2010 Toyota Camry SE V6: Sporty And Fast With Quality And Reliability

March 3, 2010

The Toyota Camry continues to be the most popular midsize car sold in the United States. It has long been known for its quality, reliability and resale value. The Camry made its US debut over 20 years ago and has earned a reputation for great build quality and long-term durability. The Toyota Camry continues to be the benchmark by which its competitors are judged.

I test drove the Camry SE V6 sedan ($25,840) which is the easiest model to distinguish, and the sportiest of all the models. The SE gets a spoiler on the trunk lid to boost aerodynamics and a full body kit emphasizes the sport model's lower ride height. The Camry SE gets a 268-horspower 3.5-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic with manual shift feature. The SE adds a firmer, lowered suspension, unique interior trim, fog lights and P215/55R17 tires on 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

Options on the SE I tested included auto-dimming rearview mirror ($275), leather package with heated front seats ($1,680), power moonroof, rear spoiler ($1,090), navigation with integrated back-up camera, JBL sound, and Bluetooth wireless (2,820), Smart key system with push button start ($450), and upgraded 18 TRD 10 spoke sport wheels and tires ($2,100). Automatic up/down windows on all four doors are standard across the line.

Toyota designed the suspension on the SE to be more aerodynamic. Engineers focused on making the underbody as flat as possible to smooth airflow under the car and reduce noise. They also tuned the flow to balance downforce, or the aerodynamic force that presses the car to the pavement as speed increases, nearly equally over the front and rear tires. The SE is fun and entertaining to drive. Steering is precise and cornering is solid and stable, with little body lean. Brake pedal travel felt soft and long when comparing it to true sports sedans.

The 3.5 liter V6 in the SE is a perfect fit because there is no shortage of power here. The 268-hp engine easily gets up to its programmed limit at 6500 rpm, and it has smooth power throughout. It pulls without stumbling from 1000 rpm in any gear, and the driver won't feel as if he or she is waiting for the transmission to find the right gear so the car can get going. The V6 will feel familiar to longtime Camry owners, just a little tighter, smoother, and more powerful than older models. Fuel mileage on the 3.5 liter V6 is an EPA estimated 19/28 city/highway using regular gasoline.

The Camry SE V6 is a car in which the driver will definitely want to use the sequential manual shift feature on Toyota's six-speed automatic. In manual mode, the transmission will hold the chosen gear without shifting up, and it will downshift immediately with a touch of the lever. The shifts are smooth and quick and reassuringly certain. All 2010 Camry models come standard with Vehicle Stability Control with traction control.

Other models range from the well-equipped base Camry to the near-luxury Camry XLE. In between are the popular LE, a modest step up from the base and also available with the V6. All Camry models offer good EPA mileage ratings and low emissions in their respective categories. The Camry Hybrid offers the best fuel economy, featuring a hybrid gasoline/electric powertrain with an efficient continuously variable transmission. The Hybrid is a good performer and one of the most fuel-efficient mid-size vehicles available.

Inside, the Camry SE is a roomy sedan, with comfortable seats front and rear, though the seat bottoms are short on thigh support for taller occupants. Rear-seat passengers have enough room to be comfortable on a long trip. The cabin is trimmed with a brushed metallic finish in the SE. The leather upgrade isn't quite kid glove, but it feels expensive. Gauges in the SE, which are black on white with sharp blue backlighting, avoid this eye-straining fade. They're part of this sporty model's unique interior treatment, which features dark charcoal and a leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel.

The Toyota Camry does just about everything well, and nothing badly, and it delivers comfortable, reliable transportation for up to five. There's a model for nearly every taste and budget and all are reasonably economical to operate. Thats why the Camry continues to be the most popular sedan in America.

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