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.