Used Vehicle Review: Toyota Camry, 1997 2001   used car reviews toyota
2001 Toyota Camry, Click image to enlarge

By Bob McHugh

A redesigned 2002 Toyota Camry has just arrived in Toyota showrooms, so it’s a good time to do a used car review of the recently retired generation.

The Camry first entered the Canadian market back in 1983 and is considered by some as the “Maytag” of the auto industry. The appliance inference is probably unfair, but there’s no doubt that Camry has re-defined auto reliability and in the process became a seven time winner of the coveted CAA Used Car Performance Award.

The word Camry is actually a phonetic English version of the Japanese word for “small crown”. A fitting title for a vehicle that’s undoubtedly the crown jewel of the Toyota car line and the backbone of a number of Toyota and Lexus spin-offs such as Avalon, Solara and Sienna.

The last redesign of Camry was in 1997 and it was a more contemporary styling exercise that boarded on daring, for a Toyota. Actually the big structural change was an extra 50-mm (2-inches) of wheelbase which allowed larger rear door openings and more rear seat room. The previous generation coupe and wagon versions were dropped completely, leaving just the 4-door sedan which was offered in CE, CE V6, LE and XLE V6 trim levels.

Changes to the standard engine in CE and the LE a 2.2 litre 4-cylinder engine, gave it more power (up to 133 horsepower) and also made it more fuel efficient. When teamed with a 5-speed manual this motor achieves an impressive city/highway fuel consumption rating of 10/6.8 litres/100 km. A 4-speed automatic transmission was also an option.

Used Vehicle Review: Toyota Camry, 1997 2001   used car reviews toyota
1999 Toyota Camry Solara

Used Vehicle Review: Toyota Camry, 1997 2001   used car reviews toyota
2000 Toyota Solara convertible

Used Vehicle Review: Toyota Camry, 1997 2001   used car reviews toyota
1997 Toyota Camry XLE V6
Click image to enlarge

The more popular engine is the 3.0 litre V6 that also got a boost in power to 194-hp. It came with a new intelligent 4-speed automatic transmission that selects power or normal shift modes depending on how the vehicle is driven. City/highway fuel consumption is 12.3/8.1 litres/100 km. Traction control was also offered as an option on the XLE V6.

Watch for coolant leaks around the cylinder head gasket on the V6, especially on the ’97. A groan from the steering is likely to be a worn steering rack housing bushing. Recalls on the ’97 include a non-functioning park/brake interlock solenoid on the transmission and at extremely low temperatures ice may form in the brake booster vacuum hose and eliminate vacuum assist to the brakes.

The ’98 Camry also had a couple of recalls. A deformed accelerator cable-housing could cause the cable to wear away and eventually break, allowing the throttle to stick or return to idle. The steering wheel set nut may also loosen, causing a steering vibration, and if not tightened it may eventually separate from the steering shaft.

Security and safety enhancements included an engine immobilizer and pretensioners on the seatbelts as new standard equipment in ’98. A Camry coupe made a comeback in ’99 with a new name “Solara”. The front and rear of the sedan got styling makeovers in 2000 and an additional 5-horsepower was squeezed out of the 4-cylinder engine.

Camry is generally regarded as the quality benchmark in the family sedan segment and resale prices are high, sometimes ridiculously high. But that, I guess, is the price of success!

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

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