Used 2001 Toyota Camry Solara Coupe
Edmunds' Expert Review
A Camry with two fewer doors and possibly a foldable roof. There are worse things to drive.
With its own sheetmetal and a tighter suspension, the Solara is more than just a two-door Camry. Yes, it's based on the Camry platform and uses the same engine and basic components, but almost every aspect of this sporty-looking car has been, uh, Solara-ized to inject it with personality.
Available in two trim levels, SE or SLE, and in your choice of coupe or convertible formats, Solara looks like a promising package. Under the hood you will find either a 2.2-liter, 135-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter, 200-horsepower V6. Both motors can be had in the SE model, but the premium-grade SLE comes only with the V6 and an automatic transmission. For buyers looking to get the maximum "sport" out of the Solara, the SE V6 with a five-speed manual is your best bet. Note that the Honda Accord Coupe V6 does not offer a manual transmission, or a convertible top, for that matter. Yessireebob, Toyota does give the consumer a wide variety of choice.
For handling duty, Toyota takes the Camry's basic suspension and makes it stiffer by increasing the damping rates and adding a brace that joins the front strut towers together. It also reinforces the transom between the trunk and the passenger compartment and stiffens the front and rear suspension mounts for improved overall body rigidity. The Solara also features a steering system that is more sport-oriented than the Camry's. However, the Solara is still geared for comfort. If you're looking for true handling excellence, check out the Celica.
The interior is quiet and full of high-quality switchgear laid out in a logical manner. Cloth upholstery is standard, with leather available on SLE models. The pricey convertible features a power folding top, automatic-down power rear-quarter windows and a glass backlight with defogger.
Safety is high on Toyota's list of priorities when it comes to the Solara, but the stuff that matters is optional. Base SE models don't come with standard ABS. Optional side airbags can be ordered on any model. If you purchase an SLE model, traction control can be checked on the options sheet.
For 2001, Solara is largely unchanged. Top-level SLE models can be equipped with a new JBL audio system, so long as you opt for the leather package. The anti-theft and engine immobilizer system is restricted to SLEs, while SEs now come standard with a six-speaker cassette stereo. Twilight Blue Pearl paint is replaced by a new shade called Indigo Ink.Ultimately, the Solara is a two-door Camry with more aggressive styling and minor suspension differences. Style takes precedence over utility. This makes it a fine choice for those looking for Camry's spaciousness and reliability but who seek a little something whimsical.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
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.
Used 2001 Toyota Camry Solara Coupe Overview
The Used 2001 Toyota Camry Solara Coupe is offered in the following styles: SE 2dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 4A), SE V6 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl 4A), SLE V6 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl 4A), SE 2dr Coupe (2.2L 4cyl 5M), and SE V6 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl 5M).
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