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Toyota has succeeded in building a better mousetrap -- it's got more interior space, a more powerful base engine and a bevy of premium features for buyers willing to pay extra.
Roomy, powerful engines, plenty of safety and luxury features.
High prices for XLE, costly premium features.
Available Camry Sedan Models
Use the Edmunds Pricing System to help you get the best deal:
One of America's favorite cars is all new this year. Design goals for the 2002 Toyota Camry included larger interior packaging, reduced noise, more advanced safety features, better driving dynamics and, of course, a new standard of value.
If you ever need confirmation that Americans are completely different from Europeans (besides German tourists' propensity for wearing black socks and shorts), look no further than the Toyota Camry. Here is a car that, for the past four years, has been the best-selling car in America and a near definition of the American passenger car. In Europe, Camry sales barely register.
The Camry's success in the U.S. lies in its ability to sensibly fulfill the needs of consumers seeking a roomy vehicle that sets a benchmark in quality, reliability and value. For 2002, the Camry enters its fifth generation with an all-new design, and Toyota has done everything within its power to make sure the Camry continues its success.
One question remains: How do you improve on a bestseller? Simple -- give Americans more of what they like. And the engineers at Toyota have done just that, simultaneously retaining all the things that make a Camry great while imbuing it with a new feel.
We Americans like a lot of room for our families and gear. Therefore, the Camry's wheelbase has been lengthened by 2 inches, resulting in a more spacious interior and 1.5 more inches of legroom for rear seaters. The trunk is bigger, too, expanding to hold a maximum of 16.7 cubic feet of cargo.
Outside, the previous Camry's clean and inoffensive (many people would add "bland") styling has been updated with an aggressive grille and sharp-cut headlamps. The cabin and doors feature sleek character lines, connected to a rear integrated bumper that is complemented with new jewel-like tail lamps. Aerodynamic drag is reduced, and sound deadening has been improved for reduced interior noise.
Few Americans would say that their cars have too much horsepower. So for 2002, Toyota has updated the popular 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine to produce 157 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, besting the previous engine's numbers by 24 and 14, respectively.
Remaining virtually the same is the optional 192-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. It now achieves ULEV certification, as does the 2.4-liter. Transferring power to the front wheels for both engines is a smoother shifting electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual (four-cylinder only).
Each engine is available with the three different trim levels this year: LE, SE and XLE. Last year's entry-level CE is replaced by the LE, which remains the core volume model but with a higher level of standard equipment, including power windows, mirrors and locks; air conditioning with particulate filtration; cruise control; and an ambient temperature gauge.
The XLE gets power driver and passenger seats, heated outside mirrors, a premium JBL audio system, climate control with rear-seat vents, steering wheel-mounted controls, a compass in the electrochromic mirror, a rear sunshade and 16-inch wheels. The new SE grade combines distinctive and sportier styling elements with chassis tuning that delivers a firmer ride, enhanced steering and nimble handling.
Optional for all V6 models is a Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) that corrects understeer and oversteer deviancy. Side and, for the first time, side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers are also available. Other add-ons to keep the Camry up-to-date include Toyota's excellent navigation system and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. Fully loaded, a top-of-the-line Camry XLE is a few hundred dollars more than a stripped-down Lexus ES 300. Unless your day depends on being the owner of a luxury marque car with real wood trim, we can't imagine that anyone would forego the Camry.
The all-new Camry is an enticing pick for 2002. It remains loyal to its original mission while still offering more features and better driving enjoyment. Unless Americans start wearing black socks with shorts, the Camry should retain its title as the best-selling car for another year.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.