2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

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Is the coupe dead?

Depends on where you’re pointing your stick. There are countless vehicles with doors of two, trunk stowage, and a backseat suitable for two people that you don’t like very much. A two-door hatch is not a coupe. Neither is a Mustang or the coming Challenger and Camaro. Muscle cars only added back seats to keep insurance premiums low back in the day, so don’t expect to put your swollen high school buddies back there. A coupe is, well, a two-door that’s gone to finishing school. These are the two-door vehicles with a sense of arrival. They’re all but dead at GM, with Cutlass Supreme, Riviera, Toronado, and Eldorado gathering dust in the nameplate drawer. Same with the Ford Torino and Thunderbird, Lincoln Mark VIII, Chevrolet Chevelle, Dodge Avenger, Chrysler LeBaron and Sebring, Lexus SC400 and Acura Legend coupes. They weren’t necessarily fast, or possessed mind-numbing tech, but they were always something that caught your attention.

Toyota’s Solara has been catching attention since the latter 90’s, a sensible direction to replace the abomination that was the two-door Camry. Of particular note was the research and development of the car in North America, as well as subsequent production. What better place to spawn a classy coupe than the birthplace of fine Corinthian leather. As convertibles came back into favour, the Solara was a spot-on natch. Sure, it was more of a natch for 40-something women of independent means, of which there were plenty with excellent credit ratings waiting for ‘their’ car. The Mustang might have turned their heads, until they saw one in the snow. It was the sensibility of a Camry with the Louis Vuitton makeover: even the knock-off bags.

2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

The death of the Celica, as well as any hopes of the Scion nameplate arriving with the potent tC, has created a new challenge for the Solara. Is there enough performance chutzpah under the hood and strut mounts to give birth to a performance edition of note? Can the nimble handling and taut suspension of the all-new Camry SE make a much-needed cameo? And could we possibly see a performance edition from Toyota with an engine output at least five ponies above the stock schlock?

At least Toyota’s trying, though it seems like more of a brain stem twitch than an actual direction. For Oh-Seven, the SE V6 Solara has been renamed the Solara Sport V6. Available in coupe or ragtop form, the most notable features include HID self-leveling headlamps, a sport skirt body kit, ‘sport’ seating fabric, (I know where this is going.) and 17-inch rims, with wheel locks. Wow. The 3.3-litre V6 appears to be the only six, a genuine perplex considering the new 3.5-litre available in the Camry re-do. Output is 210 ponies, with 220 ft-lbs of torque at peak. A manu-shift 5-speed automatic is around, not that most Solarians would care to use it.

The usual sign of concern amongst us auto scribes for a vehicle’s future is the lack of phone calls from other writers in search of the keys. The Solara that was a regular fixture in the gravel at Chez Clark was an SLE V6, the upper echelon of equipment. With an MSRP sticker of $36,975, this is the Solara where Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control make their appearance.
Climate control is automatic, and heated elements warm your hide through leather hides up front. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity for your cell, and fine simul-wood for your semi-arrived station. Otherwise, it’s your basic comfort lalapalooza.

2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

It may not have a ‘TRD’ label, nor is it finished in look-at-me fire engine red, however under the hood, that sure looks like a front strut tower bar. That’s not all the performance you’re going to find on the Solara. The Solara with a six borders on ‘sleeper’, much like how an old boat-tail Riv with a 455 could quickly catapult a three-piece suit to a boardroom with a rotary phone. The new 3.5 mill would make a GT-S version a very real possibility. The automatic doesn’t experience any algorithim anomalies when your right foot goes mash. The strut bar helps, but it fails to transform the Solara to Camry SE prowess. (The Sport apparently has suspension tweaks.) Braking is sure and precise with four-wheel disc binders and ABS with Brake Assist. Of course it works great; it is a Toyota after all.

The interior is comfy enough to make Ricardo Montalban switch teams. It may not be Corinthian, but it’s pretty hard to argue with hides with heat. Tilt-and-telescope achieve proper driver positioning, as does the power driver’s seat with power lumbar. It’s a couch, but a couch that must come from some high-end Euro-trash design house that results in Pavlovian drool everytime you sit in it. (Where’s the Kleenex dispenser?)

The Bluetooth system is one of the best encountered, especially when you don’t attempt to talk like a robot. There seems to be better command recognition when you keep things quick and casual, as opposed to monotone and slow. As per usual, the switches are savvy, the audio robust, and, wait a minute; what’s wrong with the back seat?

2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

What’s wrong, in this writer’s opinion, is Kentucky. I’ve got nothing against their horsey drag races and sweet, sweet brown liquor nectar. What’s wrong is the same misses I encountered on a previous-gen Camry. Though I couldn’t see light through the split fold-down seat, as I did on a 2005 model, the seat cushioning on this Solara was bent out of shape, a ‘C’ minus in any Industrial Arts classroom. Then the gaps set in, or should I say spread apart. For a sticker over 40K when the tax roll comes in, I expect things to line up. The trim piece gaps down low and to the rear of the ‘B’ pillar were in the cards, as in varying amounts of Jacks and Queens that could be placed in the partitions. It may be millimetres, but it’s still a gap your friends can see when you’re showing it off. The bumper cover fitment was what I expect out of a $16,000 Cobalt. What’s strange is that the new Camrys built nearby have not raised my eyebrows in respect to build quality. People need to start talking to each other, and right quick.

As popular as the Solara appears, the chance of it ever becoming a high-volume piece is Virginia slim. Maybe so much so that it could be next on the chopping block. I miss the Toyotas of my car-washing youth. SR5 Corollas, GT-S, All-Trac Turbo Celicas, and a certain first-gen Supercharged MR2 that I was a very bad boy in. They have completely sucked the fun out of everything. And they can’t keep the bore-mobiles in stock. I’m fed up with the arguments that Scion can’t come to Canada because an entirely new dealer infrastructure would be required. The rules regarding cars in our chilly burgh is that there are no rules.

2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe
2007 Toyota Solara XLE V6 Coupe. Click image to enlarge

Our streets are crawling with econoboxes that keep US border guards guessing. Quit posturing, put the Scion badge on a few select shops, and start selling.

If Solara’s days are numbered, so are all of the coupes pushing 40 large. It’s too easy to spread that bread around much more practical ute-phrema, wagonistas, and truck-based behemoths with 110 Volt plus in the box. And still, when that Solara pulls up, with sheetmetal that doesn’t hold kayaks, tool pouches, or mountain bikes, you can’t help but feel an attraction. It’s sculpture. If you want an implement, go talk to John Deere. I’m just going to walk around it one more time.


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