2007 Toyota Camry
Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase
Interior photos by Chris Chase
Exterior photos by Russell Purcell

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada Loosely translated, the Japanese term ‘tumara nai’ means “that which is boring or uninspired.” And according to Koji Sato, who worked as Assistant Chief Engineer on the 2007 Toyota Camry, it pretty accurately describes every generation of the company’s bread-and-butter sedan since the nameplate’s introduction in 1983. It was also the one thing the 2007 Camry development team wanted to eliminate from the sixth generation of a car that has become the backbone of the Toyota brand.

Sato admits it was a radical decision to basically redefine the Camry with this newest iteration, but one that had to be made in order to keep the Camry ahead of the game in the midside sedan segment, the biggest and most competitive slice of the North American automobile market.

The most obvious difference between this Camry and previous versions is the styling. For the first time, here’s a Camry that’s looks kind of, well, cool.

2007 Toyota Camry
Click image to enlarge

Sato said Toyota’s research revealed that the outgoing Camry was rejected for its looks more than any other midsize sedan, so the look of this new car has far more in common with the latest models to come from the company’s Lexus luxury division than any other current Toyota. It’s a change Sato said Toyota hopes will make people actually want a Camry for more emotional reasons, rather than purely for the model’s reputation for durability.

2007 Toyota Camry
Click image to enlarge

The 2007 lineup also brings with it the first Camry model that can truly be considered sporty. The SE model designation isn’t new, but the previous generation Camry SE was little more than an appearance package, with barely-there improvements in suspension tuning. This time around, the SE’s chassis tuning is the real deal. Spring and damping rates are notably stiffer – drive a new Camry SE back to back with the value-priced LE or loaded XLE, and the difference is dramatic – and coupled with Toyota’s new, 3.5-litre, 270-horsepower V6, the new suspension turns this latest Camry into the first of its kind to offer any kind of driving satisfaction. LE and XLE models also get new suspension tunings, and while they’re far from sporty, they do offer a supple and well-damped ride.

2007 Toyota Camry
Click image to enlarge

The SE continues to be the only Camry offered with a manual transmission, but only with the 2.4-litre four-banger carried over from the old car. Optional in the SE and standard in the LE is a five-speed automatic, while V6 versions – LE V6, SE V6 and XLE V6 – get a new six-speed automatic.

Prices start at $25,800 for the LE; the SE goes for $26,605 with manual transmission and $27,950 with the automatic. MSRP for the LE V6 is $29,400; the SE V6 costs $32,010 and the range-topping XLE V6 is priced at $37,425. The SE V6 is actually a few hundred dollars cheaper than the 2005 version, but it’s alone in that respect. The biggest change is the XLE’s price, which is up more than $4,000 from 2005, and to within about $2,500 of what the 2005 Camry-based Lexus ES330 went for.

2007 Toyota Camry LE
2007 Toyota Camry LE

2007 Toyota Camry SE
2007 Toyota Camry SE

2007 Toyota Camry XLE
2007 Toyota Camry XLE. Click image to enlarge

A hybrid Camry will join the lineup for the first time this Spring. It will be powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder mated to an electric motor, and will sell for $31,900.

Toyota can be excused for the price hikes, though, as the new Camry is more car for the money. Overall length is the only dimension that remains the same. The new Camry rides on a wheelbase that’s 55 mm (2.2 in.) longer, and width is up 25 mm, or about an inch. While the extra width and wheelbase should translate into a larger interior, Sato said he and his colleagues chose instead to create a more open-feeling interior and eliminate unnecessary space. It’s an approach he said resulted in an interior that’s larger in key areas and smaller in less critical areas, but wherever they may have taken that space away from, it’s not obvious to the naked eye. The car is very spacious and a lot classier inside – even in basic trim levels – than the last generation Camry.

Fuel consumption ratings for the new Camry range from 9.6 L/100 km city and 6.4 L/100 km highway for the manual-transmission SE, while four-cylinder automatics are rated at 9.8 L/100 km city and 6.5 L/100 km highway. Ratings for V6 models are 10.7 L/100 km city and 7 L/100 km highway.

2007 Toyota Camry
Click image to enlarge

Fit and finish on most of the cars we drove was excellent, though the LE model I sampled had a badly misaligned dashboard panel and a storage compartment door that made scratchy noises when opened and closed. Sato noted these anomalies and said he’d point them out to his colleagues back in Japan. He confirmed that the cars Toyota supplied for the media event were production versions, but don’t expect many that make it into showrooms to have similar problems.

As implausible as it seems, Toyota’s designed a Camry that’s better in every way than the car it replaces. It looks better, is bigger inside without casting a larger shadow and offers far more driving satisfaction than any

2007 Toyota Camry
Click image to enlarge

Camry that’s come before at prices (for most models) only slightly higher than those of the old car.

Trying to fix something that was far from broken to begin with is a risky proposition, but in my opinion, the changes Toyota has made to the Camry guarantee it will remain the mid-size sedan benchmark.

At a glance: 2007 Toyota Camry

  • Type: Mid-size four-door sedan
  • Price: $25,800-$37,425; Hybrid (available Spring 2006): $31,900
  • Freight/PDI: $1,240
  • Available: Now
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