There's always something special about a convertible in the summer -- the feeling of the breeze whirring through the cockpit, the sensation of being at one with nature, and the ability to contract skin cancer while driving a great car. That's what we hoped for, but we were more impressed with the weather than Toyota's new Camry Solara drop top.
Convertibles have come a long way in the past five years. Chassis have been strengthened (reducing flex), new top materials and weather sealants provide a stronger barrier to the elements (not to mention a quieter cabin) and top mechanisms have become a one-touch marvel. However, our Solara tester's top had the fit and finish of a backyard chop job, with a lid that wouldn't come close to sealing at the driver's cowl (leaving a three-eighths of an inch gap between the windshield frame and the top), a jerky top mechanism and more cowl shake than Charo doing the "cuchi-cuchi."
In fact, the Solara is the first convertible (built in conjunction with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Canada and ASC, primarily known for their factory sunroof installations) we've tested that had more wind noise with the top and windows rolled up rather than down. Granted, this was probably an isolated problem with our test vehicle, but with Toyota's reputation for stellar fit and finish, we felt as though we were driving a poorly finished kit car instead of Japan's finest.
Convertible top aside, the rest of the Solara exhibited fit and finish on par with the rest of the Toyota line, with excellent panel gaps and first-class finish. The chassis features structural reinforcements to assist in eliminating twist, but lacks stiffer springs and increased shock rates to cope with the added weight.
Wallowy and weak would be the best way to describe the handling characteristics of this latest Toyota offering. In the twisties, the Solara's suspension capability ran out quickly, with a great deal of understeer during hard cornering maneuvers, and the ability to easily get the front tires to rub against the inner wheelhouse in decreasing radius turns. In typical Toyota fashion, the Solara's steering felt numb and vague with very little road feel available through the wheel. With its slow steering rack, turn-in wasn't as precise as we'd like, but predictable nonetheless.
The Solara exhibited a good deal of dive and squat when accelerating or during emergency braking exercises. Unlike the rest of the Toyota line, the Solara continually bottomed out when traversing shallow dips in the road. On the highway, the Solara felt like a large car, floating over highway expansion joints and providing occupants a soft and supple ride.
Powered by a 3.0-liter, 200-horsepower DOHC V6, the Solara is silky smooth at idle with good off-line torque, but power drops off in the midrange, giving the Solara the passing power of a kidney stone. In the mountain section of our test, we often wondered if we were driving a four-banger. Four-wheel, ABS-assisted disc brakes are standard issue on the SLE and optional on the SE, which provide powerful, linear stops. Moderate pedal pulse, accompanied by ABS system grinding noises, let us know that the system was working.
Mated to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission, the Solara shifted smoothly and positively until you mashed the pedal to the floor, where we found the transmission to be slow to kick down to a lower gear, often free-spooling for a couple of seconds before slamming into gear. Having driven numerous Camrys, we can definitely say that this is not a normal trait.
Inside, we were treated to a full leather interior on our SLE tester, with dual front bucket seats that offered good lumbar and thigh support, but lateral support was lacking during cornering exercises. Optional dual side airbags were neatly tucked into the outboard sides of the seats. The dash and door area is accented with fake walnut, which should have been carried out to the center stack area, instead of the cheap black plastic used in its place.
The driver's controls are all within easy reach of the hand, with the exception of the convertible top switch and rear windows, which are buried in the front of the center console along with a second powerpoint. Climate controls are a dream, with a large temperature adjustment knob and oversized buttons to regulate venting and fan speed.
Out back, passengers are treated to a good deal of legroom, so long as the front seats aren't in the full aft position. The couch has a decent amount of lumbar support, but is raked too far forward to be comfortable on long trips. The Solara scored high for easy ingress and egress with the top down, but rear passengers will struggle to get out with the top closed.
Storage space is very good for a convertible with a trunk that will hold far more than the usual golf bag; a deep, oversized center console, a decent glove box and oversized map pockets built into the doors add even more cargo capacity. There's a shallow pull-out tray in the center stack for toll coins and gum wrappers, but that's all it's good for.
Pitted against the Chrysler Sebring JXi Convertible and Ford Mustang GT Convertible, the Sebring is down 32 horsepower and half a liter, but is cheaper by $2,425. The Mustang gives you two more cylinders and 60 more horsepower, but you lose valuable rear seat comfort for the $3,145 you save. If you're looking to carry four passengers al fresco, we'd opt for the Sebring JXi without hesitation, but if you're looking for driving excitement and an open roof, the Mustang is a no brainer.
Yep, summer time is convertible time, and while the Toyota's latest entry in the drop-top market provides many of the little refinements you would expect from Japan's No. 1 automaker, the Solara needs a large injection of soul to go with it.
2001 Toyota Camry Solara Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2001 Toyota Camry Solara and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2001 Camry Solara featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2001 Toyota Camry Solara and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2001 Camry Solara 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2001 Camry Solara.
Review I was the owner of a Chrysler Sebring Convertible (1998) which was purchased new. I would never buy another one. I purchased this Certified 2001 Solara Convertible (SLE V6) and found it to be a superb vehicle. I have owner Audi, Mercedes, Infiniti, Volvo and Toyota automobiles over these many years. This is the best.
Edmunds Value Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Available Toyota Camry Solara 2001 Submodel Types: Coupe, Convertible
Available Trims: SLE V6, SE, SE V6, SLE, Sport V6, SE Sport, SE Sport V6
Exterior Colors: Black, Absolutely Red, Lunar Mist Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Cosmic Blue Metallic, Silverstream Opalescent, Arctic Frost Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Desert Sand Mica, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Titanium Metallic, Autumn Red Mica, Blue Streak Metallic, Fairway Green Pearl, Gold Dust Metallic, Indigo Ink Pearl, Oceanus Pearl, Red Flame Metallic
Interior Colors: Dark Stone cloth, Ivory, Ivory cloth, Dark Stone, Charcoal, Charcoal cloth, Dark Charcoal, Dark Charcoal cloth
Popular Features: Rear Bench Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Alarm, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Soft Top, 2nd Row Bucket Seats, Auto Climate Control, Power Driver Seat, Leather Seats, Heated seats, Aux Audio Inputs, Sunroof/Moonroof, Bluetooth, Upgraded Headlights