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The Toyota Camry quietly debuted late in the 1983 model year, when Toyota replaced its old rear-wheel-drive Corona with the front-wheel-drive Camry, a car aimed specifically at the U.S. market. From these humble beginnings, the Camry would go on to dominate the midsize family sedan segment for virtually all of the next quarter-century, as consumers immediately embraced it for its high build quality, comfortable ride and impressive durability.
New or used, the Camry comes pretty highly recommended. As the Camry sells in such high numbers, finding one that matches your criteria should be pretty easy. It is worth noting that the family segment has improved greatly in the past few years. Many competing sedans have matched or outpaced the Camry in terms of quality and desirability, particularly in comparison to the sixth-generation model. The newly redesigned Camry, however, has largely shored up the car's reputation as a go-to choice.
Used Toyota Camry Models
The current Toyota Camry has been redesigned for 2012 and represents the seventh-generation model. The interior is significantly nicer than that of past Camrys, and the four-cylinder engine is more powerful. Despite being redesigned, this version is still unmistakably Camry, with a focus on pragmatic appeal and convenience. There have been no major changes since.
The previous sixth-generation Camry was produced for the 2007-'11 model years. In reviews, we commented favorably about the Camry's spacious cabin, powerful and fuel-efficient optional V6, plush ride quality and top crash test scores. Unlike older Camrys, though, this one was let down by disappointing interior plastics, inconsistent fit and finish and uninspiring driving dynamics for non-SE models. It's a respectable choice for a used family sedan, but we thought more highly of competing models, such as the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima.
For most of its production run, the Camry was offered in LE, SE and XLE trim levels. The entry-level model was labeled as the CE trim, but only for the first year. Base and LE models came fairly well equipped, while the SE brought with it a sport-tuned suspension. The softer-sprung XLE included items such as a premium sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power passenger seat, reclining rear seats and leather upholstery (V6). Most of the features on the higher-trimmed models were offered on supporting trims as options. Other major options included a sunroof and a navigation system.
This Camry was offered with either a four- or six-cylinder engine, with improvements made over the years. The initial base engine was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produced 158 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque (slightly lower in California and other states). A five-speed manual or five-speed automatic was available, though four-cylinder XLEs were automatic only. The 3.5-liter V6 produced 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque and was paired to a six-speed automatic only.
In 2010, the base engine was increased to 2.5 liters and power output was boosted to 169 hp. The SE was further pushed to 179 hp. Both manual and automatic transmissions were also upgraded to six speeds. Other 2010 changes included a restyled grille and taillights, and standard stability control, satellite radio and Bluetooth for all models.
Previous to this was the fifth-generation car that was produced from 2002-'06. As expected, it was a comfortable sedan that offered a roomy cabin, a choice of inline-4 or V6 power and, depending on trim level and optional equipment, most of the latest safety features such as stability control and side curtain airbags. However, prior to 2005, the base Camry did not come standard with antilock brakes. As with other Camrys, we generally found this generation to be very good in terms of room, comfort and feature content.
Three engines were available for this generation. The first was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that made 154 hp (145 with PZEV emissions controls). It was mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission (four-speed prior to '05) and should be powerful enough for the majority of buyers. A 3.0-liter V6 that generated 190 hp was also available (18 hp less prior to '04) on the LE and XLE trim levels, while a 210-hp, 3.3-liter V6 (introduced for 2004) was available on the SE model only. These six-cylinder Camrys came with the automatic only. In previous years, these power numbers were higher because of a change in measurement that occurred in 2006, although actual output never changed.
Like the more recent versions, the 1997-2001 Toyota Camry sedan offered a quiet, stress-free driving experience. Many desirable modern features were also available, including side airbags and antilock brakes (which became standard on all trim levels except the base CE). It, too, was offered with four- and six-cylinder powertrains.
Although a Camry older than 1997 is likely to have quite a few miles on it, it is still something to consider for folks on a tight budget. Provided it has been faithfully maintained, a 1992-'96 Camry (which was available in coupe, sedan and wagon body styles) should be able to spin its odometer to nearly 200,000 miles without major problems. It's this final trait, more than any other, that has kept the Toyota Camry popular with buyers over the last two decades.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new Toyota Camry page.
For more on past Toyota Camry models, view our Toyota Camry history page.