- Roomy cabin
- Extraordinarily refined and fuel-efficient V6
- Quiet and cushy ride
- Excellent crash test scores
- Spotty fit and finish
- Spiritless handling
Being a huge success, oddly enough, can sometimes be rather unglamorous. Take the 2011 Toyota Camry, for example. Car enthusiasts love to dismiss the Camry with snide remarks that relate its excitement factor to that of a washing machine. But the reality is that for every car guy (or gal) who requires entertainment from whatever they drive, there are literally hundreds of folks who simply want their car to provide comfortable, efficient and dependable transportation. The Camry has long excelled in this area, and the result is Toyota's midsize sedan being one of the top-selling cars for most of the last quarter-century.
Of course there's more to the Camry than just a bland persona. The Camry's engine choices include a respectably powerful 2.5-liter inline-4 and an ultra-smooth 268-horsepower V6 that's without question the best in the family sedan segment. Other Camry strong points include a commendable level of comfort, plenty of convenience and luxury features, and top-notch safety scores. Whether you're using it for daily commuting or a family road trip across the country, the Camry will likely satisfy.
The midsize sedan segment is arguably the most competitive in the automotive marketplace, and as such the 2011 Camry has a number of worthy opponents it must battle for sales chart supremacy. Of course there is its age-old rival, the 2011 Honda Accord, but now you can also consider the 2011 Chevrolet Malibu, 2011 Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, 2011 Mazda 6, 2011 Nissan Altima and Suzuki Kizashi. Although the 2011 Toyota Camry doesn't handle nearly as well as the sportier class entrants -- such as the 6 and Altima -- we suspect the majority of shoppers won't care too much.
Sadly, the Camry's longstanding sterling reputation for quality has been sullied by the most recent generation's issue with recalls involving sticking gas pedals and potentially intrusive floor mats. In fairness, we'd expect the 2011 versions to be free of those flaws. And though the Camry still makes a strong case for itself, as stated above, there are plenty of appealing options to choose from. The Camry is still a solid choice, but it's no longer good enough to be a no-brainer. We strongly suggest test-driving as many models as possible to see what best suits you.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011
For 2011, the Toyota Camry sees no changes.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2011 Toyota Camry is a midsize four-door sedan offered in four trim levels -- base, LE, SE and XLE. The base Camry comes only with a four-cylinder engine, while the other trims offer a choice between the four-cylinder and a V6.
The base Camry features 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, auto up/down windows for all four doors, a six-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary input jack, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, full power accessories and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. The Camry LE adds keyless entry and an eight-way power driver seat.
The SE includes a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and special interior and exterior styling details. The luxurious XLE reverts to the LE's softer suspension settings and 16-inch wheels while providing an upgraded JBL-branded sound system with an in-dash CD changer and satellite radio, Bluetooth phone and music connectivity, automatic dual-zone climate control, a power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, reclining rear seats, a moonroof, wood-tone accents and, on the V6 model, leather seating. Note that neither the SE nor the XLE offers the folding rear seat, though each has a center pass-through.
Most of the XLE's upgrades are offered on the lower trim levels as options. Other major options, depending on trim level, include a sunroof, a navigation system, keyless ignition and entry and heated front seats.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
In base and LE models, the Camry's interior is straightforward and functional. Toyota's decades of experience in ergonomics shines through here -- the main controls are large and logically placed, and the wide seats easily accommodate most body types. There are plenty of storage cubbies, too. The ice-blue backlighting for the audio and climate controls may seem a bit tacky, but it does liven things up a bit. The SE adds sporty interior styling cues, while the XLE raises the bar with convincing fake wood accents and an upscale feature not typically seen in this segment -- reclining rear seats. Trunk capacity for all models is 15 cubic feet.
Notably, build and materials quality aren't up to the high standard set by previous-generation Camrys. Some plastics are substandard, and panel fitments aren't uniformly precise. The Camry's interior isn't bad by any means, but it's no longer above average for this segment.
Every 2011 Toyota Camry comes with antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag.
In the government's new, more strenuous crash testing for 2011, the Camry earned an overall rating of three stars out of a possible five, with three stars for overall frontal crash protection and three stars for overall side crash protection.The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the top rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
All Camrys are front-wheel drive, and the standard engine on base, LE and XLE trim levels is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 169 hp. The SE receives a tweaked version of the same engine that's good for 179 hp. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all four-cylinder Camrys except for the XLE, which comes only with a six-speed automatic. For the rest of the trims, the automatic is optional. Fuel economy is estimated to be 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with the manual, while the automatic drops highway mileage slightly to 32 mpg.
Optional on all models except for the base Camry is a 3.5-liter V6 that cranks out 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission choice. Thus equipped, the Camry can sprint to 60 mph in a fleet 6.5 seconds, yet fuel economy remains impressive at19/28/23 mpg.
The Camry's tried-and-true formula is to provide excellent ride comfort and isolation at the expense of engaging driving dynamics. The SE supposedly ratchets up the fun in tight corners, but in reality it's just a slightly firmer version of one of the most softly sprung and least involving family sedans you can buy. Even so, the Camry's cosseting suspension may be preferable to the firmer, sportier approach taken by Mazda and Nissan.
There is one unequivocally sporty element -- the optional turbine-smooth V6, which transforms the 2011 Toyota Camry into one of the fastest mid-priced sedans on the road while maintaining impressive fuel economy numbers. The four-cylinder isn't as zippy, but its performance and economy are still very good for a midsize sedan.
The 2011 Toyota Camry isn't very exciting to drive, but it's a plush-riding champ on the highway and its optional V6 is superb. No wonder that the Camry remains one of the top family sedans on the market.