exterior changes to the Camry for 2010 include the grille and front bumper, lower intake, taillamps, and larger headlamps. The Camry and LE have restyled standard wheel covers; the XLE grade runs on new 16-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, while the SE adds standard 17-inch alloy wheels. The 16-inchers have a smoother ride (more cushioning between wheel and road) and cheaper replacement tires, while the 17-inchers provide a tighter grip. There was little question among observers but that the SE model was attractive and an improvement over the others, though they tended to change their mind once they hit a bumpy street.
The Camry SE corners very well, at a cost. In exchange for better road feel and more capable cornering, the SE model gives up much of the comfort and ride quality the Camry is known for. The SE has solid front and rear anti-roll bars, and sport springs and bushings. Drivers feel just about every bump in the road, with pot-holes jerking the cabin up and down, a feeling somewhat at odds with the quiet interior; oddly, though, the ride seemed smoother and more cushioned at highway speeds than around towno. Bumps are felt and not heard, but they are truly felt. Other grades have a considerably smoother, more civilized ride.
Steering is appropriate for an upscale family car - a little heavy, but not too heavy; tight, but not too tight; with more assist at low speeds than on the highway, making both highway driving and city driving easy.
The Camry Hybrid, equipped with Toyota's industry-leading Hybrid Synergy Drive, certified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) is just one of a handful of cars that meets this strict standard, producing over 70 percent less smog-forming emissions than the average new car. Camry Hybrid adds a newly designed meter cluster and Fraichir, a combination of silk protein and synthetic fiber, cloth seating surfaces that are gentle to the skin; and a unique grille, front bumper, lower intake, and fog lights, with 16-inch alloy wheels.
Toyota Camry base and LE car buyers can get an optional audio system with a USB port, Bluetooth®, satellite radio, CD, and MP3 and streaming music capability. Our test car had the SE’s base stereo, which provided very good sound and was easy to tune and adjust. While it lacked a USB port, it did have an auxiliary input jack and six speakers, and could be purchased with satellite radio capability. The aux jack was cleverly paired with a power adapter in the end of a padded bin under the center stack. Overall, the system was a pleasant surprise after prior Toyota sound systems — and those on some competing cars.
The stereo has two moderately sized knobs, for volume and tuning/audio adjustment respectively, a system that works well. What appear to be three buttons on each side are actually six buttons on each side, as you can press either side to get different results. This lets you have a single button for AM, FM1, FM2, and Satellite, instead of having to press a mode button repeatedly.
All Toyota Camry sedans have Vehicle Stability Control with traction control, which used to be optional; auto up/down power windows with jam protection on all four doors is also standard. Attention to safety resulted in five star safety ratings, for both driver and passenger, in both frontal and side crashes; the Camry also got a four-star safety ratings for rollovers, a relatively recent addition to the star system. On the SE (possibly other models), a fast-reacting LED third brake light can prevent or reduce the impact of accidents.
The Camry starts under $20,000, with the automatic transmission adding around a thousand dollars. The SE model starts at $22,165 with the four-cylinder and automatic, and tops out at $25,840 with the V6 and automatic; we'd recommend either extreme over the midrange automatic four-cylinder (which is responsible for most Camry sales).
The 2010 Camry SE price, with automatic and four-cylinder, includes aluminum 17-inch wheels, the sport suspension, stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic proportioning and emergency boost, side and curtain airbags for both rows of seats, tire pressure monitors (though without individual readouts in the base SE), fog lights, blacked out grille, aero-look package (lower spoilers and rocker panels), auto headlights, DRLs, color-keyed outside mirrors, sport interior, filtered air conditioner, the aforementioned stereo, power windows with express up/down, power locks, remote, and tilt/telescope steering.
|2010 Toyota Camry prices
|Camry Standard||$19,395||$20,445||(no V6)|
|Camry Hybrid (2.4 + electric)||$26,150|
Our test vehicle had $1,341 in options, starting with the $890 moonroof; with that came a sliding sunshade, dual illuminated visor vanity lights, and personal reading lights, which one would normally expect to be included. A rear spoiler added $200 and a trunk mat/carpet option added $200; the trunk cargo net accounted for the other $51. As equipped, our car ran to $25,256.
The base model Camry remains a bargain, at just about $20,000. You could do a lot worse, especially if you stick with the manual transmission (you still have to downshift, but it seems more natural). The LE adds numerous options, and in many ways is the sweet spot of the Camry line, especially if cornering is less important to you than comfort. The XLE provides the highest level of luxury, with a standard V6.
The Camry SE is an interesting mix, and really, we wish Toyota would let you keep the cool cosmetic touches and drop the firm suspension, so that the SE would be sporty-looking without sport pretensions. The automatic-four cylinder combination does not lend itself to sporty driving, particularly with the time lag between manual shifts and drivetrain obedience. Had we gotten the stick-shift or the V6, we might feel differently, but as it is, the Camry SE felt like it was trying to be something it wasn’t. Really, is there something wrong with having the quietest, most reliable car in the segment? Is near-perfect civility so bad? Is there a point to trying to compete with all the others who make sporty mid-sized cars, when you have the most refined mid-sized car to brag about? Because the four-cylinder automatic combination really is quite smooth and quiet.
Yes, we can recommend the Camry — the LE without reservation. We look forward to trying out the Hybrid, which should eliminate any sensation of lag with its instant electric boost — CVT transmission — and, most of all, the wonders of knowing that as you're hitting your brakes for that inconsiderate cell-phone-addicted nut who just ran his stop sign, you're putting some power aside for the next takeoff, and getting highway-type gas mileage in city driving. Gotta love that.