For nearly a decade, the midsize Toyota Camry has been the best selling car in America, a title it retained in 2010 despite being in the midst of several controversies, just after it received a minor freshening. In addition to retaining its crown, the Camry also won a seven-car comparison put together by Motor Trend against six of its biggest competitors, so it wasn't entirely bad news for the reigning car king.
The 2011 model year is shaping up to be a milder one for the Camry. There's no facelift, no controversy, and no big comparisons, at least not yet. Like the 2010 car, it's offered in four trims -- base, LE, SE, and XLE -- plus as a hybrid.
Two engines are offered in gasoline-only Camrys. The base motor is a 169-horsepower, 167-pound-foot 2.5-liter inline-four that can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. A more-powerful version of this engine is found in the sporty SE trim, where it makes 179 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. The optional 3.5-liter V-6, meanwhile, makes 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque and can be mated only to a six-speed automatic. Like most of the midsize segment, the Camry is available only as a front-drive car. As for the Camry Hybrid, its powered by a combination of a 147-horsepower, 138-pound-foot 2.4-liter I-4 and a 141-horsepower, 199-pound-foot electric motor mated to a continuously variable automatic.
Fuel economy ratings for the Camry sit at 22/33 mpg city/highway for manual four-cylinder models, 22/32 mpg for automatic four-bangers, 20/29 mpg for variants fitted with the V-6 (a 1 mpg improvement both city and highway from the 2010 model thanks to the addition of lower rolling resistance tires) and 31/35 mpg for the hybrid.
In addition to its slightly more-power four-cylinder, the Camry SE (which is also available with the V-6) receives 17-inch wheels with performance rubber, sportier suspension, a body kit that includes front and rear bumper spoilers and rocker panel moldings, dual exhaust system, integrated fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, unique seat fabric and door trim, and aluminum doorsills and pedals.
Because the fundamental design of the Camry dates back to its debut in 2006 as a 2007 model, the car is lacking some of the pieces of advanced technology that have come out in the intervening years, like a blind-spot detection system or HID headlamps, though a push-button start system can be had as an option on SE and XLE models. All Camry models come standard with traction and stability control plus seven airbags -- standard dual front-impact, front-passenger side impact, side curtain airbags for both rows, plus a driver's knee airbag.
Key options, in addition to the push-button start, include an eight-speaker JBL stereo, voice-activated touch-screen navigation system, and leather upholstery (standard on V-6 XLEs). This option list is on the short side, but the Camry never was the most customizable car on the market. Toyota designed it to be comfortable daily transport that can be mildly customized based on the customer's budget and as the sales indicate, it's a job the car does extremely well.
An all-new 2012 model is on the way later in 2011, so it's unlikely that the king of midsize cars is going to give up his throne anytime soon (the last time it happened was in 2001, when arch-rival Honda Accord seized the crown for one year). In fact, with fears of unintended acceleration allayed and Toyota refocusing on quality once again, things should continue to go well for America's best-selling car.