Car reviews - Toyota - Camry - Executive sedan
Compact dimensions, good handling/ride compromise, robust build, Toyota reliability and durability
Room for improvement
Snoozy styling, no driver's car
11 Jul 2003
TOYOTA has earned a reputation for producing well built, sensible cars without venturing too far from the middle ground. The Camry is no exception.
The Camry was one of the new breed of Japanese medium size family cars with transverse mounted engine and front wheel drive. Most of its direct competitors are similar in specification, so the choice comes down to shades of difference and individual preference.
The Camry was introduced into Australia in 1983 as a fully imported five-door hatchback, selling alongside the Corona. From 1987, when a new, four-door sedan model was introduced, it was locally made at Toyota's plant at Altona, Melbourne.
In that time standard of finish has been progressively improved, to a point where the local product matches Japanese standards in terms of quality.
The 1990 model Camry, released in September 1989, had 20 model variations, made up of 11 sedans and nine station wagons. Models range from the SE, Executive and CS through to the more comprehensively equipped CS-X, Ultima and fully imported V6 models. A re-badged version was sold as the Holden Apollo.
When shopping around, keep in mind that the Camry is a popular fleet car, although this is not necessarily a negative, as fleet cars are generally well maintained and serviced. Check that the kilometres on the clock are not excessive for the age of the car - 15 to 20,000 kilometres per year is considered average.
1989 saw the introduction of the locally made multi valve twin cam two-litre engine to all models except the fully imported V6.
The carburettor version, putting out 82kW at 5600rpm, replaced the 1.8-litre version of the previous model, but was deleted in June 1991. That left only the fuel-injected version, which produces 88kW at 5200rpm. Toyota claims the carburettor engine has identical torque to the fuel injected version up to 4000rpm.
Transmission options on all models except the V6 were a five speed manual or a four speed auto with lock up clutch in fourth gear for improved fuel economy.
The V6 was available with four-speed electronic automatic transmission only.
The 1990 Camry featured a number of mechanical improvements over the previous models.
Problems with vagueness and lack of on-centre feel in the steering were overcome by revising power steering pump characteristics, giving improved driver feedback and slightly higher steering effort. Interior cabin noise and vibration were reduced and improved headlamps featuring built in driving lamps were fitted to all models.
Other mechanical refinements included rubber mounted front suspension and modified engine mounts to improve NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) characteristics, and the addition of a hydraulic engine mount damper. The exhaust system was designed locally and has an expansion type muffler to reduce in-cabin noise.
All Camry models have ventilated front disc brakes. Rear drums were standard on the Executive, but CS-X, Ultima and V6 had solid rear discs.
The Camry has all independent suspension, with MacPherson struts and coil springs at the rear. Handling is well balanced, with moderate body roll and the ride is soft but well controlled.
The Camry has an excellent reputation for reliability, with no known problem areas as long as servicing has been performed regularly and correctly. It is an ideal choice as solid, reliable family transport.
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