2005 Toyota Camry LE
2005 Toyota Camry LE. Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

by Paul Williams

With Toyota racking up record sales, you’d think the company would be content with its strong image as the sensible buyer’s automotive purchase. But the much-envied reputation – a product of Toyota’s solid construction, reliability and high resale – can also be a problem, says Toyota’s National Marketing Manager, David Brimson.

“We don’t want to be seen simply as a rational buy,” he says. “We can’t have people looking past us if they’re thinking performance or sharp design. Toyotas can be sporty and eye-catching, as well as good value.”

For 2005, therefore, look for more than half the model line-up to receive changes, many of them emphasizing performance and a more dynamic look and feel.

An example is the flagship Camry sedan, in V6 SE specification. With a 225-horsepower, 3.3-litre V-6 engine, sport-tuned suspension, sport grille and black headlight masking, and such options as oversized graphite alloy wheels, available body kit with spoiler and Salsa Red Pearl paint, it’s a Camry designed to get a move on.

All versions of the Camry, North America’s best-selling car for four out of the past five years, will receive a mid-cycle change to styling and improvements in aerodynamics, safety and performance for 2005.

Camry engine choices range from a 160 horsepower four-cylinder (LE and SE), to a 210 horsepower V-6 (LE, XLE) and the 225 horsepower V-6 (SE). A five-speed manual is available in the four-cylinder SE; other models only come with the five-speed automatic.

2005 Toyota Camry LE

2005 Toyota Camry LE
2005 Toyota Camry LE. Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Anti-lock brakes are standard on all models, along with a centre rear head restraint to complement the three-point rear-centre seatbelt and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Redesigned headlamps, tail lamps and front bumper, along with changes to the grille give the Camry a sleeker, more dynamic look. Inside, new “optitron” (electro-luminescent) gauges improve legibility. New seat materials, console cover and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) controls are also present, along with a standard clean air filter for the air conditioning system.

The most popular Camry is the LE, which represents 46% of Camry sales and at $24,950 (four cylinder) is $150 more than last year’s equivalent version, although it has additional standard equipment. A $2,260 “B” package available with this model includes 15″ alloy wheels, sunroof and power driver’s seat. The V6 SE starts at $31,090 and the luxury XLE at $33,245.

The Camry Solara convertible is the drop-top version of the Camry and thus far has only been offered in V6 SLE form. This is a fully equipped trim level with every option included. As of Spring, 2005, look for an SE V6 version with less equipment and presumably a lower price (although the SLE’s $39,100 is very competitive). Pricing for the SE will be announced closer to sale date.

2005 Toyota Corolla XRS
2005 Toyota Corolla XRS. Photo: Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

The Canadian-built (Cambridge, Ontario) Corolla has received 700 new parts in its own mid-cycle change, including revisions to the front bumper, front grille, lower valance, rear tail lamps and the audio system. Included as standard are a vertical seat adjuster (added to the CE model), engine immobilizer, ultra-violet glass protection and a rear centre head restraint.

Like the Camry, the Corolla compact sedan also features a performance model in the Corolla XRS (a 2004 mid-year introduction) It comes with a high-revving 170-horsepower DOHC, four-cylinder engine, sport-tuned suspension, six-speed manual transmission, 16″ wheels, performance tires, lowered ride height, sport seats and special exterior and interior accents.

Corolla is Toyota’s top-selling model and will be offered in four trim levels, starting with the base CE at $15,490, moving up to the CE Sport at $19,955, the LE at $21,600 and the high performance XRS at $24,185.

Even though Toyota is emphasizing sporty features in some of its models, 2005 will be the last year for the Celica coupe (although all the trim levels remain, including the Tsunami Special Edition). It’s being retired due to weak sales, with Toyota expecting the Matrix and Echo Hatchback to take up the slack in its absence.

The Canada-only Echo Hatchback has become very popular here, and is now the market leader in its subcompact segment. For 2005, over 50 accessory and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) options will be available for this car, which also receives a tachometer as standard equipment (along with anti-lock brakes, already standard).

2005 Toyota Matrix
Base 2005 Toyota Matrix with added body package and sport wheels and tires

2005 Toyota Matrix
2005 Toyota Matrix XRS. Photos: Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

The Matrix is also built in Cambridge, Ontario (on the Corolla platform), and like the Corolla, it can be purchased in high-performance XRS form. In the Matrix this includes six-disc CD changer and power sunroof.

All Matrix models ($16,925 base, $21,185 XR and $25,560 XRS) receive the same appearance changes as found in the Corolla. Models equipped with ABS receive a tire-pressure monitoring system and the Matrix will benefit from the same visual improvements found on the Corolla. The Matrix continues to be offered in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions.

Along with new designs and a sporty demeanour for its cars, Toyota is looking to beef up its trucks with added power from its V-6 and V-8 engines. The 245-horsepower V-6 Tundra is up 55 horsepower over the previous year’s model, and the V-8 is up 42 to 282-horsepower.

The transmission will also be upgraded to a five-speed automatic and the Tundra receives changes to the grille, front bumper, lower valance headlamps and tail lamps on Regular (two-door) and Access (two additional rear hinged doors) cabs.

The Tundra is offered in 4×2 and 4×4 configurations with a choice of the two engines, and three cab sizes including the Double Cab, released for 2004 with four conventional doors and a power-down rear window.

Built on the same platform as the Tundra, the Sequoia luxury SUV will receive exterior changes, notably to the front grille, bumper, headlamps, corner lamps, tail lamps and antenna.

Additional safety equipment will include second-row curtain shield airbags, and roll-sensing front seat side and curtain shield airbags, along with a tire pressure monitoring system.

All Sequoias are equipped with the 282-horsepower V-8 engine and five-speed transmission found in the Tundra pickup. A “TRD Sport Package” includes new leather interior, heated front seats and leather door trim, and the “Limited” package includes memory driver’s seat and mirrors, interior wood trim and first and second row captain’s chairs with centre consoles.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, also plans mid-cycle model changes. The 2005 330 ES, for instance, gets styling revisions, additional standard equipment and four appearance packages, plus a new “special edition,” with reduced content, for $39,900. The ES 330 with premium package drops by $700 to $52,300.

More changes, some substantial, are planned for the Tacoma truck, Sienna minivan, Lexus LS 430 sedan, and RAV4, 4Runner and Lexus GX 470 sport utilities, the automaker says. Details will be released later in the year.

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