Toyota Camry (1999)

A Car We Loved

The Toyota Camry may just be the world's most magnificent average car.We've always liked the Camry. Not because it's flashy, powerful orotherwise attention-getting. It isn't. Not by a long shot. But it doesgrowon you over time, particularly given that the Camry may be the mostreliable car on the market.

How is the 1999 Camry different from the '98? Well, to tell you the truth,we didn't notice any substantial changes from last year's edition. And whyshould Toyota change a thing? Why mess with success?

Not to be brutally frank (i.e., we're about to be brutally frank), but theCamry is an incredibly dull car. It's the paradigm for family sedans,whichmight sound like damning with faint praise. But, although it's boring,it'svery civilized. It's smooth. It's quiet. It handles nicely. It has theright amount of power... and it's comfortable. There's nothing more youcould ask from the Camry, except, perhaps, excitement. And not everybodywants excitement in their car.

The overwhelming characteristic of the Camry is that it hasis a calminginfluence on one's driving. Even the Camry's colors are subdued, with arelaxing gray interior. Driving the Camry makes us realize that, just assome cars make you want to drive fast and recklessly,... the opposite canalso be true. The Camry makes you want to drive sanely. (Tommy drove theCamry through Boston on a recent evening. It was rush hour. Traffic was anabsolute mess. And, oxymoronic as it sounds, Tommy reported that he wascalm as could be! This in itself made his wife think about getting himone.)

The Camry's suspension is a bit soft. It errs on the side of comfort overhandling, which makes it a not -particularly racy car to drive. The drivetrain is magnificent. It's so incredibly smooth, you never know the car isshifting. And, in terms of engine noise--... there is none. You never hearor feel the engine.

Ergonomics are just fine in the Camry. Everything is right where you wouldexpect it to be, and relatively easy to understand. The necessaryaccouterments are all there. The Camry has all the usual bells andwhistlesthat you would expect, with accessories such as leather, moon roof andpower locks available at extra cost. Both the AC and heating work well.Room inside the Camry is good for a mid sized car. Headroom is adequate,and legroom is better than adequate. Storage is acceptable. Visibility isgood to excellent.

Interior

The seats in the Camry are velour. We did think they were a little bitlacking, though our tuchuses have been spoiled recently, having beencaressed by a number of luxury cars in the last few months. The seatscouldhardly be described as uncomfortable, but you do notice that you're notdriving a high- end car. We also noted that the seats themselves were alittle bit short front to back, and the only adjustments were up and down.They don't tilt forward and back, which can provide additional comfort forcertain people. So, make sure you can find a comfortable driving positionbefore you plunk down your money. (We suspect that only a small percentageof people will have real difficulty finding a comfortable position in theCamry.)

If there's one thing the Camry is known for, it's its incrediblereliability, which is well deserved and should bring plenty of peaiece ofmind to any Camry driver. We expect the 1999 Camry to be equally reliable,though we would humbly suggest avoiding the V6 engine. The V6, simplybecause it is a larger engine, will have higher repair and maintenancecosts. As just one example, changing the timing belt in the V6 involvessdefinitely more time and hassle than, compared to the four- cylinderengine. We found that the four- cylinder engine has more than enough powerfor almost any situation. Buy the V6 only if you know you will be spendinga lot of your time hauling enormous loads of kids or supplies longdistances.

Overall comments

The Camry may well be the least offensive looking car on the market. Likeeverything else about the Camry, the look isit's not exciting--w. Which,now that we mention it, is what we like most about the Camry:. There'snothing to complain about. But,... just as there's nothing to dislike,there's nothing exciting about the Camry. It's plain, and verymiddle-of-the-road, which is exactly how Toyota is marketing it. This isthe car for people who would prefer to blend in, rather than beingconspicuous. This is a car for peoplewhose eyes light up at the thought of great reliability ratings,instead of horsepower, ground clearance or burled walnut dashboards.

If you're thinking about getting a Camry, but can't quite bring yourselftobuy a car without the least bit of a personality, we'd suggest you take alook at the Honda Accord. It's a little more fun to drive, haswithslightly better handling than the Camry, and is similarly reliable. And,ifyou want to take a look at another car in this class, we'd humbly suggestyou also test- drive the Taurus, another of Camry's longtime competitors.

Who would buy this car? Well, you'd better have a family, or be asalesman,or you'll be rightfully branded as a complete dullard. Anyone between theage of 35 and 60, who has to drive some or all of the family around, willlove this car. If you want a four- door family sedan to get you around forwell over 100,000 miles with very few hassles... then buy a Camry.

Not only is the Camry a great car, it's also a perfectly reasonable deal.Prices range from $17,038 to $24,998 for the fully loaded V6.

The Toyota Camry is the quintessential American car right now. It's whatthe Chevy Impala was in the 1960's and what the Olds Cutlass was in the'70's. And, like those cars, today's Camry is even built in the UnitedStates.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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