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Toyota Camry LE 4-CYL (2000)

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,288
     Price As Tested                                    $ 23,013
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.2 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 132 cid/2164 cc
     Horsepower                             (CAL) 133 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                         (CAL) 148 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.2"/70.1"/188.5"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3152 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          P205/65R15 all season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            23/30/27          
     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.5 seconds @ 78.0 mph
     Top speed                                           110 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The Toyota Camry has been in a shoot-out for volume-sales honors and has won for the last two years. Available in base CE, top-level XLE or as our LE tester, we'll soon see who's the Y2K sales winner.

OUTSIDE - The Camry was completely redone in 1997 and has changed little since then. That model was an inch longer than before, mostly due to a new wedge-shaped style. New this year is a redesigned front end that includes an enhanced grille and bumper, new multi-reflector headlamps and front fascia. The tail lights now have wider horizontal reflectors and the rear bumper is slightly different from the 1999 model. A new set of wheelcovers on Camry's 15-inch steel wheels round out its new exterior items, unless an LE buyer chooses alloy wheels as an option - they're new as well.

INSIDE - Toyota treats its interiors the same as its exteriors. There is nothing too fancy about either. Inside things are comfortable, with supportive front bucket seats and a three-across bench seat in back. And like most cars in this class, a middle passenger in the back seat will be squeezed and less comfortable than the others. New this year on LE grade models is improved seat fabric and an available powered driver's seat and leather upholstery. Also new for 2000 is an improved audio system that includes an AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo as standard equipment, along with the addition of a separate climate control button to allow the choice of fresh or re-circulated air inside the cabin. Its standard, lockable, 60/40 split folding rear seat comes in handy when extra cargo space is needed. Standard LE features include air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering, rear window defroster, variable-speed intermittent wipers and power windows, door locks and outside mirrors. Its plethora of optional "value packages" are too lengthy to list.

ON THE ROAD - The standard powerplant is a very capable 2.2 liter inline four cylinder engine. It produces 136 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, both of which are slightly higher than before. Power and torque figures are slightly less in California, where emissions laws are more stringent. The engine is equipped with a sophisticated multipoint fuel injection system and it has undergone considerable engineering to reduce the noise, vibration and harshness inherent in four-cylinder engines. Additionally, it is now certified as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) in California. Mated to this is an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission that "learns" the habits of its driver and adjusts shift points accordingly. Also available is a five-speed manual transmission.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Camry's unibody platform uses a MacPherson strut front suspension and a dual-link rear setup. Both ends use coil springs, tube shocks and an anti-roll bar. The suspension components are mounted on subframes that use insulating bushings that help dampen out road imperfections. Also contributing to the lack of noise intruding into the cabin are liberal amounts of insulation placed strategically throughout the bodywork. The ride is so smooth that some auto writers have complained about the lack of road feel but Toyota purposely tunes in ride compliance for the masses versus "heroic" handling for the few. We prefer comfort, however, as this vehicle just isn't intended to be a sport sedan - especially in four-cylinder trim. Its power rack-and- pinion steering is equally smooth, albeit too softly damped, which sacrifices some road feel. Braking is handled by front discs and rear drums with an anti-lock braking system available in an optional package. We feel that this should be a stand-alone option, and that rear discs like those available on V6 models should be included in the package. Four-wheel disc brakes stop better and cool faster than drum brakes.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags and side-impact door beams are standard. ABS and side airbags are optional.

OPTIONS - Side airbags, $250; mudguards, $60; power moonroof, $1000; alloy wheels, $385; Value Package #3 (ABS, daytime running lights, keyless remote entry, power driver's seat, floor mats), $1,242.