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2011 Toyota Camry Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

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SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide

New Review of Toyota's Best Seller

by Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor-at-Large
The Auto Channel

For eight years in a row and 12 of past 13 years, Toyota’s Camry has surpassed all other brands models to become the most popular midsize sedan sold in the U.S. Everyone knows there have been big issues and challenges recently at Toyota and in the auto business generally, but one thing remains the same, the Camry with its enviable reputation of quality and reliability is still the leader and the 2011 version is the best iteration yet.

Its combination of styling, amenities, performance and pricing sets the category bench-mark, but the competition is heating up. There are many brands pushing Toyota to be the new leader.

The latest version of the venerable Camry is again setting the standard for the classic family sedan, starting with the 2.5 liter, four-cylinder engine that has an energetic 169 hp with 167 lbs of torque and gets a thrifty 22/32 mpg EPA rating of the automatic transmission and 22/33 mpg for those who like to shift gears. The V6 engine gets 20/29 mpg rating while the hybrid model is 31/35. More power is available in other Camry models.

Driving the newest model is a pleasant experience. It’s responsive, quiet and smooth on every road surface. Handling in the curves is agile and solid. Aerodynamically the bottom of all Camry’s (there are several models) had been changed to speed airflow under the car while balancing the front and rear downforce. In non-tech-talk this means the Camry holds and hugs the road better than ever.

Click PLAY to watch the Camry video

Entering the newest Camry evokes a quick, “Wow! This is big” thought which translates to mean the vehicle has a roomy interior that has ample head and leg room for both front and rear seat occupants and is simply finished with harmonizing colors and nice materials.

The way engineers at Toyota blended have convenience features that are on the leading edge of technology with other simple to use features is impressive. For example, the trunk and gas tank lock releases are pull-up levers located on the driver’s floor board. The key fob offers the owner the convenience of remote trunk opening.

Not only does this eliminate the need to engineer in a separate circuit to power it, it also means no additional buttons to add to the information cluster. Speaking of instrument panels, has anyone else noticed how these clusters of knobs and dials have been growing in size faster than the national debt.

Specifically the Camry’s instrumentation is sleek, easy to read and positioned ergonomically in the leather trimmed dash so the driver can access the controls effortlessly. Unlike many of its competitors’ models, whose interior can be flooded with multi-colored lighting that transforms the car into a pulsating dance hall, the recessed lighting featured in the Camry enhances, not overwhelms, the cockpit and is the perfect complement to the clean lines of the overall interior design.

The integrated navigation system also enhances the overall design and lighting scheme; moreover, it seamlessly blends with the information cluster to create a driving experience that is unmatched in this class. The driver also has the option of using the steering wheel based controls for added convenience and safety.

The Camry’s standard equipment includes air conditioning with micro dust and pollen filter; power windows with auto up/down and jam protection for all four doors; power door locks; color-keyed power side mirrors; cruise control; halogen headlamps with automatic on/off feature; tilt and telescopic steering wheel; vehicle immobilizer, and a six speaker 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary audio jack. All Camry audio systems can play CDs with MP3 files.

That was the good news in this review, now for the not so good. The “premium” auto system was disappointing, as was the control for the side mirrors, which seemed highly rigid and unable to produce the angle needed. None of these are deal breakers, but worth noting.

Overall, the 2011 Camry is an outstanding value with MSRP starting at $19,720 for the base four cylinder model to $29,370 for the XLE V6, the Hybrid MSRP is $26,575. Will it continue its long run as leader? Based on these improvements I believe it will.

Michael Bernstein contributed to this review.