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Toyota Camry XLE (2002)

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,405
     Price As Tested                                    $ 31,139
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 183 cid/2995 cc
     Horsepower                                   192 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               209 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.1"/70.7"/189.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3359 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           215/60R16 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/28/25
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  16.5 @ 86.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           120 mph
                 * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

BRENDAN - The Toyota Camry is another one of those cars that we've never been assigned to check out, Mikele, so I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel of one for a week. It's been the best-selling car in the country for the past four years and at around 400,000 units sold last year, it outsold it closest competitor by nearly 20,000 vehicles. My dad wrote-up the first Camry back in '83 and even then it was hard for him to find anything that wasn't "right.". He called it the perfect small car for a small family. But at 3300 pounds, I don't think the '02 XLE version of the Camry can be called "small" anymore. The platform of last year's model had been basically unchanged during the previous 10 years but this new model is longer, wider and taller than before and according to the press kit, it has considerably more interior room than the last version. The XLE is the luxury model of the lineup and our V6-powered tester had almost all the bells-and-whistles in the Toyota repertoire. It's a leather upholstered boulevard cruiser that comes very close to being a luxury car.

MIKELE - You know what a "bug" I am about safety, Bren, so I really appreciated the safety items on our XLE. It had a skid control system that automatically applies individual braking power on any wheel if the car gets out of line, a traction control device that reduces wheel spin during acceleration and a brake assisting program that takes over if the driver doesn't apply enough pedal pressure to fully take advantage of the anti-lock braking system. It has side airbags that drop down to help protect passengers in the back seats as well as the front in the event of a side impact. The front airbags operate on a couple of different modes. If a frontal impact is relatively mild, the bags inflate at a lesser rate, but if the impact is more harsh, they inflate faster.

BRENDAN - There's two other versions of the '02 Camry, the XL model which is as close as you can come to an "entry-level," and the SE which is a return to the concept of a "sporting" Camry. The SE suspension is tighter and the steering is pumped up a bit to give its driver more road "feel" at highway speed. To differentiate the SE from the other Camrys, it was given a different grille, fog lights and a couple of other cosmetic differences. To make sure its stiffer suspension updates can be utilized to their fullest, Toyota even added some bolt-on modifications such as an auxiliary front strut tower support. The 192-horse V6 that was in our fancy XLE model is a holdover and does the same quiet job it's done in the past, but Toyota seems to be particularly proud of the 2.4-liter four-banger that's also available in the Camry. It's all new and puts out 157 horsepower and 162 pound/feet of torque. It can be had in all three of the Camrys and it's the only one that can be ordered with a five-speed stick shift. Toyota marketers estimate that the four-cylinder with the four-speed automatic is going to account for two-thirds of all the Camry sales in '02. There's so many engine, transmission and trim combinations that buyers can tailor-make a Camry to suit their individual need and tastes.

MIKELE - And they all have a long list of standard features that include air conditioning and all the rest of the usual "extras." The option package that came on our test XLE included leather upholstery, powered front seats, a hot-shot sound system and a moon roof. It's kind of a pricey package at $4300, but this is no "stripper" rental car. But at $1100, optional safety items like skid control and computer-assisted braking are bargains.

BRENDAN - Not being much on esthetics, I can only comment that the lines of the new Camry are more "swoopy" than the old one and that there's a remarkable family resemblance between the new Camry and the Echo, Pruis and the rest of the passenger cars in the lineup.

MIKELE - Brendan, I'm really proud of you. Usually the only thing you notice about the cars we test is that the driver's seat is cramped for you, how "cool" the sound system is and what color paint is on the outside.