What's New for 1999
This all-new coupe is based on the Camry platform. Designed jointly by the Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan and the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Solara is targeted at consumers who want the style of a sports car but the room and comfort of a larger, more practical vehicle.
With unique styling, increased horsepower, and a tighter suspension, the all-new Solara is more than just a two-door Camry. O.K., so it's based on the Camry platform and uses the same engine and suspension components, but almost every aspect of this sporty coupe has been, how can we saySolara-ized to give it more fun, less ho-hum.
Available in two basic trim levels, the SE or SLE, Toyota's new sport coupe comes with either a 135-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine or a 200-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6. Either engine can be had in the SE model but the premium grade SLE only comes with the V6 and automatic transmission. For buyers looking to get the maximum sport out of this sport coupe, the combination V6 and five-speed manual can be had in the SE model.
For handling duty, Toyota took the Camry's basic, and somewhat spongy, suspension and made it stiffer, with increased strut rates and a brace that joins the front strut towers together. They also reinforced the transom between the trunk and the passenger compartment and stiffened the front and rear suspension mounts for improved overall body rigidity.
To make sure drivers noticed all the work they did, engineers redesigned the power steering valve assembly to offer increased steering effort and improved road feel versus the rather numb feeling delivered through the Camry's steering wheel.
For interior comfort, Toyota pulled out all the stops with Lexus-like sound-deadening and a gaggle of standard equipment. Everything from cruise control to woodgrain trim to power windows, locks, and mirrors are standard on every Solara. A first for Toyota is the optional JBL premium sound system that powers eight speakers from a 200-watt amplifier. SE level options include heated sideview mirrors, automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a perforated leather-trimmed interior with eight-way power adjustable driver's seat.
Safety is always high on Toyota's list of priorities, and the Solara's standard safety features reflects this philosophy. Included among them are driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger seat belt pretensioners and antilock brakes (optional on four-cylinder models, standard with the V6). Optional side airbags can also be ordered and, as with all '99 Toyota cars, daytime running lights are standard. If you purchase an SLE model, traction control is another safety option that can be checked on the order sheet.
How will the Solara do against the new Accord Coupe and the soon to return Ford Thunderbird? If it follows typical Toyota protocol, quite well.