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New Car/Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,868
     Price As Tested                                    $ 22,717
     Engine Type                             2.2 Liter I4 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                  132cid/2164 cc
     Horsepower                                   130 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               145 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.2"/70.1"/188.5"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3185 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      195/70R14
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 55 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            23/30/27          
     0-60 MPH                                       11.8 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     18.9 seconds @ 74.5 mph
     Max towing capacity                                 1000lbs
     * Sequential fuel injection

The 1997 Toyota Camry, the fourth generation of a lineage that began in 1983, has been the second best-selling imported vehicle of any type in the U.S. for the last six years.

there's nothing radically new about the new car. We've always given the Camry high marks for being a great family car, and our week behind the wheel of a mid-level Camry reaffirms this feeling.

OUTSIDE - Styling changes start up front. The new car's nose has been stretched and pointed, yet the car is only an inch longer than its predecessor. Camry continues to adhere to its credo of being conservatively styled because the five-passenger family sedan market calls for this. Both front and rear bumpers are lighter in weight than before, use less parts to make, and now feature five mile-per-hour protection, instead of half that speed in the previous version. Aerodynamic efficiency continues to play a major role in car building, and the new car's drag coefficient has been reduced to .30, whereas the '96 car was .33. The new Camry's wheelbase has been lengthened by two inches, which gives a better, more controlled ride, and its stiffer, unitized body uses more sound damping materials throughout the cabin.

INSIDE - Changes inside Camry have followed an evolutionary program. Improved ergonomics appear as repositioned ventilation controls and stereo systems, rear cupholders that can hold more than just cups or cans, a tissue dispenser in the center armrest, and a pair of trip indicators replacing the single unit from before. The seats are quite comfortable and supportive, and there's lots of legroom front and rear, although rear headroom is tight for tall people. Standard interior features on the LE model we tested include a tilt steering column, intermittent wipers, a 60/40 fold-down rear seat, air conditioning, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, cruise control, and a rear window defogger. A handy second power outlet keeps in tune with the electronic age, and also comes as standard equipment. Our test car was optionally fitted with a power moonroof, premium AM/FM cassette, keyless entry, and a variable speed timer for the windshield wipers.

ON THE ROAD - Camry is powered with two different engines. The first is a 2.2 liter, four cylinder, which produces 133 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. Our car used this engine, and as in past Camry models, has proven to give excellent fuel mileage (22/30 city/highway) adequate power, and legendary reliability. Noise and vibration make themselves known under heavy acceleration, but only the occasional launch into freeway traffic warrants this type of driving. The other powerplant is a 3.0 liter V6, also with twin cams and four valves per cylinder, which has been bumped six horsepower to 194, and by the same increase in torque to 209 pound-feet. Other than the CE, both engines use an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission, but the CE version can be equipped with a five-speed manual on either engine.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - While the Camry's suspension remains largely unchanged, it's been refined to provide a better ride and road noise isolation. Up front are MacPherson struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the rear setup uses independent "dual links," coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Gas-filled shock absorbers are standard, while special bushings are used to isolate the suspension components to the sub-frames, which reduces vibration. Its ride is quiet and composed, and the suspension soaks up all but the most horrendous potholes, yet its handling is nimble and responsive. Braking is by front discs and rear drums on four-cylinder models with four-wheel discs on the V6. Anti- lock braking is offered optionally on the four cylinder CE model, but it is standard on all other Camry models.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact protection are standard, ABS optional on four-cylinder CE models, while traction control is optional on V6-powered versions (except CE V6). A rear child seat is optional.

OPTIONS - A power moonroof added $1000, the keyless entry system $440, the alloy wheels $415, the upscale sound system $250, and the integrated child restraint system $125.