New Car/Review

Toyota

Toyota Solara SE V6 5-Speed (2000)

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,648
     Price As Tested                                    $ 23,524
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 183 cid/2995 cc
     Horsepower                          (Ca 198) 200 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                      (Ca 212) 214 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.1"/71.1"/190.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3205 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           205/65R15 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/28/25

     0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 90.0 mph
     Top speed                                           130 mph
                * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

The Toyota Camry Solara competes in a segment of the auto industry that has seen competitors axe coupes with regularity, some with long- standing, nostalgic names. With Solara, Toyota is in a group building sports coupes that place a premium on comfort rather than performance.

A convertible Solara has just been introduced, but the coupe is available in base SE, the luxurious SLE or as our tester for the week, the mid-trim SE V6.

OUTSIDE - The old Camry Coupe was simply a two-door version of the sedan. Solara's strong, precise lines are tight, its flat surfaces are elegant character traits and its long, sculpted coupe body style, large tail lights and modest spoiler add up to a good-looking combination. It has a distinctive front end with trapezoidal headlights and grille and a lower valance that mirror this theme. Solara rides on a unibody platform shared mostly with the Camry, but its sheetmetal is unique. The rear end styling is singular and there are strong character lines running from nose to tail. The long heavy doors look good but are awkward to use. On the SE V6 version, the standard tire/wheel combination is a lackluster set of steel wheels and wheelcovers with 205/65R15 tires. Our car came this way, but Solara can be had with larger alloy wheels and tires.

INSIDE - As expected from Toyota, the interior is both comfortable and ergonomically correct. Reaching for controls and switches is not a stretch, and they work with a reassuring click. The dashboard looks as if it took styling cues from the upscale Lexus SC coupe, with sweeping accents that blend into the doors. The front seats are large and enveloping, with wide seatbacks and long lower cushions. Our tester had soft, durable fabric upholstery, although leather is an option. Even the rear seat is comfortable, which is rare in a coupe, and climbing back there is helped by those long doors. Standard SE V6 features include air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, variable speed intermittent wipers and a tilt steering column.

ON THE ROAD - Camry Solara comes with two engine choices. The first is a fuel-stingy 2.2 liter four cylinder. Its 136 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque is enough for a car that weighs on average almost 200 pounds more than a Camry sedan - but barely. We've driven Camrys with this unit and found that although it is short on power, it's smooth enough and it gives lots of miles between fill-ups. Our powerplant of choice is the 3.0 liter V6 that produces 200 horsepower (198 in California) and 214 lb-ft of torque. It is ultra-smooth, powerful and so quiet that it's difficult to hear it running when the windows are up. It uses twin cam, four-valve heads with a sophisticated multi-point fuel injection system. Mated to this is either a five-speed manual transmission or an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic. Traction control is available on SLE models.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The suspension is a MacPherson strut-type system at all four corners, just as with the Camry sedan. But in an effort to give it a more sporting attitude, the body structure was stiffened using a cross brace between the front strut towers and a strengthening of the bulkhead between the trunk and the cabin. Toyota also increased the spring rates and gave it unique bushings for less suspension compliance. The ride is noticeably stiffer than with the Camry sedan, and the amount of body roll as the weight of the car shifts in turns is well controlled with almost no harshness over big bumps. Its rack-and-pinion steering system has been re-valved to provide well-weighted, nicely progressive steering, eliminating some of the numbness of the Camry sedan's handling. Braking duties are done by a front disc/rear drum setup on four cylinder models with an optional anti-lock braking system (ABS). Four-wheel discs with ABS is standard on V6 models.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS and side-impact door beams are standard; side airbags and traction control are optional.

OPTIONS - Power moonroof, $900; power driver's seat, $390; carpet/cargo mat set, $166.

 

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