2008 Toyota Camry Solara Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 22, 2008

The 2008 Toyota Camry Solara has a creamy ride and a luxurious interior, but even a convertible top can't sharpen its dull handling and nondescript styling.

The convertible-car enthusiasts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara to write this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara and have added driving impressions and details where they help you to decide if the Toyota Camry Solara is the right car for you.

The 2008 Toyota Camry Solara is offered as a coupe and a convertible. In either form, it's a two-door in the classic mold. It damps out the world around you and cossets the body parts behind you, while giving you an easy grip on the road ahead of you.

The 2008 Toyota Camry Solara's soft shape echoes parts of the Lexus SC's silhouette, but its unfussy lines are somewhat anonymous. It blends in well with the surroundings. Enthusiasts may shy from its plush seats and tightly grained faux-wood trim, but the interior is built with care, using quality materials. All the controls are clearly marked and easy to use without diverting your eyes from the road ahead.

The front-drive 2008 Toyota Camry Solara is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 with 210 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. Teamed up with a five-speed automatic, the Solara's drivetrain couldn't be creamier. There's also a version with a 157-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, but as inexpensive as the Solara V-6 can be (starting from just under $28,000), it's hard not to justify the extra cylinders. The Camry Solara gets 22/31 mpg in four-cylinder form, and 18/26 mpg with the V-6 convertible.

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Beneath the sheetmetal, the Toyota Camry Solara rides on a typical control-arm and multilink suspension, with a body still rigid enough to compare well against newer coupes like the Accord and the Nissan Altima Coupe. While its ride is smooth and controlled, the steering is dull, and the car protests in tight corners with lots of body roll.

Inside, the Toyota Camry Solara's seating position is ideal for a wide range of frames. The backseat's not easy to get into, even though the Solara has long doors. The rear seats are reasonably comfortable for two adults.

The cabin in the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara is trimmed with Lexus-like audio and other standard equipment. A JBL audio system with a six-disc changer, an iPod jack, and a navigation system with Bluetooth are options.

All Solara coupes come with anti-lock brakes and curtain airbags, with stability control available; convertibles have side airbags. Safety ratings for the coupe are five stars for front and side impacts, along with a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the convertible has only an "acceptable" side-impact rating.

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2008 Toyota Camry Solara

Styling

While the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara's exterior won't turn any heads, its classy, well-designed interior will impress.

In both coupe and convertible form, the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara has a droopy, dated exterior design. Inside, it shines.

The Camry Solara comes in coupe and convertible (with cloth top) styles, and convertibles are two inches taller than the coupe with the top up. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, reviewers were not impressed by the Solara's aged design, but most found the interior timeless. Edmunds comments that the Toyota Camry Solara is "beginning to show its age" as "the rear deck appears to droop on both the coupe and the convertible." They sum up the exterior by writing, "Solara's diminishing appeal is due at least in part to its exterior styling, which although curvy and sophisticated, has never come across as trendy or youthful." Further, they add, "the current Camry Solara convertible's traditional fabric top can be seen as a bit dowdy given that many competing models now offer retractable hardtop designs." Cars.com notes that Sport models have "a six-piece body kit, a unique rear spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels," and all 2008 Toyota Camry Solaras feature "front-end styling [that] imparts a squared-off stance that follows elements of the Lexus' 2007 ES350 sedan." For the Toyota Camry Solara, 2008 adds LED taillamps to all trims. Kelley Blue Book writes that the Solara's side windows are "narrow, set off by a wavy beltline." Typical of large coupes and convertibles, the Toyota Camry Solara's doors are long and heavy--something to keep in mind when parking. The criticisms are not lost on Toyota; 2008 may be the last year for the Solara, according to AutoWeek, which writes, "Underachieving sales mean Toyota will kill the coupe and convertible after the 2008 model year."

For 2008, Toyota had the good sense not to change the instrument panel. Kelley Blue Book describes it as being "logically arranged with clearly marked gauges and intuitive functions for the audio and ventilation controls." Edmunds says of the interior: "the mix of metallic and satin finishes interspersed with high-quality plastics provides a distinctive, upscale appearance." Cars.com notes each model "has a separate interior surface treatment. The SLE features woodgrain, the SE has silver-metallic trim, and Sport trims have black graphite-looking trim."

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2008 Toyota Camry Solara

Performance

The 2008 Toyota Camry Solara coupe and convertible are better suited for grand touring than sporty corner carving.

Most reviewers found that the four-cylinder powerplant is no match for the weight of the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara and complain that the V-6 is saddled with a sluggish automatic transmission.

According to Edmunds, the "standard engine for the Toyota Camry Solara coupe is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 157 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque." Kelley Blue Book calls the engine "robust" and says "it's surprisingly quick for its size." They point out, however, the "really big news for the Solara is its excellent 3.3-liter V6 engine, which boasts 210 horsepower;" Edmunds reports that powerplant, which produces "220 lb-ft of torque," is "optional on Solara coupes and standard on convertibles." They also note that the four-cylinder engine "can be paired with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, either of which drives the front wheels," while a "five-speed automatic is standard with the V6."

While the V-6 accelerates briskly, Edmunds finds it hobbled by the automatic's "sluggish response," explaining that the coupe is "fairly quick when equipped with the V6, but in the heavier convertible the engine's modest low-end torque and the transmission's slow responses noticeably detract from performance." Four-cylinder Toyota Camry Solara coupes paired with the automatic fare worse. ConsumerGuide says they "have leisurely takeoffs and just-adequate passing and merging power." For some, this may be sufficient, and the four-cylinder powerplant does have some advantage, as Kelley Blue Book points out: "Less-aggressive drivers will find the Camry Solara's four-cylinder engine both quiet and fuel-efficient." Because the writing was on the wall at Toyota, 2008 Solara coupes and convertibles didn't benefit from the Camry sedan's 2007 engine and transmission updates. However, the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara's automatic "has seamless acceleration with no jerkiness or delay in changing gear," according to The Auto Channel. One bright spot is that both engines use regular-grade gas. That's reassuring, considering ConsumerGuide averaged just 20.7 mpg over 6,755 miles in their test V-6 Solara convertible; in a Sport V-6 coupe, they "averaged 19.7 mpg including gas-eating performance tests."

According to fueleconomy.gov, the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara coupe with the four-cylinder and manual achieves 21/31 mpg; with the four-cylinder and automatic, 22/31 mpg; and with the V-6 and auto, 18/27 mpg. The 2008 Toyota Camry Solara convertible achieves 18/26 mpg.

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, the Toyota Camry Solara's suspension is found to be either too soft or too harsh. Sport models have firmer shocks, which ConsumerGuide says "adds to impact harshness"; as for the convertible, "Top up or down, the convertible exhibits pronounced body quake over uneven surfaces." The Auto Channel finds "Ruts and potholes jar the suspension." Non-Sport models, according to Edmunds, have stable and predictable handling, but "the Camry Solara is not the sort of car you'll revel in driving briskly, given its soft suspension and minimal steering feedback." ConsumerGuide mentions that both the coupe and convertible exhibit "light, numb steering." Edmunds sums it up well: "Overall, the 2008 Toyota [Camry] Solara prioritizes ride comfort well above sporting pursuits."

The 2008 Toyota Solara's braking performance is good all around. The Auto Channel writes, "The brakes are immediate, progressive and fade-free."

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2008 Toyota Camry Solara

Comfort & Quality

Better built and more refined than its competition, the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara coupe and convertible, while not perfect, offer comfortable accommodation for four.

With Lexus-like levels of refinement and luxury, the Toyota Camry Solara sets the benchmark for comfort in its class.

Interior materials and seat comfort are two areas for which reviewers consulted by TheCarConnection.com praised the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara. With its long wheelbase, the Solara has room for four passengers. Edmunds notes "the rear seat is quite spacious, making this one of the few four-seat convertibles...that can comfortably accommodate a pair of adults in the back." Overall, they call it "a good value for buyers who'd rather have a roomy backseat than a retractable hardtop." Kelley Blue Book affirms this, saying, "You won't find a roomier rear seat in any of the Solara's rivals." ConsumerGuide feels differently: "most adults will feel hemmed in even if the front seats are not set far back...Convertibles are too tight for anything but short trips or preteens."

Cruising in the Solara is complemented by what Cars.com calls "[f]irm, supportive seats [that] furnish fine long-haul comfort." They feel there's "ample leg space, but headroom is not generous for six-footers." Of course, if you opt for the convertible, headroom is unlimited with the top down, but proficiency in contortionism will be helpful in getting in and out of the rear seats of the Toyota Camry Solara coupe.

Cars.com measures 13.8 cubic feet of space in the coupe and 12 cubic feet in the convertible. According to ConsumerGuide, "Coupes come with a 60/40 split folding rear seat" and good cabin storage including "a bi-level console bin [and] a large dash bin."

The Toyota 2008 Camry Solara does garner criticism for some low-quality plastics. ConsumerGuide notes "[c]abin materials mix nicely padded surfaces with some plastics that border on cut-rate." But it's more of a nitpick, as many reviewers often likened the interior to that of a Lexus. Edmunds finds "the car has some nice perks. The heated seats work wonders for warmth, and the climate controls are also excellent, and look more upscale." And though the Toyota Camry Solara convertible's top raises or lowers quickly, you'll still have to exit the vehicle to fit the tonneau cover.

Gauges on the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara are large, and they feature an electroluminescent display that some reviewers found hard to read. ConsumerGuide reports "some testers find Solara's floodlit instruments harder to read and regulate." The Auto Channel did not care for the colors of the gauges: "The gauges are a different color to the switches and radio-tuner illuminations, an irritation that grows."

Consumer Guide finds that "the leading noise source is coarse-pavement tire slap and drone on [the SLE trim] and, to a greater extent, on the Sport coupe," yet they also say "convertibles are nearly coupe-quiet with the top up." J.D. Power indicates that for the Toyota 2008 Solara Convertible "an optional windscreen makes for a quieter ride when the top is lowered."

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2008 Toyota Camry Solara

Safety

2008 Toyota Camry Solara coupes are very safe; the convertibles, relatively less so. You'll have to pay more money to get stability and traction control.

TheCarConnection.com finds that 2008 Toyota Camry Solara coupes tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fared very well in front and side impacts, with five perfect stars on each count. The NHTSA did not test Toyota Camry Solara convertibles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did and finds convertibles are "good" in frontal offset impacts but only "acceptable" in side impacts tests. Both coupe and convertible receive four stars for rollover safety from the NHTSA. Edmunds notes, "The IIHS used a Toyota Camry Solara convertible rather than a coupe in both crash tests, so the car did not have the benefit of side curtain airbags."

Included as standard by Toyota, 2008 Solaras have "dual front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags (coupe only), and anti-lock brakes," according to J.D. Power. The side curtain airbags cover both front and rear rows, says the NHTSA. Edmunds claims, "Stability and traction control are optional on all V6 models," while J.D. Power and Cars.com state they're only available on the top-of-the-line Toyota Camry Solara SLE V-6 model. Edmunds likes that the radio can be controlled via buttons on the steering wheel so that drivers can keep their eyes on the road.

Unfortunately for Toyota, 2008 Solara Convertibles' top has a somewhat small rear window, and the high tail design impedes visibility to the rear. Edmunds thought visibility was "hampered" when the top was up, and ConsumerGuide reports tail styling "limits visibility astern and over-the-shoulder, especially top-up in convertibles." On the other hand, the convertible's rear window is glass, which should not scratch and haze over time like a plastic one.

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2008 Toyota Camry Solara

Features

Toyota offers many options to buyers looking for their perfect 2008 Toyota Camry Solara, but stick with the V-6 for the best-equipped versions.

In general, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com complimented the number and quality of features available in the 2008 Toyota Camry Solara.

The Toyota 2008 Solara coupe and convertible are offered in three trims: SE, Sport, and SLE. Four-cylinder engines may be paired with a five-speed manual or automatic. Convertibles are available only with the six-cylinder automatic.

According to Edmunds, the base-level Toyota Camry Solara in SE trim "comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, A/C, full power accessories, cruise control and a six-speaker stereo with in-dash CD player and auxiliary audio jack." Those choosing the Sport trim will get "firmer suspension tuning, 17-inch wheels, an exterior body kit, xenon HID headlights, a charcoal interior color scheme with unique trim and gauges, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob."

The 2008 Toyota Camry Solara SLE "drops the Sport's extra body cladding and reverts to the SE's softer suspension, while adding a moonroof (coupe only), automatic climate control, wood-grain interior trim, power driver seat, an upgraded JBL audio system and Bluetooth connectivity." Finally, the Toyota Camry Solara SLE V-6 adds "leather and heated front seats," reports Edmunds. Xenon headlights are optional on the SLE, and only the SLE is available with a navigation system.

Kelley Blue Book notes that additional standard features on the Toyota Camry Solara SE include an overhead console (coupe), rear defroster, illuminated remote keyless entry, fog lights, dual power mirrors, power lumbar support for the driver, and trip computer. At the time of this writing, Kelley Blue Book notes incorrectly that a four-speed auto transmission is optional. The automatic transmission is now a five-speed. Cars.com reports "all trim levels have all-disc brakes." ConsumerGuide recommends shorter buyers opt for the power seat, which is standard on the SLE and optional otherwise.

If you want a convertible Toyota, 2008 will be the last opportunity to purchase a new Camry Solara.

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September 25, 2016
2008 Toyota Camry Solara 2-Door Convertible V6 Automatic SLE (SE)

sleek and great ride

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Last model made and i will keep it forever. A people lover
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