2002 toyota Camry SE
2002 toyota Camry SE
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by Harry Pegg

If it were ice-cream, the 2002 Toyota Camry would be still be vanilla, but Haagen Daas vanilla, not some run-of-the-mill variety.

Kananaskis, Alberta – It’s bigger, quieter, stronger, safer and better equipped – it handles and rides better – but it’s still a Camry. If it were ice cream, it would still be vanilla – but Haagen Daas vanilla, not some run-of-the-mill variety.

What’s wrong with vanilla, you ask? Not a thing. Judging from the enviable sales record the Toyota sedan has enjoyed, a lot of people like vanilla.

Toyota brought the new car to Kananaskis-Country in Alberta, just west of Calgary, to show the media what they’ve done and to prove that you really can improve on success.

Built on a brand new platform, the first for Camry in 10 years, the sedan not only runs on a wheelbase 50 mm longer than the previous model, but its wider and taller, too. That translates into more space for people and cargo. Styling is not spectacular, but its proportions are pleasing to the eye and the car slips through the air with a drag coefficient of just .284.

2002 Toyota Camry SE interior
SE interior
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2.4 litre in-line four-cylinder
2.4 litre in-line four-cylinder
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3.0 litre V6
3.0 litre V6
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Available in three models, LE, XLE and SE, Camry has three personalities. The base LE has a long list of standard features like air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power mirrors and keyless entry. The upscale XLE has leather and all the luxury touches and the sporty SE runs on stiffer suspension and has a more performance-oriented interior.

The base engine is a new 2.4 litre in-line four-cylinder with Toyota’s VVT-I (continuously variable valve timing with intelligence) that produces 157 horsepower (up 15% from the previous engine) and 162 lb. ft. of torque (a 10% improvement).

This engine is a smooth, quiet runner thanks to the vibration-damping counter-rotating balance shafts operated by a gear installed directly on the crankshaft.

In the LE, you can hook the four cylinder engine to one of two new transmissions: a five-speed manual or a new four-speed automatic with hill shift logic. V6-powered XLE and SE models come only with the four-speed automatic transmission. Rowing your own gears with the manual shifter is a pleasure. Clutch take-up is smooth and the lever moves from gear-to-gear with an easy motion.

The four-cylinder engine is still a little low on hill-climbing power, though. In fifth gear, with accelerator mashed to the mat, Camry was barely able to maintain the 110 km/h speed limit on the long grades on Highway 1 west of Calgary. I’d like to know there was a little more on tap if necessary without having to downshift to fourth or even third.

Automatic shifting is a seamless effort. And grade logic keeps the transmission from hunting through the gears on uphill or downhill runs. The Camry V6 has benefited from electronic throttle control and independent type direct ignition system to provide 192 horsepower and 209 ft. lb. of torque. Again, it’s not a screamer, but it’s efficient and smooth.

Both engines use iridium spark plugs which don’t require changing for 192,000 km, so if you’re into economy in maintenance, this is a feature you’ll like.

2002 Toyota Camry SE
2002 Toyota Camry SE
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SE, Camry’s first “sport” model, gets larger wheels, sport-tuned suspension and stronger stabilizer bars, along with some special interior trim touches and a rear deck spoiler.

It’s no rocket, but SE handles very well with crisp response to driver inputs and considerably less body roll on hard corners. This is a Camry that actually lets a driver have some fun behind the wheel, but it would be so much better with more punch. And, please, gimme the five-speed.

Braking on the base LE is front disc/rear drum while XLE and SE get an extremely efficient four-wheel disc system with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. ABS is available as an option on LE while XLE and SE can add brake assist as an option.

The interior of all three models is comfortable and quiet. Seats are comfortable and supportive in all the right places. It’s a car you can ride in for long distances without tiring.

Like it’s predecessor, it does absolutely nothing badly, yet is not outstanding in any single category.

Excuse me, I think I’ll take the Camry out and get an ice cream cone. Vanilla, of course.

At a glance

2002 Toyota Camry SE
2002 Toyota Camry SE
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Price as tested $23,755 – $26,995 (LE)
  $30,440 – $32,570 (XLE)
  $30,175 (SE)
Body 4-door sedan
Layout Front engine, front drive
Engine 2.4-L in-line 4 cyl./ 3.0-L V6
Horsepower 157 @ 5600 rpm (4 cyl)/192 @ 5300 rpm (V6)
Torque 163 @ 4000 rpm (4 cyl)/209 @ 4400 rpm (V6)
Transmission 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic
Curb weight 1435-1545 kg
Wheelbase 2720 mm
Track (front/rear) 1545/1535 mm
Length 4805 mm
Width 1795 mm
Height 1490 mm
Brakes front disc/rear drum (LE), 4-wheel disc (XLE, SE)
Fuel consumption 9.8/6.5 (4 manual)
(city/highway litres/100 km) 10.1/6.9(4 AT)
  11.6/7.7(V6 AT)

Standard equipment

2002 Toyota Camry LE interior
Camry LE interior
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LE: 2.4-L four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, driver and passenger front airbags, front disc/rear drum brakes, air conditioning, AM/FM audio system with CD, cassette and six speakers, front bucket seats with manual adjustment, 60/40 split folding rear seat, fold down rear centre armrest, power windows, power locks with keyless remote entry, four-spoke steering wheel, tilt steering column, adjustable rear seat headrests, outside temperature gauge, dual vanity mirrors, remote trunk release, cargo inteior lamp, cruise control, digital clock, accessory power outlets, sunglass storage, shopping bag hooks, anchor points for child restraint seats, child protector rear door locks, adjustable “B” pillar shoulder belt anchors, remote fuel lid release, engine immobilizer system, full wheel covers, side window defoggers, color keyed mirrors, door handles and body side muldings, variable intrmittent wipers, halgen headlights, light control
system, rear seat heater ducts.

XLE adds: automatic transmission, garage door opener, side airbags and side curtain airbags, anti-theft system , automatic air conditioning, JBL premium audio with diversity antenna, power driver seat, woodgrain trim, front seatback pockets, aluminum alloy wheels, power moonroof, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution.

SE adds: 3.0-L V6 engine, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, aluminum instrument panel accents, fog lamps, rear spoiler, sport style grille, chrome tailpipe.

Available options: LE: 3.0-L V6 engine, automatic transmission, ABS with electronic brake force distribution. XLE and SE: ABS with Brake Assist, vehicle skid control (with V6).

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