2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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by Greg Wilson

Redesigned for the first time since 1997, the 2002 Toyota Camry is taller and has a longer wheelbase, both of which help to increase interior room and trunk space. A new 157 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder engine is standard while an optional 192 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 has been carried over. Trim levels this year are LE, XLE, and a new sporty SE-V6 model. Prices range from $23,755 to $32,570 plus options. My test car came to $37,290.

Bigger Camry is quieter and more refined

As one of one of North America’s most popular and statistically-reliable mid-sized sedans, the Toyota Camry is kind of a benchmark for other sedans in this class. The Camry’s complete redesign for the 2002 model year is an event worth noting, if only as a compass for the future direction of other cars in this class.

Over the years, the Toyota Camry has received numerous quality awards, the most significant being the CAA’s Pyramid (used car performance) award which it has received seven times since 1988. In addition, the assembly plant where the Camry is built in Georgetown, Kentucky has received the J.D. Power and Associates top Gold Plant Award for quality three times.

In the 2001 model year, the Toyota Camry managed to be the fourth best-selling mid-sized sedan in Canada even though it was in its final year before being redesigned. In the United States, the Camry has been the best-selling car outright for the past four years.

Redesigned for the first time since 1997, the 2002 Camry receives its first all-new platform in ten years, a platform it shares with the 2002 Lexus ES300. Compared to the 2001 Camry, the 2002 model is slightly longer and wider with a significant increase in height and wheelbase. A 50 mm (2.0 in.) longer wheelbase provides more front and rear legroom and a more compliant, comfortable ride. An additional 70 mm (2.8 in.) of height adds to the Camry’s headroom, and made it possible to increase the seat height for more upright seating positions which also make it easier to get in and out.

2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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The other big news for 2002 is that last year’s base 136 horsepower 2.2 litre four cylinder engine has been replaced by a new 157 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder engine. This engine is standard in the LE (formerly CE) and XLE models. My test car was an XLE V6 with the 192 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 (optional in LE and XLE and standard in the new SE V6 model) which is carried over from the previous Camry. I will report on the four cylinder model at a later date.

As before, base Camrys are offered with a 5 speed manual or 4 speed automatic transmission, but all other trim levels come only with the automatic transmission. For 2002, the automatic transmission has been improved with ‘intelligent-shifting’ software that improves performance and shift quality.

The base price of the 2002 Camry has dropped from 2001 even though it has more standard equipment: the base 2002 Camry LE model is priced at $23,755, or $810 less than the 2001 CE model. However, my 2002 XLE V6 model had a suggested retail price of $32,570, or $690 more than the 2001 model – not unreasonable for a new model with additional standard equipment such as side and curtain airbags. A new sporty SE-V6 model, priced at $30,715, includes a sport-tuned suspension, performance tires, front fog lights, and a rear spoiler.

New base engine

2002 Toyota Camry XLE 3.0 V6
2002 Toyota Camry XLE 3.0 V6
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2002 Camry LE and XLE models have an all-new 2.4 litre DOHC 16 valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (VVT-i), which develops 157 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 21 horsepower more than the previous 2.2 litre four cylinder engine. Camry XLE V6 and SE-V6 models carryover the 3.0 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 engine which offers 192 horsepower at 5300 rpm and 209 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. For 202, both the four and six cylinder engines are certified as ULEV (ultra low emissions) engines. The V6 engine offers slightly better fuel consumption this year: 11.6 l/100 km (24 mpg) in the city and 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg) on the highway.

Base Camry LE models have standard front disc/rear drum brakes without anti-lock brakes, but you can get ABS combined with EBD (electronic brake differential) as an option. All other Camry models have standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD. Brake Assist, an automatic emergency braking system, is optional with ABS on the XLE V6 and SE-V6 models.

2002 Camry’s feature a revised fully independent suspension: front MacPherson struts with gas-filled shocks and a sub-frame; and rear independent dual link design with stabilizer bar, gas-filled shocks, and sub-frame. The sportier SE grade receives higher spring rates and shock damping rates, a low-flow power steering pump and a front strut bar to reinforce the upper shock mounts.

Standard rubber on base Camry LE models is 205/65R-15 inch tires – XLE and SE models ride on standard 215/60R-16 inch tires.

New interior designed for comfort

2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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Increased comfort and ease-of-use are the main themes of the Camry’s completely new interior. The centre instrument panel has been moved closer to the driver’s reach, numerals and figures are larger and easier to see, and buttons and dials are bigger and easier to grip.

The leather-upholstered interior of my XLE V6 test car was finished in three shades of beige with tasteful wood trim on the centre console and doors. Wide, comfortable power-operated front leather bucket seats are separated by a centre console with a wide armrest and spacious storage container with a 12 volt outlet inside for charging cell phones. Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel are two large semi-circular gauges for the speedometer and tachometer with smaller gauges for fuel and coolant inset in the larger gauges. A leather-covered shift lever with a chrome release button and on/off overdrive button falls easily to the driver’s right hand.

The centre instrument panel is positioned higher and closer to the driver than before: the top centre stack has a digital clock and outside temperature display which also serves as a display for trip computer functions. Below that is a standard JBL AM/FM/cassette/CD player with six speakers (a JBL premium audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer is optional). Just below the stereo is an automatic climate control system with bigger-than-average buttons and numerals for easy use.

Below that, the centre dash dives towards the firewall where two seat heater buttons and a 12 volt power outlet are located. Just behind it is a handy open storage tray, and ashtray/lighter. And behind the console shift lever are two covered cupholders which feature a removeable centre partition which creates a larger storage space.

On the left of the Camry’s dashboard is a handy, pull-out coin drawer, and the front doors feature generously-sized door pockets. The Camry features a North American-style foot brake to the left of the brake pedal.

2002 Toyota Camry XLE
2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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The rear seat is quite spacious with generous legroom and headroom for three adults – the new Camry’s longer wheelbase has increased rear legroom by 38 mm (1.5 in.). Rear passengers have a folding rear centre armrest with built-in cupholders. Like the front seats, the rear seats have a higher hip point which makes it easier to slide laterally in and out of the vehicle. 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks which fold down to increase cargo capacity are standard, however the opening to the trunk is comparatively small.

I had a few small complaints with the interior: the front seat heaters, which heat the cushions and backrests, have only one temperature which I found to be too hot; the traction control on/off button is difficult to find on the lower, left dash; and though I liked the tilt steering wheel, it would be nice to see a telescoping feature as well in a car of this price range.

The Camry’s huge 498 litre (17.5 cu. ft.) trunk is wide and deep and is covered with a spongy, carpet-underlay material. The trunklid can be unlocked with a key or a remote keyfob, and is surprisingly lightweight when lifted. The left side of the trunk has a hard plastic storage bin that could be used for milk jugs or pop bottles.

Driving Impressions

2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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After driving the redesigned 2002 Toyota Camry XLE V6 model for a week, I found it to be one of the quietest and most comfortable mid-sized sedans in the mid-size class, with refinement levels that rival many luxury cars.

The Camry’s refinement is due in part to an all-new platform that greatly increases body rigidity and reduces noise, vibration and harshness. In addition, it has improved engine mounts, increased noise insulation, and a revised suspension design.

The Camry is incredibly easy to drive – steering effort (variable-assist) is very light, braking effort is minimal, throttle response is quick without being abrupt, the new automatic transmission shifts responsively and seamlessly, the ride is well-damped, and handling is competent despite some body lean. There is very little engine or wind noise – only the occasional tire-thumping when traversing freeway expansion joints.

Toyota cites a 0 to 60 mph performance time of 8.3 seconds, an improvement of half a second over last year’s V6 model. That time is comparable with other V6-equipped import sedans in its class but it is about a second slower than the new 240 horsepower Nissan Altima V6.

Highway cruising is very comfortable: at a steady 100 km/h in fourth gear, the 3.0 litre V6 engine turns over just 2,300 rpm, and at 120 km/h, the engine turns over 2,800 rpm, both comfortably quiet engine speeds. The new Camry’s drag coefficient has been reduced from 0.30 to 0.28, further reducing wind noise.

The flipside to the Camry’s ultra-refined performance is that it’s difficult to get really excited about driving it (although I confess I haven’t yet driven the base four cylinder model with the manual transmission). I wouldn’t say that my XLE V6 test car lulled me to sleep, but if automatic cruise control ever gets invented, I could quite easily snuggle up in the heated leather driver’s seat and take a nap.

New side and curtain airbags

2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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New for 2002 are front-seat side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags � however, they’re offered only on the XLE trim level. The new airbags help protect the heads of front and rear occupants and the torso of front-seat occupants in side impacts by preventing contact with the side pillars and side glass in a side impact.

As well, all Camry models come equipped with new multi-stage front driver and passenger airbags – deployment is now controlled in multiple stages based on the severity of the impact measured by front impact sensors. The driver-side airbag is controlled in a three-stage manner based on impact severity and the position of the driver seat. The driver-side airbag will deploy at a faster rate or slower rate for small, medium and larger passengers, depending on crash severity. Front-passenger airbag deployment is controlled in two stages, either a “faster” or a “slower” deployment as appropriate.

Another new safety feature is an anti-intrusion brake pedal that moves inward during impact, and a crushable foot rest that deforms during impact, providing more cabin space for feet and legs.

Also, two new safety features include a child restraint anchorage system consisting of two lower anchor brackets and two strap anchors, and a glow-in-the dark internal trunk release handle to prevent children from becoming locked in the trunk.

Other Camry safety features include a head impact protection structure, child protector rear door locks, three-point seatbelts for all front and rear seat positions, and five height-adjustable head restraints.

Later in 2002, new power adjustable floor pedals will be available. The brake and accelerator pedals will adjust forward or back with the touch of a button to assist shorter drivers.

Camry XLE V6 and SE-V6 models are available with optional Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) and traction control, an automatic system that utilizes throttle retardation and the ABS system to help maintain control in slippery driving conditions. Brake Assist, an automatic braking system that applies more brake pressure in a panic situation, is also optional on XLE V6 and SE-V6 models.

Prices and optional features

2002 Toyota Camry XLE
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2002 Toyota Camry manufacturers suggested retail prices are as follows: Camry LE 5 spd man $23,755; LE auto $24,800; LE V6 auto $27,585; XLE 4 cyl auto $30,440; XLE V6 auto $32,570; SE V6 auto $30,715.

Standard equipment on base LE four cylinder models includes the 157 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder engine, five speed manual transmission, AM/FM/cassette CD, air conditioning, fabric upholstery, dual front airbags, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, driver’s seat lumbar adjustment, power door locks and windows with driver’s automatic-down feature and retained accessory power, remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable intermittent wipers, centre console, digital clock and outside temperature gauge, and front and rear cupholders.

Standard equipment on my Camry XLE V6 test car included the 3.0 litre V6 engine and 4-speed automatic transmission, alloy wheels, driver’s seat with manual lumbar and power height and recline adjustment, side and curtain airbags, automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD with eight speakers, wood grain trim on the dash and doors, power tilt/slide glass moonroof with sunshade, rear sunshade, and compass.

My test car also had the optional XLE V6 package ($3,625) which included leather seats, power passenger seat, heated front seats, Vehicle Skid Control and traction control, ABS with Brake Assist, and front fog lamps.

The total price for my XLE V6, including a comparatively steep $1,095 for Freight and PDI, was $37,290. With taxes, Camry XLE V6 purchasers are looking at over $40,000.

Technical Data:

2002 Toyota Camry XLE V6
Base price (XLE V6) $32,570
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-sized sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 192 @ 5300 rpm
Torque 209 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires P215/60R-16
Curb weight 1555 kg (3428 lb.)
Wheelbase 2720 mm (107.1 in.)
Length 4805 mm (189.2 in.)
Width 1795 mm (70.7 in.)
Height 1490 mm (58.7 in.)
Trunk capacity 498 litres (17.5 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.6 l/100 km (24 mpg)
  7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg)
Fuel Type Premium
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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