Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

In Canada, 78% of all Toyota Camrys (2002 to 2006 models) were sold with the four-cylinder engine rather than the V6, according to Toyota Canada. Surprised? I was. Yet, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. In my review of the previous-generation four-cylinder Camry, I commented that the 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine was so smooth, quiet, fuel-efficient and sufficiently powerful that there was really no need to upgrade to the V6 engine – particularly considering the $2,500 price difference.

For 2007, the redesigned Camry is available with the same four-cylinder engine and a new, optional 3.5-litre V6 with a lot more horsepower. I’ve tested both engines, and my preference still stands: as wonderful as that new V6 is, the four-banger is still the best value. In fact, with today’s higher gasoline prices, the four-cylinder model may have more appeal than before. The 2007 Camry LE, which starts at $25,800 with a standard 158-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, offers official fuel consumption figures of 9.8 L/100 km (29 mpg) city and 6.5 L/100 km (43 mpg) highway – slightly better than last year. The 2007 Camry LE-V6, with a base price of $29,400 and the 268-hp 3.5-litre V6 and new six-speed automatic transmission, offers 10.7 L/100 km (26 mpg) city and 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg) highway – surprisingly, that’s better than last year’s 3.0-litre and 3.3-litre V6 engines.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
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Speaking of fuel economy, the brand new 2007 Camry Hybrid (available June, 2006) uses the same 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine combined with a continuously variable transmission, electric motor and powerful battery pack to provide officially-estimated fuel economy figures of 5.7 L/100 km (50 mpg) city and 5.7 L/100 km (50 mpg) highway. The fuel savings are terrific, but the Camry Hybrid’s base price of $31,900 is significantly higher than the Camry LE four-cylinder model’s price of $25,800. Interestingly, the new Camry Hybrid differs from the Honda Accord Hybrid which uses a powerful 3.0-litre V6 engine and hybrid powertrain. The Accord Hybrid’s official figures are 7.9 L/100 km (35 mpg) city and 5.9 L/100 km (48 mpg) highway.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

The base price of a 2007 Toyota Camry LE four-cylinder model is $810 more than a 2006 Camry LE, but the 2007 LE has more standard equipment, notably side airbags, curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, a telescoping steering wheel, and 16-inch tires and wheels (up from 15-inch).

Standard features on the 2007 Camry LE include the five-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA stereo with six speakers, steering wheel audio controls, auxiliary jack, power windows with driver’s auto down, power door locks, power heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, outside temperature gauge, and cruise control. That’s a pretty comprehensive standard equipment list and fortunately, buyers don’t have to move up to a more expensive trim level to order popular options like alloy wheels, moonroof, and power driver’s seat. However, the optional 6-disc CD changer and premium stereo is not available on the LE.

2007 Camrys are also offered in the sporty SE trim (4-cylinder $26,605; V6 $32,010), which offers a few mechanical and interior upgrades to make it even sportier; and the luxurious XLE ($37,425) with leather, automatic climate control, premium audio system and other goodies.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

For the purpose of today’s review, I’ll stick with the Camry LE four-cylinder model. My test car had one option package ($1,400) which included 16-inch alloy wheels with locks, 8-way power driver’s seat, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass, illuminated vanity mirrors, and front and rear splashguards. Add Freight ($1,240) and A/C tax ($100), and the price as-tested came to $28,440.


Interior impressions

The Camry is known for its roomy interior, and with a 56 mm increase in it wheelbase and a new flat rear floor, the new Camry has more rear legroom than before. However, the new Camry is about 30 mm lower overall (presumably for a more streamlined appearance) so passenger volume is about the same. Still, front and rear headroom and legroom are generous.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

The Camry’s front and rear doors have large openings but the top of the rear door seems a bit low when getting in and out.

I found the new interior design very comfortable and user-friendly. The front seats, upholstered in a soft fabric, are wide and comfortable, and the driver sits a bit higher than in some sedans. The base LE model has a manual height adjustable driver’s seat (mine had the optional power seat) and the steering column now telescopes in and out as well as tilts up and down. I found the thick steering wheel rim easy to grip and the audio controls on the steering wheel easy to operate. One complaint: heated seats are not available in the LE model.

The new gauges are larger than those of the previous Camry, and as before, they are backlit with an adjustable brightness setting. I found them easy to read even in the daytime with my sunglasses on. In particular, I liked the transmission gear selector display in the gauge cluster which makes it easy to see which gear you’re in without looking down beside the floor shifter.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

At the top of the centre dash is a bright digital clock, and below that a CD player flanked by Volume and Tune dials. Just below that, the new Channel Select buttons have been redesigned: they’re now narrow, horizontal bars illuminated by an ‘iceberg’ blue background. The lighting works well at night, but I didn’t like the narrow buttons because I found them hard to ‘target’ while driving. I like big buttons you can’t miss.

The three dials for the fan, heat and vent settings are larger than last year’s dials and are now backlit with that same ‘iceberg’ blue backlighting. Pressing the middle of the buttons activates functions like the defroster and air recirculation.

The standard stereo offers a single-disc CD player and now includes MP3/WMA compatibility and an auxiliary input jack for audio players. The heating/air conditioning system features a cabin air filter and rear seat heater ducts.

One thing I didn’t like about the appearance of the instrument panel is the silver-coloured plastic that surrounds the centre console. It just looks a bit cheap to me. Rather than resembling metal, it looks like painted plastic, and I suspect it can be easily scratched.

Features I did like in the new Camry include a handy pull-out coin tray to the left of the steering wheel,

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

the large chrome inside door handles, the wide front footwells, a shift lever positioned closer to the driver, and the numerous covered storage areas. At the bottom of the centre console is a covered bin with a 12-volt powerpoint that’s large enough for a camera, and behind the shift lever is an open bin with another 12-volt powerpoint. Between the seats under the armrest is another large covered storage area with a removeable tray. The two cupholders are also covered when not in use.

Last year’s Camry LE and SE weren’t available with side or curtain airbags (they were available on the XLE), so it’s nice to see that those are now standard equipment, in addition to the driver and passenger front airbags. As well, the driver has a new knee airbag which can reduce injury to the legs in a frontal collision.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

60/40 folding seatbacks are standard in the LE, but interestingly, they’re not available in the SE and XLE because those vehicles have a stiffening brace behind the rear seat to enhance handling and body rigidity. Personally, I’d rather have the folding rear seats.

The 2007 Camry’s trunk is smaller than last year’s trunk, but at 15 cubic feet, it’s still very roomy, and is fully lined. I liked the plastic jug holder on the left side of the trunk.

Another minor criticism: my silver test car had silver-coloured door sills where water and dirt could accumulate while the car is moving. The result is that when you open the doors, a rather unsightly accumulation of dirt and water is visible. If you owned a black car, however, you wouldn’t notice it.


Driving impressions

From a stoplight, the 2.4-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine is quite responsive. In fact, the accelerator pedal may even be a bit too sensitive.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

The engine emits a ‘buzzy’ sound under quick acceleration, but while cruising or driving around town, it’s very quiet. On the freeway, the engine revs at only 2000 rpm at 100 km/h in fifth gear which contributes to a quiet cabin and good fuel economy.

What surprised me about the four-cylinder Camry was how well it accelerated in highway passing, especially considering the size and weight of the Camry and its modest 158 horsepower. I chalk this up to its variable valve timing ‘with intelligence’ (VVT-i) which changes the valve timing at different engine speeds to improve torque and efficiency.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

The five-speed automatic transmission is very smooth and is always looking for a higher gear to save fuel. To act as an engine brake, it shifts down automatically when going downhill, or when you put your foot on the brake. It will shift from fifth to fourth and even into third gear. In the ‘D’ position, the shift lever can be shifted manually to 4th gear by simply slapping it to the left: this is handy if you want to engage fourth for an uphill stretch.

Perhaps the Camry’s best feature is its comfortable ride. It’s so smooth and comfortable that passengers tend to fall asleep. If had a criticism, it would be that the ride is a bit ‘floaty’ on the highway. The Camry LE is certainly not a sport sedan (the SE model offers better handling).

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge

Though it has a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson strut/rear dual-link), the LE leans a bit as it enters a tight corner and the low-effort steering doesn’t give you much feedback. On the positive side, the new Camry doesn’t wallow in the corners or dive under braking, and once it’s settled into a corner, it feels quite balanced and stable. Its turning circle of just 11 metres (36.1 ft.) is nice and tight.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake differential and Brake Assist are all standard on the 2007 Camry, but unfortunately, Vehicle Stability Control is not available on four-cylinder Camrys.

Driver visibility is quite good to the right side when changing lanes, and even though the rear trunklid is quite high, the rear head restraints fold down flush with the top of the seatbacks so as not to restrict vision further.

At night, I found the Camry’s headlamps to offer a wide band of even light distribution with a sharp upper cutoff when in low beam mode. High beams are also very good. They’re not as bright as HID headlamps, but better than average headlamps, in my opinion.

Test Drive: 2007 Toyota Camry LE Four cylinder toyota car test drives
Click image to enlarge


Verdict

Despite the newly available 3.5-litre V6 in the new 2007 Toyota Camry, the 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine is still a great engine with good fuel economy, decent performance, and a lower base price. Nicely equipped, a 2007 Camry LE four-cylinder goes for well under $30,000.

Pricing


2007 Toyota Camry Specifications

Base price LE $25,800
Base price LE V6 $29,400
Base price SE $26,605
Base price SE V6 $32,010
Base price XLE $37,425
Base price Hybrid $31,900
Type 4-door, 5-passenger intermediate sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 2.4-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves, VVT-i
  3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, VVT-I
  2.4-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves, VVT-i
Horsepower 158 @ 6000 rpm
  268 @ 6200 rpm
  187
Torque (lb-ft) 161 @ 4000 rpm
  248 @ 4700 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual/5-speed automatic/6-speed automatic/CVT
Tires LE, XLE P215/60R-16 all-season
Tires SE P215/55R-17 all-season
Curb weight LE 1500 kg (3307 lb)
Curb weight LE V6 1570 kg (3461 lb)
Curb weight SE 1490 kg (3285 lb)
Curb weight SE V6 1580 kg (3483 lb)
Curb weight XLE 1595 kg (3516 lb)
Curb weight Hybrid 1669 kg (3680 lb)
Wheelbase 2775 mm (109.3 in.)
Length 4805 mm (189.2 in.)
Width 1820 mm (71.7 in.)
Height 1460 mm (57.5 in.)
Cargo capacity 425 litres (15.0 cu. ft.)
Cargo capacity Hybrid 300 litres (10.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption 2.4 City: 9.8 L/100 km (29 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 6.5 L/100 km (43 mpg Imperial)
Fuel consumption 3.5 City: 10.7 L/100 km (26 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg Imperial)
Fuel consumption 2.4 Hybrid City: 5.7 L/100 km (50 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 5.7 L/100 km (50 mpg Imperial)
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Front airbags standard
Side airbags standard
Curtain airbags standard
Driver’s knee bag standard
Anti-lock brakes standard
Traction control N/A; standard SE V6, XLE V6
Stability control N/A; standard SE V6, XLE V6
VDIM N/A; N/A; standard Hybrid
Assembly location Georgetown, Kentucky

*Specifications subject to change

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About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).