Review and photos by Greg Wilson

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible
Click image to enlarge

Mid-sized, 2+2 convertibles under $40,000 tend to fall into one of two categories: those that emphasize performance, and those that stress comfort and style. The Ford Mustang GT and Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder fall into the former category while the Chrysler Sebring, the soon-to-be-released Pontiac G6 hardtop convertible, and the Toyota Solara convertible are typical of the latter.

The 2006 Toyota Solara convertible, or Camry Solara as it used to be called, is based on the Camry sedan front-wheel drive platform and comes with a standard 3.3 litre V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission in two trim levels, SE V6, and SLE V6. The 2.4 litre four cylinder engine that’s available in the Solara coupe is not offered in the Solara convertible model.

The Solara convertible SE V6, this week’s test car, is new for 2006. In return for fewer standard features, the SE V6 starts at a lower price than the SLE V6: $34,700 vs $39,200. What you don’t get in the SE V6 is leather seats, automatic climate control, heated front seats, woodgrain dash trim, chrome door handles, anti-theft system, vehicle stability control, traction control, and Brake Assist.

What you do get – and it’s still a comprehensive list of standard features – is the same 225 horsepower 3.3 litre V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, 17 inch tires with alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, front fog lamps, a power convertible top, fabric sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, air conditioning, premium JBL stereo with 6 disc CD changer, power driver’s seat and manually-adjustable tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power windows and power mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers, and dual front and side airbags.


2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible
Click image to enlarge

With its long, swept back headlight covers, sweeping profile, elliptical taillights, and rounded tail, the Solara convertible makes a distinctive styling statement. There are obvious, and probably intentional, similarities with its high-end Lexus cousins, the ES 330 sedan and SC 430 sports car. In fact, if Toyota were to put a Lexus badge on the Solara, I don’t think it would look out of place.

From some angles, the Solara convertible is a striking car that draws second looks, but my personal impression is that the sides are too high which makes the wheels look too small, even though they’re 17-inchers. As well, from the rear, the large, rounded tail with a stick-on lip spoiler looks rather bulky.

Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Solara draws curious observers wherever it’s parked, particularly with the top down.

Convertible top

The black vinyl top of my test car was made of durable, attractive material with a glass rear window and sound insulation on the inside. Driving with the top up, interior noise levels are amazingly quiet. In fact, this is probably the quietest soft-top convertible I’ve ever tested.

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible
Click image to enlarge

With the top up, the shape allows sufficient headroom for two rear adult passengers, and getting in to the rear seat is easier than with many coupes and convertibles: the doors are long leaving a large door opening, and the right front seat slides forwards when the seatback is reclined to make entry and exit easier. As well, the front shoulder belt can be unclipped from the front seat so that it’s out of the way.

There is a blind spot to the right-rear that hampers visibility when lane-changing or when backing into a parking space. Even with the top down, the high rear deck restricts visibility to the rear, particularly with the clip-on tonneau cover in place. Poor rear visibility would get my vote as the Solara convertible’s worst feature.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, the power top is easy to lower by releasing two latches on the windshield frame, and pressing a button on the left side of the dash. The top retracts in just 8 seconds, and folds up in 10 seconds. If you want to install the tonneau cover over the retracted top, you have to get out to do it. I found the tonneau cover awkward to fit into place, and when it’s not in use, it takes up a lot of precious trunk space.

Another quibble: after the top is raised, the side windows don’t raise automatically. The driver must press a single button on the dash that raises all four side windows at once. It took me a while to figure this out.


2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible
Click image to enlarge

The Solara convertible has a very roomy interior, and while many convertible cars have a cramped rear seat, the Solara offers a roomy rear compartment for two adults. But as the rear seating area is 165 mm (6.5 in.) narrower than in the coupe, the convertible model seats only two rear passengers rather than three.

The quality of the fabric seat materials – black with chequered black seat inserts in my car – is high, but the bright metal-like plastic on the centre dash and the fake carbon fibre trim look rather artificial.

The three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes with two separate manual levers. As well, the SE V6 come with a standard power seat height adjuster and power lumbar adjustment. The driver’s seat is a comfortable place to be.

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible
Click image to enlarge

Instruments and controls are generally easy to see and operate. On top of the dash are three LCD readouts: the left one is a driver information display (operated by a button on the steering wheel) and includes instant fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, driving range, and Estimated Time of Arrival. The middle LCD display is a digital clock, and the right hand one is an outside temperature gauge.

The protruding centre stereo includes a 6-disc CD changer and a cassette player, and its controls are easy to operate, including the steering wheel controls. This premium JBL stereo includes six speakers and a rear subwoofer and I found the sound crisp and clear. However, the LCD display is sometimes hard to read under the Sun’s glare.

Below the stereo are three simple dials for the heating and air conditioning system which are well-marked and easy to operate.

Interior storage space is abundant: below the centre stack is a large covered storage bin with a 12 volt powerpoint inside, and behind the two cupholders in the centre console is an even larger bi-level bin with another 12 volt powerpoint.

Compared to the Solara coupe, the convertible’s trunk is 18% smaller: 330 litres (11.7 cu. ft.) vs 390 litres (13.8 cu. ft.). As well, the convertible Solara’s rear seatbacks do not fold down. However, the trunk is still quite roomy for a convertible model.

Driving impressions

Put the five-speed automatic transmission floor shifter into Drive, and press the accelerator, and the first impression is how smooth and quiet the engine is. Toyota’s 3.3 litre V6 is certainly one of the nicest V6 engines on the market. Not only is it smooth and quiet, but it’s quick off the line and very responsive when passing thanks to variable valve timing and variable air induction which produces more torque over a wider rev range. Horsepower is 225 @ 5600 rpm and maximum torque of 240 lb-ft is developed at 3600 rpm.

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible
Click image to enlarge

With the extra body strengthening required to compensate for the lack of a steel roof, the Solara SE V6 convertible is 60 kg (132 lb.) heavier than the Solara SE Coupe. However, the extra weight makes a minimal impact on performance, and increases fuel consumption slightly but not significantly. Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption figures are City: 11.6 L/100 km (24 mpg), and Hwy: 7.6 L/100 km (37 mpg). That’s about the same fuel consumption as the Chrysler Sebring convertible which has a smaller and less powerful 2.7 litre V6.

The Solara’s 5-speed automatic transmission is also a smooth gear-changer, and offers the option of shifting manually sequentially by tapping the floor lever forward to shift up a gear or back to shift down a gear.

With the top down, wind buffeting at highway speeds is not a problem for front seat passengers, but rear passengers will get blown around. On bumpy roads, I found the windshield frame shook a bit, but not excessively.

The Solara’s rack and pinion “progressive rate” power steering is very light at slow speeds, and adds firmness as you pick up speed. I never found it heavy, but it’s certainly not sporty.

The suspension, while fully independent, is not sporty either. The Solara’s independent McPherson struts in front and independent dual link at the rear provide a balanced but soft ride, and the Solara is very comfortable on the highway without being floaty. Throw it into a few corners, and the car leans quite a bit and exhibits some mild understeer. The standard 215/55R-17 inch radials do a lot to keep the Solara firmly planted.

Four discs with ABS and electronic brake force differential – which adjusts for front to rear weight differences – provide ample stopping power, but electronic features such as Brake Assist (the automatic panic braking assistant) and Vehicle Stability and Traction Control, are not available on the SE model, only the top-of-the-line SLE.


A genuine four-passenger convertible that emphasizes comfort over performance, the Solara SE V6 is one of the quietest and smoothest convertibles on the market.

Technical Data: 2006 Toyota Solara SE V6 convertible

Base price $34,700
Options none
Freight $1,160
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $35,960 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 2-door, 4-passenger convertible
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 3.3 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, VVTi
Horsepower 225 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 240 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic w/manual mode
Tires P215/55R-17
Curb weight 1610 kg (3549 lb.)
Wheelbase 2720 mm (107.0 in.)
Length 4890 mm (192.5 in.)
Width 1815 mm (71.5 in.)
Height 1435 mm (56.5 in.)
Trunk capacity 330 litres (11.7 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.6 L/100 km (24 mpg) Imperial
  Hwy: 7.6 L/100 km (37 mpg) Imperial
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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