Full 2006 Toyota Camry Solara Review
What's New for 2006
The SE and SE Sport get standard power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver seat, and the optional automatic transmission on four-cylinder models is upgraded to a five-speed unit.
First introduced in 1999 as a more sophisticated sister to the Camry family sedan, the Toyota Solara coupe and convertible have quietly enjoyed the reputation of most Toyota cars -- reliable, well built and inoffensive-looking. For most types of vehicles, such qualities would be considered desirable, if not optimal, but when it comes to coupes and convertibles, you would hope that sporty, stylish and fun would figure in there as well.
With the debut of the second-generation Solara in 2004, Toyota attempted to bring some of those more desirable elements to its midsize coupe and convertible. The suspension was retuned for better handling, a larger V6 offered more power and, although the looks were still cut to appeal to a wide-ranging audience, there were enough new lines to separate it from the slab-sided Camry sedan on which it is based. The Toyota Solara convertible has its own body this time around, instead of being a "chop top" conversion of the coupe. This allowed engineers to build in extra rigidity and thus improve ride and handling characteristics.
The result is a second-generation Camry Solara that manages to add a significant measure of fun without sacrificing the traditional elements that made it so appealing the first time around. The SE Sport coupe is noteworthy, with its more aggressive suspension, larger wheels and tires and black graphite interior trim. The Solara's interior fit and finish is easily best in class. A mix of metallic and satin finishes interspersed with high-quality plastics gives these Toyota cars a more distinctive, upscale appearance than their Camry sedan counterpart. Rear-seat room is more generous than in the previous Solara, and indeed this is now one of the roomiest backseats of any midsize coupe or convertible.
Side airbags are standard on all Camry Solara models, with side-curtain airbags that protect both the front and rear passengers an available option on Solara coupes. The Solara convertible's standard power top raises and lowers in just 10 seconds and stows neatly under a tonneau cover that matches the color of the interior. If mileage is a concern, the coupe's standard four-cylinder delivers up to 33 miles per gallon, but for maximum performance, the optional V6 is essential. Although it's still not available in conjunction with a manual transmission, a five-speed automatic combined with the healthy V6 provides solid all-around performance.
With so few midsize coupes and convertibles on the market, the Camry Solara doesn't have much in the way of competition. But even so, Toyota has given the Solara everything that a buyer could ask for. It may not be the fastest, nor is it the most distinctive-looking, but when it comes to overall quality, performance and value, there are few that put it all together as well as the 2006 Toyota Camry Solara.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Toyota Camry Solara is available as a coupe or convertible. The coupe is offered in SE, SE Sport and SLE trim levels, while the convertible comes in SE and SLE versions only. The base SE coupe is well equipped with power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; cruise control; satellite steering wheel audio controls; a six-speaker CD stereo; 16-inch wheels and tires; and a multifunction trip computer. The SE Sport adds a firmer suspension, 17-inch wheel and tires, an exterior body kit, graphite-style interior trim, a unique gauge cluster and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; most of this equipment is also included on the SE convertible along with a power cloth top. Top-of-the-line SLE coupes and convertibles add automatic climate control, wood grain trim, a power-adjustable driver seat, a moonroof, a JBL premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer and, on V6 models, leather seating.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard Camry Solara coupe engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 157 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. Optional on coupes and standard on convertibles is a 3.3-liter V6 rated for 225 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. No manual is available with this engine, but the automatic is a five-speed unit with a manual-shift gate for those who like to pick their own gears. The EPA mileage estimate for all V6 models is 20 city/28 highway.
All Solara models come standard with front and side-impact airbags and four-wheel antilock disc brakes. Side curtain airbags that protect both front and rear passengers are available on coupes as well. A combined electronic stability and traction control system is optional on SLE models with the V6 engine. Government crash testing of the Toyota Camry Solara returned a perfect five-star rating across the board.
Interior Design and Special Features
All trim levels feature an upscale interior design with bright metallic accents and exceptional build quality. Sport models get sharp-looking graphite accents, while top-line SLE versions add premium wood trim. The front seats offer plenty of room for even the tallest drivers, but the rear seats are still better left for short trips. Buyers should note that coupes can seat three passengers in back, while the Camry Solara convertible can accommodate just two. Overall, these are some of the nicest interiors you'll find in this price range by far.
The 2006 Toyota Camry Solara's suspension tuning delivers a well-controlled ride that's still quite comfortable. The added stiffness of the SE Sport model gives it enough capability in the turns to have some fun while still maintaining the civilized ride quality of the other models. Power from the V6 is smoother than ever, but enthusiast drivers will be left wishing for a manual gearbox.