2006 Toyota Camry Reviews and Ratings

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2006 Toyota Camry
New Car Test Drive

Buy a Toyota Camry or Solara, and you'll have a smooth, quiet car that should offer years of reliable service.

The Camry outsells other midsize cars in America largely because of Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability. It's the perfect transportation appliance, flawlessly performing its duties, never annoying its owner. Its soft suspension smoothes out beat-up city streets. The interior is ergonomically excellent, with big climate and audio knobs that are easy to adjust, and the seats are comfortable.

An all-new Camry will be introduced for the 2007 model year. So, depending on supply and demand, it's possible that there could be deals on 2006 models as dealers sell down their inventory of the outgoing design. That's not the case with the Solara, however, as it's not expected to change for 2007. The Camry was freshened for 2005 and carries over with no significant changes for 2006. The same is true of Solara: no changes for 2006.

The Solara is essentially a two-door version of the Camry that's available in coupe and convertible body styles. Buyers who want a reliable convertible built to high quality standards should seriously consider the Solara. The Solara convertible puts the wind in your hair and brings a ray of sunshine into your life. If you want a swoopy two-door coupe, the Solara is a safe, smart choice. The Solara coupe implies a sportier lifestyle while featuring the practicality of a truly useful rear seat. The Solara models were all-new for 2004 and are unchanged for 2006. Model Lineup
The Toyota Camry comes in four trim levels: base, LE, SE, and XLE.

A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard on Camry base ($18,445), LE ($19,545), SE ($20,375) models. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional ($830). The XLE ($22,795) comes standard with the automatic.

Two different V6 engines are available. A 3.0-liter V6 is available for the LE ($22,780) and XLE ($25,805), while a newer 3.3-liter V6 is available for the SE ($24,025). All V6 models come standard with an automatic.

The base sedan comes with air conditioning; cruise control; power windows, mirrors and locks; six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo; a 60/40 split rear seat; ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD); and P205/65R15 all-season tires on 15-inch steel wheels.

Upgrading to the LE adds interior brightwork, upgraded cloth upholstery, power driver's seat, remote keyless entry, engine immobilizer, driver-information center and a full-size spare tire. The LE V6 gets 15-inch aluminum wheels.

Camry SE is a sportier model, with higher-rate springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars, along with higher-effort steering and bigger (16-inch) steel wheels and P215/60 summer-only tires. A three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel and lots of bright trim add zing to the interior. The SE V6 adds the engine immobilizer, 17-inch aluminum wheels, and power sunroof.

The XLE is the most luxurious Camry, featuring wood-grain interior trim, power driver and passenger seats, automatic climate control, side-curtain airbags, JBL premium stereo with in-dash six-CD changer, a more advanced driver information center, an alarm system with engine immobilizer, a cargo net, a rear-window sunshade, and P215/60 all-season tires on 16-inch steel rims. The XLE V6 comes with leather seats and fancier gauges and 16-inch aluminum wheels.

The Camry Solara coupe comes in SE, SE Sport, and SLE trim levels. All coupes are available with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder or the 3.3-liter V6. The five-speed automatic comes standard on all models except the SE and SE Sport, which are available with a five-speed manual.

The Solara convertible comes only in SE and SLE trim, and only with a V6 and automatic transmission.

The Solara SE coupe ($19,530) is the base level in the two-door lineup and comes standard with ABS; side-impact airbags; P215/60 all-season tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels; air conditioning; cruise control; power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry; and AM/FM/CD audio. For 2006, the SE and SE Sport models come standard with power lumbar support for the driver's seat. The SE V6 coupe is similarly equipped.

The Solara SE Sport coupe ($21,025) comes with sport-tuned suspension and P215/55R17 all-season tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels; it also gets aggressive exterior appliques; and substitutes Graphite and Charcoal trim for a lot of the SE's interior brightwork. Solara SE Sport V6 ($23,355) is similarly equipped.

The Solara SLE ($23,405) is the most luxurious model with automatic climate control, power moonroof, JBL stereo with six-disc CD changer, power seats and woodgrain interior trim. Choose the SLE V6 ($26,405) and you also get leather seats and the same sport suspension and performance tires as the SE Sport.

Solara SE V6 convertible ($26,940) comes with the SE Sport's dark interior trim and 17-inch wheels, but is otherwise equipped much like the SE V6 coupe. The SLE V6 convertible ($30,210) is equipped the same as the SLE V6 coupe.

Leather upholstery is available for selected models. The SE Premium Package ($1,670) includes perforated leather-trimmed interior, JBL 3-in-1 AM/FM cassette/6-disc in-dash CD changer, eight speakers, manual retractable sunshade and cargo net. Similar packages are available for the XLE sedans and Solara SLE coupe. A DVD-based Navigation Package, which includes leather upholstery, is optional on the Camry SE V6 sedan ($3,245) and XLE V6 sedan ($1,450). Navigation is also available as a stand-alone option on SE V6 ($1,980). Navigation is also available on Solara SLE V6 coupe and convertible ($1,350), but only in combination with other options.

Safety is enhanced by ordering extra-cost options. For all models, we highly recommend side-impact and/or side-curtain airbags ($400-$650) or, better still, a package for the sedan that includes side-impact and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control (VSC), traction control and brake assist ($1,300). VSC is a stand-alone option on Solara ($650) but requires side-curtain airbags on the coupe ($400) and navigation on the convertible ($1,350). Walkaround
The Toyota Camry looks stylish and conservative at the same time. The Camry presents a sculptured appearance, with slightly flared wheel arches and a distinct dual crease line in the hood, the latter leading nicely into the grille. To some extent its smooth lines camouflage its height. Camry's appearance was freshened for 2005 with a new grille, new headlamps, and new taillights.

Solara shares the sedan's 107-inch wheelbase, but is 3.3 inches longer overall than the Camry, measuring 192.5 inches from bumper to bumper.

The Solara coupe looks like a stylized version of the sedan. It's a more adventurous design. The roofline is sleeker and the rear is totally different from the Camry sedan's, reminding us of the Lexus SC 430. The arc-shaped theme features a continuous line from the front bumper, over the roof, and down to the rear bumper. Just below the beltline, a character line flows in a gentle S-curve from the teardrop headlamps to the teardrop taillights. The Solara looks aerodynamically efficient, and it is, with a drag coefficient of just 0.29 Cd, helping reduce wind noise and increase gas mileage. The outside door handles are easy to grab, much better than lever-style handles.

Toyota says the convertible's body structure was designed from the ground up for topless motoring, unlike the previous-generation convertible, which was adapted from the then-current coupe. The current Solara offers improved torsional rigidity over the previous model, which translates into a more solid feel and a quieter ride. The Solara was designed and engineered in the U.S. and is built in the U.S. Interior
The Toyota Camry has a comfortable interior with controls that are straightforward and easy to operate. Everything is laid out simply. Optional power-adjustable pedals help shorter drivers find a safer, more comfortable driving position, moving the pedals closer to them and permitting them to move farther from the airbag-armed steering wheel.

Radio and climate controls are mounted high in the center of the dash for easy access. Three big knobs mounted prominently in the center of the dashboard are used to manually control heating, ventilation, and air conditioning on base, SE and LE models. XLE models get automatic climate controls with a smooth tactile feel that reminds us of Lexus, which set the modern standard. The stereo uses big tuning and volume knobs and big buttons that make it easy to operate, whether scanning for radio stations or moving between songs on a CD. We found the audio quality on the available JBL sound system a bit lacking, however.

We found the optional navigation system easy to use, easier than some of the systems used on expensive European cars, and it recalculates quickly.

The instruments are located in a small pod in front of the steering wheel, with a large half-moon tachometer and matching speedometer. The fuel and temperature gauges are located within the two larger instruments. Lights and windshield wiper/washer controls are on stalks on the steering column, leaving the left lower edge of the dash free of switches.

The Camry dashboard is relatively plain, with no large curved surfaces, and it's set relatively high. The dash blends nicely into the door panels, but the cover for the passenger-side air bag is noticeable as the seams show clearly.

A wide center console separates the two front bucket seats and contains useful storage areas. The parking brake on the base and LE is located in the center console, whereas the SE and XLE get foot-operated parking brakes.

Rear-seat passengers will find the Camry's accommodations quite pleasant for a mid-size sedan. The rear seat splits 60/40, allowing long objects to pass through from the trunk, although the opening is small. The trunk itself is a decent size and shape. Gooseneck hinges steal some trunk space, but are hidden under a cover, reducing the chance that they will damage trunk contents as the lid is closed.

The Solara adds a dash of panache with a sweeping console that invokes the intimate atmosphere of a sporty coupe. The seats are relatively flat, which makes sliding in and out easy, but we'd prefer a little more side support. The cloth is nice, though it's a bit bland. But the faux wood in the 2005 Solara convertible we tested looked like plastic and some of the silver reflective material on the lower center stack was too reflective for our taste.

In sharp contrast to the sedan's flat dash, the Solara's shapely instrument panel suggests separate nacelles for driver and passenger, giving it more of a cockpit feel. Instrumentation is divided into three pods, with a five-function trip computer sharing the left pod with the tachometer. A futuristic, multi-function display dominates the bulging center stack. The separate heating and air conditioning controls are easy to operate.

The rear seats of the Solara coupe are surprisingly roomy, roomier than those in the Honda Accord Coupe, though less roomy than those in the Camry sedan.

The Solara convertible is roomy as well. With the top up, there's actually two more inches of rear-seat headroom than in the coupe. Headroom is, of course, limitless with the top down.

The Solara coupe can carry a tad more luggage than an Accord coupe, and its rear seats fold down to reveal a big pass-through.

The Solara convertible features a glass rear window but rearward visibility is hampered when the top is up by the small window and rear headrests. Release a pair of latches and the power top folds down in just 10 seconds. One touch of a button lowers all four windows. A vinyl boot cleans up its appearance when the top is down, but we found installing it a hassle. It takes up a lot of space in the already diminutive trunk when not being used, so we'd be tempted to store it in the garage. Driving Impressions
The Toyota Camry is an easy car to drive. There is nothing untoward or strange about it. It does everything just right. An enthusiast driver might complain that it's soft and lacks character, but for the average driver that's a plus. They can buy a Camry then turn their attention back to other, more important matters that don't involve automobiles.

The Camry's ride is pleasant, verging on luxurious, with enough cushioning to make passengers feel comfortable. The steering is light but not sloppy. The Camry's soft suspension tuning makes for a smooth, impact-free ride on bumpy pavement. Those who like sportier, more precise handling will notice that the different suspension setup and tires on the SE sedan do make the Camry feel crisper, though it's still not a sports sedan.

Toyota knows how to build a quiet car with a comfortable ride. Toyota's Lexus division has excelled in this area and this expertise has worked its way into the Camry. The engines are quiet, benefiting from an innovative mounting system that further reduces vibration. Stiff body structures and asphalt sheet insulation ensure that even when the four-cylinder engine is driven hard, engine noise is subdued.

The Solara is similarly smooth. The soft suspension filters bumps and noise yet it doesn't isolate the driver from valuable road feel. Solara is no sports car, however. It corners fairly flat, but the tires start squealing when it's driven hard. Most Solara drivers will never experience this.

More than two-thirds of all Camrys are sold with the four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. This is an inexpensive combination and it provides plenty of power. Camry's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is a modern powerplant with 16 valves and double overhead camshafts. Two versions are available for different parts of the country. The ULEV2 version (or ultra-low emissions vehicle) is rated 154 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 160 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The cleaner PZEV engine (or partial zero-emissions vehicle) is rated at 145 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 158 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The Solara's four-cylinder engine is rated at 157 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 162 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm.

If those power figures look substantially lower than those for the 2005 models, it's because the Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, changed the way power is measured. The 2006 engines produce the same amount of power as the 2005 engines. This change applies to all engines.

The 3.0-liter V6 available for the Camry LE sedan and XLE sedan is rated at 190 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 197 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The 3.3-liter V6 available for the Camry SE sedan is rated at 210 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 220 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. The most important difference to note is the lower engine speed where peak torque is developed: The higher torque at lower rpm means the 3.3-liter engine will be a more flexible engine that's more responsive in any given situation. The Solara's V6 is rated 225 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 240 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm.

You'd never know from driving the car, but the gas pedal is a drive-by-wire affair: Instead of being connected to the engine by a cable, the pedal activates a sensor connected to a computer, just like the controls in modern airplane. One advantage of this arrangement is that the optional Vehicle Skid Control system can take over the throttle in an emergency and apply just the right amount of throttle and braking to keep the vehicle on a more stable path. Formula 1 racing cars, the fastest cars in the world, use drive-by-wire.

The five-speed automatic transmission available for all models offers better response and better fuel economy than four-speed automatics because more gears mean the engine runs closer to maximum efficiency more of the time. Toyota's transmission features computer logic: The Camry "knows" when it is going up hill or down hill, and the transmission shifts gears accordingly. It can hold a lower gear longer when necessary to avoid the annoying shifting up and down that occurs in some automatics. Though it offers a manual-shift feature, we found it best to leave it in Drive as its performance is a bit mushy.

All three Camry engines are equipped with Toyota's VVT-i system (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) for optimum power and efficiency and lower emissions. All are cast from lightweight aluminum, and all achieve an ultra-low ULEV II emissions rating. Four-cylinder models sold in California meet Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) standards.

The Solara convertible is not as quiet as the coupe and sedan models, of course. Its soft top lets in noise, especially from the rear. Road noise, engine noise, even bicyclists talking to each other could be heard when the top up. Though Toyota claims the convertible's chassis is rigid, we found the level of refinement a bit disappointing. The convertible shudders a bit over potholes, generating cowl shake. The dash shakes when driving over railroad tracks, for example. Summary
The Toyota Camry is the ultimate transportation appliance. It's a safe buy, a good vehicle to recommend to your friends. It pleases many buyers by offending none. It is in many ways an unremarkable car. But it's remarkable for its lack of identifiable flaws. It does not have the sporty personality of a Nissan Altima, but it's much more refined. It will transport its occupants without drama or any worries about reliability, year in and year out. It's comfortable, smooth and quiet. Its controls are easy to operate. The Solara puts all the benefits of the Camry in sporty coupe and convertible models. The Solara has a genuinely useful back seat and a good-sized trunk. The convertible offers the freedom of being able to drop the top. And there's a lot to be said for warm summer nights under the stars without any worries about reliability.

New Car Test Drive correspondent John Rettie contributed to this report.

Model as tested
Toyota Camry LE automatic ($20,375)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Georgetown, Kentucky, and Toyota City, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
VSC & Side Airbag Package ($1,300) includes Vehicle Stability Control with traction control and Brake, driver and front-passenger side-impact airbags, overhead front and rear side curtain airbags

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Toyota Camry ($18,445); automatic ($19,275); LE ($19,545); LE auto ($20,375); SE ($20,375); SE automatic ($21,205); XLE automatic ($22,795) LE V6 ($22,780); SE V6 ($24,025); XLE V6 ($25,805); Solara SE ($19,530); Solara SE automatic ($20,360); Solara SE Sport ($21,025); Solara SE Sport automatic ($21,855); Solara SLE automatic ($23,405); Solara SE V6 ($21,860); Solara SE Sport V6 ($23,355); Solara SLE V6 ($26,405); Solara SE V6 convertible ($26,940); Solara SLE V6 convertible ($30,210)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front air bags, ABS, EBD, LATCH child-seat anchors
Safety equipment (optional)
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
five-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; power steering; AM/FM/CD stereo; power windows, mirror and door locks; remote keyless entry; cruise control; daytime running lights; 60/40 split rear seat; full-size spare tire

Engine & Transmission
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
154 @ 5700
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/drum, with ABS and EBD
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension, rear
independent, dual-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality 5 / 5
Overall Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
4 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
5 / 5
Overall Quality - Design
3 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Design
3 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Design
5 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
3 / 5

Overall Dependability 5 / 5
Powertrain Dependability
5 / 5
Body & Interior Dependability
4 / 5
Feature & Accessory Dependability
5 / 5

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.